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We’ve been having an interesting discussion. Aaron has asked some simple, but very pertinent, questions about newsletters. While I have felt completely comfortable over the years with the idea and concept, his questions have made me think very hard about them in the context of the music industry.

In sales, when somebody engages with you as opposed to you trying to engage them, it means that they have a need. If you sell widgets, then it is quite easy to build a regular newsletter around your latest prices with a promotion. It is simple and basic but it meets the needs of the business and your customers.

This is wonderful. You have potential customers who sign up to your newsletter which is like them walking into your store. The danger with this scenario is that you are leading your potential customers to buy on price only, which means they will probably be signing up to all your competitors’ newsletters too.

Hmmm, this may be great for the buyer, but it can be the death knell for the business. So, the trick is to offer something your competitor doesn’t and differentiate yourself in the marketplace. Build in quality and good service and you will create a loyalty in your customers so price becomes less of an issue.

That’s all very good but how does that translate to the music industry. You’re not selling widgets, and better than that you have an exclusive product that only you can provide. However, in today’s internet world where most fans hook up via social networking and news is readily available without any commitment why would someone sign up to your newsletter?

I ask this question all the time and it seems to me that there is a motivation that is not obvious/understood fully and that always worries me. So, instead I focus on strategies to give the fan reasons to sign up to a newsletter and then look forward to receiving it. It seems to me the next best thing:

  • make it regular. Plan a schedule and keep to it. Once a month is a good balance. Don’t be tempted to hold up the newsletter for a new release that is in production, or a piece of news you are expecting.
  • give something that is unique to the newsletter and not found elsewhere. For example a chance to listen to an unreleased track, a new video or a personal photo of you climbing Mount Everest.
  • it is not just an opportunity to make demands on your fans. There is nothing wrong with a call to action – to vote for you in a music competition, nominate you, or take a look at your latest video and leave a comment. But one call to action per newsletter is where to draw the line balanced with 3-4 items where the flow is in the other direction.
  • as the list grows, run a survey to understand the demographics of your audience. It is important to know your audience when writing your newsletter because your content should resonate with the reader. For example, mentioning the latest computer game you have been playing to an audience of 35-55 year olds is going to miss the mark in general.The purpose is to remind folk who you are, that you are still making music and to let them know what is in the pipeline. Research shows that people will share an email with friends if they consider it interesting or amusing. Having your newsletter forwarded (referred) is a great way of growing your fan base.
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