1. Be a human being…
People like hearing from friends but hate hearing from spammers. To sound more like a human and less like an email-spewing robot, identify yourself clearly.
Have an address that looks like a human uses it, and one that people will instantly (and positively) connect to you and your projects: email@example.com as opposed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Market research has shown that people react more strongly to the sender line than other elements in an email.
Give your personal name along with your band name in your signature. And try to write a personal note, not a hyped-up ad.
Some email marketing experts even recommend adding a photo of yourself (or your band, as the case may be) to emphasize the personal quality of what can feel like very impersonal communication. Use your cool, vibrant photos that show you in all your global artist glory. Or add a well-chosen video.
2. ...And be a nice one.
Respect people’s wishes to opt in or out of your email blasts. Don’t add people—especially not contacts in the media!—without their permission. You’ll annoy them and waste their hard-earned goodwill.
Be kind enough to make things short, sweet, and easy to open. That means choosing graphic elements carefully, avoiding attachments, and thinking hard about your subject line. It may be handy to come up with a standard approach, to make it easy for your fans to know what’s inside each message. For example, you could start each subject with your band name (i.e. “GlobalMusician: Hitting the North American Road in May”).
Consider having both a to-the-point presentation of events like tour dates and track releases (bullet points are great) and a short, warm, more narrative intro paragraph. Be witty if that’s your style, but don’t get too silly. Err on the side of simplicity.
And try to find the right balance between regularly contacting your fans with cool information and inundating them with repetitive emails. Think twice before hitting send (again). Two updates about an upcoming tour may be enough.
3. Give back.
When someone gives you their email (and thus gives you access to their eyeballs and brains if only for a second), give them something for their trouble.
Exclusive footage from a great live show, a nice mp3 every once in a while, a sneak peek at upcoming projects, a special discount or offer only for your email buddies…this kind of little treats and bonuses can make many fans feel it’s worth it to get your messages.
4. Watch your language.
The spammers. They’ve ruined so many great words and phrases for the rest of us. Spam filters love to flag messages with certain words (“hardcore,” “FREE!!!” and even, cryptically, “Oprah”) or certain subject lines (“Check this out!”). They even suspect you if you use a salutation, certain software to generate your message, or wonky code.
The last thing you want is your carefully crafted message to land in the junk mail because certain software thinks you’re peddling dubious wares.
5. Show your work.
Give links to your other sites, pages, and so on in full (or take a second and shorten them using a standard service like bitly if they are really long).
Spammers and crooks once again have spoiled it for everyone else, and people are wary of clicking through linked text in an email. If they see a reputable looking web address, they are more likely to follow your lead and click through to your site.
6. Manage your list well.
Your email list is a real asset. But the richer and larger it becomes, the more troublesome it can be. When you have a couple hundred emails, sending out a blast can be annoying but still doable. Once you get to a couple thousand, managing your list becomes a huge, if not impossible, chore, especially if you want to be able to sort by various parameters (city, state, favorite food, whatever). You’re managing a database.
Once you cross that line from irritating task to complete time suck, consider using an online service, of which there are many. Independent musician-oriented sites offer email management as part of their packages, and there are also good stand-alone services that focus on email outreach. These services make it easier to design a colorful but efficient message and help you do other things that would otherwise be extremely time consuming or downright impossible, like track who opened your message.
These features allow you to experiment, if you’re so inclined, and try different approaches to see what your fans respond best to. Do they love pictures? Or do they like things plain and simple? Do certain subject lines result in less response?
You’ve got a unique group of people you’re trying to communicate with, and all the generalized marketing research in the world won’t tell you who they are. But your analytics and your own tests may.