It’s the age of social media and everybody knows it. Right now it’s by far the best way to market your music while engaging with your fans.
Like we outlined in previous articles, growing your social media quickly is paramount to your success as an artist. But, keep in mind you’re competing with thousands of other artists that are trying to do the same.
This means that usually, a fraction of your fan base is actually seeing your posts on social media organically.
Plus, there’s a good chance you’re already fairly adept with social media. And you’re probably wondering why email marketing is still relevant at all.
Well here’s why.
Email marketing gives you more control over the conversation you’re having with your fans. Just think of it as another opening into your fan funnel. Another way of getting your music heard and gaining new and devoted fans while engaging your existing ones.
In this article, we will explore some best practices you, as an artist, can use to grow your list and highlight five of the most affordable email marketing services to get you a step closer to your goals.
The Fan Funnel and how it relates to Email Marketing
As you may know, it is important to create a fan funnel that helps you acquire, engage, and monetize your fans. More on fan funnels here.
Each of your social media outlets can be considered an opening to that funnel where you can acquire new fans, engage them, and then hopefully monetize them down the line. Email Marketing is simply another opening to that funnel, but a much more direct and personal one where a third party doesn’t control who sees your messages. You do. So, how should you start growing the new opening in your fan funnel?
How can I start growing an email list?
Before we dive into the specific email marketing service providers, let’s take a look at some ways to begin growing your email list.
Incentivizing your fans is key when growing your email list. There are a lot of creative ways to do this. The most popular method is giving away a song for free in exchange for a fan’s email. Fan gates like Toneden, Artist Union, Hive, and others make use of this feature with their widgets you can place on your SoundCloud tracks. For example, for WRLD’s remix of “Slow Down”, we used The Artist Union, a free download gate.
When a fan clicks “Free Download” from your Soundcloud, they’re directed to a page hosted by The Artist Union that gives them your track for free in exchange for their email, among other social interactions like a repost or follow.
For a more detailed explanation of how fan gates work and the best ones to use, you can check out our article highlighting our favorite ones here.
Over time, your email list will grow by using these fan gates. While it might not be important to start emailing your fans right away, their emails will become more useful when you’re releasing your first album, or announcing a new merch line or kicking off a tour and want to monetize your fans. Depending on the service you choose to create your fan gates, you might have access to your fan’s locations as well. This might even help you decide where your next show should be.
Many of the email services we highlight below also allow for you to create custom widgets that you can embed on your site. On WRLD’s site we have a place for fans to enter their email addresses, same goes for DROELOE and San Holo. In exchange, we keep them updated on new releases, new merch, and tour plans.
You can also create a widget that functions similarly to how fan gates do on your SoundCloud. Essentially your widget becomes your download gate where fans can trade in a free download for their email address. For example, the indie artist Rachael Yamagata makes use of one of these widgets on her site as you can see below:
By default, MailChimp is the most popular email marketing service, but if you’re looking for alternatives we’ve got you covered with three of our favorites – MailerLite, MailBlast or Email Octopus.
All three tools allow you to setup automated emails, create a custom embedded widget for your website, and manage and track your email list. These services provide a one-stop shop to help you gauge who your superfans are and then help you monetize them.<
It is important to remember that you are trying to cultivate an engaged fan base with these emails. That means, as your email subscriber list grows, so should fan engagement, the amount of plays, likes, follows, and eventually dollars.
MailerLite is a rather straightforward email marketing tool. They offer a drag and drop editor to easily customize your email templates, HTML customization if you want to customize your email templates further, free already existing templates, and list management. These seemingly simple features are crucial for artists beginning to learn how email marketing works.
Having free templates to choose from will help you customize the feel and look of your email marketing campaign and show your fans how professional you are. This service also offers you free file management.
That means that once you upload a track you want to give out for free, it will stay there for all future campaigns. Another exciting feature they offer is a customizable free landing page. This means you can customize a page where fans can visit to sign up for your campaign. MailerLite offers a wide range of prices that match your email subscriber base and a free plan for up to 1,000 subscribers.
This email marketing service is best suited for emerging artists due to it being free till you reach 1,000 subscriber. As your list grows, there are a wide range of very affordable options to choose from. The upgrading prices are as follows:
- 1,001 – 2,500 subscribers = $10/month
- 2,501 – 5,000 subscribers = $20/month
- 5,001 – 10,000 subscribers = $30/month
- Etc. up to 50,000 subscribers for $140/month
MailBlast is arguably the most affordable email marketing platform on the market. This is because it runs its service through Amazon Web Services accounts which allows them to reduce their costs. For just $15 a month, you can set up email automation to 15,000 subscribers.
You can create, test, and schedule email marketing campaigns from the site. You also get detailed reports of click rates and open rates and can manage unsubscribers. They also provide you with embed codes to put an email signup widget on your site. Just like MailerLite, they offer a free account for someone with 1,000 subscribers or less.
Since MailBlast runs their service through Amazon Web Service, you do have to create an account with Amazon Web Service as well. Setting up the Amazon Web Service account can be a little tricky, however, they walk you through the steps after signing up for their email marketing service.
Amazon Web Service also requires you to enter your credit or debit card information. This is because with Amazon Web Service, if you send out more than 62,000 emails per month, you get charged an extra $.10 per 1,000 emails.
