grow your email list

5 ways to grow your email list

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Compared to other promotion tools, email gives you a much better chance of actually communicating with your fans. Here are five ways to grow your email list, even if you’re starting from scratch.

As an indie musician, if you don’t have an email list (or you have one and never use it), you’re limiting your potential. Compared to other promotion tools – like social media, where most of your posts can get lost in the feed never to be seen again – email gives you a much better chance of actually communicating with your fans.

What does that mean? It’s your direct ticket straight to your fans, without the distracting videos on social media pulling their attention away.

Of course, there’s an art to writing great emails. BUT if you don’t start building and working to grow your email list now, you won’t be able to reap the rewards.

A few quick side notes about email

You need permission to email someone. In other words, they need to opt in to your list, buy something from you, or put their name on a signup list at a gig.

You also need to give recipients the ability to opt out of your emails. Some people just won’t dig your emails for whatever reason. And that’s fine. Get them off the list and focus on the people who do want your emails.

Use your own email habits as a guideline. Do you like reading novel-length emails? Probably not.

Do you like getting overly promotional “buy my cool stuff” emails? I’m going to guess no. Keep your content valuable, keep it concise.

Now onto the big question: How do you grow your email list, especially if you are literally starting from nothing? Here are five ideas to get you started.

1. Use an embeddable opt in form

The classic embedded opt in form on your website is something you should always have. An opt in form is a simple form that requests information (usually just a first and last name and email address), with a “submit” button.  

Pretty much any email service will have the capability to create embeddable opt in forms that can be added to any website platform. (Read the tutorial for MailChimp’s embeddable opt in forms so you can see what I mean.)

If you don’t have an email sign up form on your home page, go set one up now. Seriously. Right now.

Fortunately, a lot of musicians have gotten this memo already, so let’s talk about how you can make your opt in form perform even better.

  • Contrast is important. Your opt in form should stand out on your website so your fans will notice it (and hopefully fill it out). That means if your page is black, your form should be a contrasting color or white. If your page is white, opt for a color that fits with your theme but still stands out.
  • Keep it simple. You don’t need to know everything about your fans right now – just their name and email address. The easier it is to fill out, the more subscribers you’ll get.
  • Tell fans what they get for opting in. A generic “Sign up for my email list!” isn’t going to entice many visitors to join, and you’ll likely see low conversion rates. It’s better than literally nothing, but you can do better.

2. Give fans something cool in exchange for an email address

Your email opt in forms will perform much better if you give your fans something for opting in. Think of it as a trade.

At the most basic level, your fan would fill out the form and your autoresponder would deliver the cool reward.

Most musicians are pretty familiar with the notion of trading songs for an email address, but let me share some other ideas that will get your fans really excited about opting in.

Your best bet is to offer exclusive content, something fans can’t get anywhere else. Things like exclusive or unreleased songs, acoustic versions of songs, video lessons or tutorials, or gear sheets are all great ideas.

Obviously what you offer in exchange for email addresses will vary based on the interests of your fanbase and your career. So do some testing. Try a few different things and see which drives the most signups.

3. Set up a landing page

In the world of online marketing, a gated landing page – one you don’t make public or only link to as a “thank you” after an email signup – is about as standard as it gets. And yet, I see very few musicians utilizing it. Without a doubt, this is the most effective way to grow your email list (even more so than the tried and true embedded form on the homepage).

First step is to create a gated piece of content (some cool thing you can trade for an email address).

Next, create a landing page that tells your fans exactly what they’ll get when they opt in. Then link to the page with a headline like, “Get unreleased acoustic versions of these three songs,” or “Sign up to get a list of all the gear I used to get the guitar tone on [insert song name]” might fit the bill.

You can also include a few bullet points to explain what folks will get when they join (newsletters, special offers) and/or how they will benefit from joining your list.

4. Gather emails in person and at gigs

Never overlook the power of a face-to-face interaction. If you’re a performing musician, live events, gigs and house concerts are a perfect opportunity to grow your email list.

One simple approach is to have an email sign-up form sitting on your merch table. Have a blurb written across the top (large enough so it’s easy to read in a low-light venue environment) telling your fans what they will get when they sign up.

If you want to get even more people to sign up, make an announcement during your set telling fans they can sign up for emails to receive some cool exclusive thing. It doesn’t have to be a big uncomfortable pitch – just let them know it’s there.

If you want to really turn it up to eleven, turn it into a contest. Enter everyone who writes down their email into a raffle to win a merch bundle.

5. Host a live event online

You don’t need gigs to get that face-to-face connection with fans, and with all the online streaming and concert platforms, there are a lot of options.

One approach is to host a live online concert. Other options include:

  • Hosting a Q&A session with your fans on Facebook or Instagram Live.
  • Teaching your fans something specific like how to play a certain riff, or how to set up a home studio. (This is best for musicians who know a lot of their fans are also musicians.)
  • Stream your rehearsals.
  • Have “write with me” sessions where you stream some of your songwriting process.

Now let’s turn these live events into an email list growth tool.

One option is to make the event public for all your fans to join. Promote it on social media, or however you can, and while you’re live, incentivize your viewers to opt into your list to get some cool thing. If you hosted a live concert, give them a free download of one of the songs you played. If you used the live session to teach your fans something, give them a free checklist or toolkit PDF.

Another approach is to use the live event as a piece of gated content. Promote it on social media in the days or weeks prior. Let fans know they need to be signed up for your email list to join. You can host private streams on YouTube fairly easily. Just set the stream’s privacy to “unlisted” and share the direct link with your email list.

Of course, once you start gathering email addresses, you need to start thinking about what you will send your fans. Use my 10 free email templates as a starting point and experiment to see what kind of emails resonate with your fans.


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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