segment your email list

How to segment your email list (and get more fans opening your emails)

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Everyone says you’ve got to build your email list if you want to be successful in today’s music industry, but most people I’ve talked to have had a less-than-great experience emailing their fans. These tips can help improve your email marketing.

When used effectively, communicating to your email list is one of the best ways to both increase music sales and develop a stronger relationship with your fan base. After all, they’ve provided you their email address and you’re going straight to their inboxes – bypassing all the hoops and noise on crowded social media platforms.

But even having this direct access pass to a fan’s inbox doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be interested in the content you send them.

It’s simple: all your fans are not alike. Sure, they may have similar music tastes (which is why they’re all your fans), but they may have different levels of dedication and interest in your music and they all live in different locations. So that means you should focus on sending the right content to the right fans, which means your need to segment and organize your email list.

What does it mean to segment your list?

All professional email providers and services (like MailChimp, FanBridge, AWeber, Emma, and Get Response) will let you to set up different lists. Lists are just the places where you’ll gather the email addresses of fans who want to hear from you.

Generally, think of lists as pretty broad categories, so you will probably only have one list for fans. But, within a list you can further split up your subscribers by interest, demographics, or by the actions they have taken.

If you’re using MailChimp (which I definitely recommend, especially if you fall into their free tier), you can organize your lists with “groups.” Keep in mind that other email providers may call them “segments” or something else, but the idea is the same.

As an example, you could have a group for people who have actually bought music or merch from you, or a group of fans who would like to receive blog update emails. People can be in multiple groups / segments and many will move around depending on how they interact and respond with your emails.

Why organize your email list?

Before we get into how to segment your lists, let’s answer the big question: What is the point of doing all this work to organize your lists into different groups / segments?

In order for your emails to reach their full potential, you need to send your fans relevant information and offers they actually want to see.

Think of it like this: someone who literally just joined your list is going to be interested in different content than your biggest superfans. New fans probably won’t want to buy high-priced items and exclusive content from you, while something like that is right up the alley of the seasoned superfan.

Segmenting by interest

Okay, now let’s look at a few ways you can actually segment your list (and what you can send to those segments).

The first option is to segment by interest, and typically you learn your fans’ interests by some action they take on your site or in your emails. In MailChimp, you can add “hidden form fields” to specify the interest associated with a specific form. Fans who opt into that form will be automatically added to that interest group.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the “trade-songs-for-email” method. When someone opts in to receive a free song, you know they’re interested in your music. In the same way, if someone opted in to receive a free gear list that runs down all the gear and pedals you used on your recent song, you’d know they were probably musicians themselves. Add the hidden form field “musician” and they’ll be automatically marked in your list as someone interested in playing music.

Once you know that fan is also interested in playing and creating music, you could send them offers to buy the sheet music or tab for your most recent album, or even the chance to sign up for a paid online master class where you share some music tips.

Here’s another example. If you’re a producer or DJ, you could trade information on your Pro Tools plug-in settings in exchange for an email address. Add the hidden form field “producer” and they’ll be automatically marked in your list as someone interested in producing. Then, when you release a new album, you could give those fans the chance to buy a special-edition, higher-priced version of the album that includes Pro Tools files for remixing.

Segmenting by location

If you can send your fans targeted, location-based gig and tour announcement emails, you’ll have a much higher percentage of your email list actually opening your notices and way fewer people unsubscribing. So how do you go about getting this set up?

The first step is simply to add a zip code field on your email subscribe forms. Let fans know right on the form that you’re collecting zip codes so you can let them know when you’re in the area. To create additional form fields in MailChimp, choose the list you want to segment, and click the “Signup forms” tab. From there, you can add the “Zip code” field to your form.

Next, you’ll want to decide where you will place this subscribe form. If you’re a touring-heavy band, it makes sense to have zip code fields on every subscribe form on your site. If you only play live occasionally, you could choose to only place this zip code-collecting form on your tour page.

Once you start gathering zip codes, you can send out gig emails that target only fans in the local area. So maybe you could email only fans who live within 60 miles from your gig. This segmentation method could also be really helpful for setting up other local events like house concerts or surprise meetups.

I hope this has given you a better idea of how you can start organizing your email list. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, even creating just a few groups will help you send your fans the content they’re looking for. If you want more email ideas, you can download these 10 email templates for free. I break down the 10 most common emails you have to send, go through what to include, and look at an example for each.


Dave Kusek is the founder of New Artist Model and Berklee Online. Over the years he’s worked with tens of thousands of musicians around the world across every genre imaginable and in many different markets. New Artist Model is an online music business school designed especially for indie musicians. Learn how to turn your music into a career, understand the business, and start thinking like a musical entrepreneur.

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