| "You should personalize each e-mail because they are your fans and they are important to you and they will pay more attention if you do".
I have learned many things over the years in this business of music, but it has taken me a majority of those years to come to terms with what I feel is the most important aspect of being an artist. We all want to sell CD's, we all want to make records and tour. However, none of this is possible without ongoing support from those that buy the records and come to the shows. I'm talking about the fans. Over the years, fans will come and go, they will tell their friends and new fans will appear. The most important thing I have learned is how imperative my existing fanbase is to me. Fans are precious. When new fans arrive it is important to welcome them into the family (so to speak) and make them feel at home.
In a perfect world it would be great to get to know everyone who comes to see you play. Whilst this is possible to some degree, the more successful you get, the more this is just not realistic. However, I can assure you that any fan of yours that you see regularly at gigs, will be flattered if you simply remember their name. This in turn will make them all the more eager to support you in future.
With the advent of the Internet, the next thing I have learned is that there is nothing more important than your existing list of e-mail subscribers! When someone subscribes to your "e-newsletter" you can then let them know about your upcoming shows in their neighborhood. They are then of course free to subscribe and unsubscribe but if you are doing your job right as an artist, unsubscribes should be kept to a minimum.
I have seen bands signed to major record labels and had success, only to have completely dismissed the idea of maintaining a fan mailing list, assuming that the label will take care of them. Once they get dropped from the label (everyone gets dropped at some point trust me!) they have nothing to fall back on. Had they built a list and kept that list they would have an existing fan base to sell CD's to independently. Instead they are totally reliant on major retail distribution and radio to get them back in the game.
From time to time I surf around the Internet seeing what artists and bands are doing that I might not be, and it never ceases to amaze me how so many artist websites are not collecting data from their fans. This is SO IMPORTANT. An attractive looking website is of course important if not implicit. It should contain everything a fan requires so they know all about you as an artist, but you need to seduce them into giving you their e-mail address. Here's a few ideas for you to think about...
There has to be good reason for someone to subscribe when they go to your website. The usual "subscribe here and we'll let you know when we're playing" is not really going to cut it for the most part. A more effective idea might be to entice people to go to a certain area of your website that is restricted to members only. In the members room (or "hot room" as I have called it on my personal site) your fans could get access to all sorts of goodies like personal secrets shared from your band members, or a free downloadable home video the band made at the Playboy Mansion, OK I'm getting in over my head here, but you get the idea. Put your thinking caps on for this one and try to come up with something inventive and seductive. You can still have all the main items available on the site outside the members pages (bio, tour schedule, releases etc.) but have a special section available to only those who subscribe. When they subscribe, you can set up an autoresponder that gives them a username and password to access the members only room.
I should also mention here that you ONLY want subscribers who want to subscribe, that are interested in you and your music. Obtaining third party lists will only get you into trouble and will do nothing to help your music career.
You should have a pop up subscribe box on your home page that prompts people to subscribe and "get free access to the members only room". Here is some popup code you can place in the html of your home page (underneath the body tag):
You should also collect subscribers first name, last name, e-mail address and state. (If you like you can see how this works on my personal website at www.chrisstandring.com). The reason you take this info is so you can e-mail specific people when you go to specific places to play. I.E. You send an e-mail to your "Illinois" list if you play a gig in Chicago. You should personalize each e-mail because they are your fans and they are important to you and they will pay more attention if you do.
I personally believe that your e-mail list should belong to you and you only. This means that it should not sit on a third party's webserver where you do not have control over it. You should manage your lists and keep it on your hard drive where you can make personal backups. There is some astounding software called Mailloop which I use to run my lists. It enables you to store first name, last name fields etc. and automatically stores names and e-mail addresses in text files that you assign them to. It will automatically subscribe and unsubscribe addresses and will send unlimited autoresponders. It can send out your mailing list for you and can send out in text or html format. You can run it every time you go online or just keep it running 24/7. It's the perfect tool for any artist or group wanting to manage their fan lists. It's without a doubt the best I have seen. If you are interested to check it out you can read more at their website. The sales pitch is a little over the top for me but the product is so good I would try to get past that if you can. Click here to read more and order. Alternatively, I did a personal review that you can also read more about which might be a little more palatable. Click here to read my review.
Next time I'm going to talk about some effective ways to get new people to go to your website.
So to conclude; take good care of your fans old and new, you need them always. Look after your e-mail list, it is precious. It is your business, now and in your future. Ciao for now.
You can read much more on the subject of attracting labels effectively in my e-book "So You Think You Want A Record Deal". For more info Click here.
By Chris Standring (A&R online)
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