This is one of the the most affordable options on the marketing. It allows you to do everything an email marketing platform should while keeping the price to just $15 a month for up to 15,000 subscribers. Currently, we feel this is the best option out there.
Like MailBlast, Email Octopus runs through Amazon Web Services. This allows them to keep their prices low as well. Email Octopus is a bit more expensive than MailBlast, running at $15 for 10,000 subscribers a month and up.
With Email Octopus, you can track how your campaigns are doing, manage unsubscribers, automate or drip emails, and access sign up widgets for your website.
Like MailBlast, you must create an Amazon Web Service account for this as well, but this is outlined in a step-by-step guide given by Email Octopus.
These three options are the most affordable by far. If you’re not very comfortable with your tech skills, MailerLite would be the best affordable option.
MailChimp and Constant Contact are considered the “industry standards” for email marketing so they are able to charge a bit more. Plus, they’re a bit easier to set up initially than the three Email Marketing Services listed above and they do offer a plethora of services as well.
Mad Mimi is another cheaper option for email marketing. With this platform, you get your first 100 contacts for free rather than the 1,000 offered by the three above.
While Mad Mimi offers most of the same features as the email marketing services above, they charge a bit more to use the platform.
They include features like customizable templates, customizable website widgets, email list management, analytics to track your campaign, and automation.
To boost their value, they include a few add on bonuses. These features include Facebook likes from email, other social media link integration, RSS to email conversion, Google analytics, integration with Etsy, the ability to create surveys, and much more.
While the price of Mad Mimi is considerably higher than the other three email marketing services, they do have quite a collection of awesome features that could enhance your emails.
If you simply looking to engage fans by sending them updates about your new releases, this might not be the best platform to start with. However, this could be a viable option as your brand and fan base grows.
Like the other email marketing services, MailChimp provides a platform where you can manage your email list and automate email responses.
They have many of the same features as the other email marketing services mentioned like customizable email templates, the ability to upload HTML email templates, automation for rapid responses to fans, analytics to track your campaigns, and much more.
MailChimp’s popularity stems from its extensive feature list including the ability to connect to an ecommerce store (merch), create ad campaigns for Facebook, mobile support, and integration with other apps like Eventbrite.
While MailChimp is a bit more expensive, they offer a few more features that the other email marketing services lack. These features are not necessary, but are things to consider when your email list begins to grow considerably.
Now that I have a list and an email marketing service chosen, what do I do?
To run an efficient mailing system, automation is still the key.You know those emails you get right after you sign up for an email list confirming your subscription? That’s what email automation is. With any of the services talked about in our comparison, you can automate emails to send to fans after they signup for your email list.
Here are some ideas one what to include on the first three email automations:
Thank you emails
The first email should be a confirmation that the new subscriber has indeed been added to your list. If you’re giving away free content to incentivize them to subscribe, this email would also include the free download.
This email should be sent immediately after a new subscriber gives you their email. For example, after signing up for San Holo’s email address, you immediately get this email:
The rest of the emails are up to you, but here are some recommendations. The second email could be a deeper glimpse into what is going on in your world as an artist. The second email could include your newest material plus streaming or purchase links.
Tour dates could work too. The goal with this follow-up email is to gauge the open rate of your emails to determine how loyal your fan base is.
Always be wary of sending too many emails too quickly though and spread them out accordingly. Too many emails will cause even your most loyal fans to unsubscribe if they feel that you’re bordering on spam.
At this point, if your subscriber is still with you, that means they can be considered a true fan.
Kevin Kelly argues that all you need is roughly 1,000 true fans for you to make a decent living. These true fans will be the ones who remain subscribed to your list and interact with your emails by opening each email and clicking the links enclosed within.
These true fans will be the ones who end up purchase your new album, items from your new merch line, and tickets to your upcoming shows.
Therefore, your third automated email to your true fans should contain links to your merch, links to your upcoming shows, and any exciting news you want to share with them. This email should be sent at least a week after the second email.
After these emails have been sent, it is important to keep those fans engaged with what is going on in your world. This means sending out regular emails that highlight upcoming shows, newest releases, and any exciting news that is going on in your artist world.
You can also send out exclusive opportunities like meet and greets, secret shows, and other exciting opportunities for your fans to engage with you. As much as possible try and push exclusive content to your email fans first.
When it comes to email frequency you shouldn’t be emailing more than once a week. You’ll want to email about once per release, or other noteworthy news, which depends on your release schedule.
Here at Heroic we’ve found that it usually comes down to once a month we’ll have exciting news to share with our fans, whether that’s a new release or a brand new tour. You can also send your fans regularly scheduled emails to give your fans a heads up of what to expect from you in the next period before your next update.
So, for you to begin building up your email list, simply begin using download gates or export the emails you’ve already gathered. From there, import them into the email service you’ve chosen. You can then automate your emails so that fans get that free track or remain engaged throughout your email campaign.
However, it is important to remember that this whole process begins with the creation of an incredible track. No fan will be motivated to give you their email for a free download, unless that free download is an amazing tune they have to have. Once you’ve created that amazing track and begin collecting emails, expect to see some growth and interaction with your brand.