Bands hear it all the time: your e-mail list is extremely important; an e-mail is more valuable than a Facebook Like or a Twitter Follower; e-mail allows bands greater access to fans; the only piece of information more valuable than an e-mail is a phone number.
All of this is true, of course. E-mail addresses are more than just contact information. Each e-mail address you collect offers an opportunity to sell a concert ticket, a new record, a t-shirt, and so on. It is incredibly important to treat your fans, and their e-mails, with respect, and there are many different guidelines every band should follow when collecting e-mails, sending out blasts, and crafting a call to action.
With that in mind, here are some basic principles you should apply to your quest to collecting e-mail addresses.
Quid Pro Quo
When asking fans for their e-mail address, bands should be ready to give something in return. After shows, stickers or copies of an old EP all work. I’ve also seen acts announce in mid-set that anyone who signs up for their e-mail list will be entered into a raffle, and at the end of the set, the raffle winner gets some sort of prize, like a CD, T-shirt, or a poster.
Online, you have more options. Free song downloads are a great idea. Some bands have a special video they send to everyone who signs their list.
Don’t Overdo It
Once a band has an e-mail list, it must be used carefully. New York fans will unsubscribe from a list if they start receiving e-mails about shows in Wisconsin, so you should carefully divide your e-mail lists into sections. There should be a Master List with all the addresses on it, and where possible, each entry should have information about where it was obtained.
The Right Tools
There are some great email tools you can use to do all this organization for you. TopSpin, FanBridge, Mail Chimp, and Constant Contact are all good websites that offer these tools. They allow you to segment lists, construct great looking e-mails with graphics, and track all sorts of data about your e-mail list.
These tools will allow you to see which people open your e-mails the most, which links they click on, if they forward to things to friends, and much more.
By using these tools, you can track which strategies are most effective. If you notice that one fan opens everything you send and clicks on all the links, maybe that person would be a great addition to your street team, or maybe they deserve a free ticket to your next show. Always reward active fans.
The Call to Action
When a band asks a fan to do something for them, it is known as a Call to Action. Asking a fan to buy a concert ticket, download a new free track, tweet about an upcoming show, or check out a new website are all Calls to Action.
Call to Action is an old marketing term, and those same marketers have come up with a variety of rules about how they should be used. These include: don’t send more than one e-mail every 3-4 weeks (unless something really, really important comes up); don’t have more than two Call to Actions in an e-mail; and K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t send out e-mails with multiple paragraphs, numerous show listings, contests, and merchandise offers all crammed together. Doing so yields much worse results than bands that send three-sentence e-mails with one or two Calls to Action.
At the end of the day, remember the e-mail version of the golden rule: Treat other people’s inboxes as you would treat your own inbox.