lead generation

Lead generation and music marketing

Crafting promotions, driving potential fans to your online platforms, and capturing contact information — AKA lead generation — is an essential part of a sustainable music marketing strategy.

I know what you’re thinking: “Lead generation? Did I just stumble onto some boring business blog?”

As boring and business-like as it might sound, “lead generation” (or “lead gen” for short) is very applicable to musicians as well. The tools, tactics, and strategies businesses use to turn their visitors into quality leads can also help turn your followers into fans.

What is lead generation?

A lead is any individual who has shown interest in what you’re offering by giving you some form of private data: a phone number, an email address, a mailing address, etc.

Lead generation is the process driving traffic and capturing this private data from visitors.

If you send your Facebook fans to your website, where you have a newsletter subscription form, you are essentially generating leads. Any visitor on the opposite side of a form is a lead. Broadly speaking, lead generation is a simple three-step process:

  1. Create something that people are willing to exchange their private information to get
  2. Set up forms to capture this private information
  3. Drive traffic to these forms

How do I capture emails?

The first step in the lead-generation process is to capture emails.

Why emails and not, say, phone numbers so you can send texts?

For one, email addresses are commonly repeated across websites and databases. This can give you access to additional info about your subscribers. For instance, you can use a list of email addresses to create custom Facebook audiences for hyper-targeted marketing.

Then there’s the fact that emails can carry longer, richer messages than text. Plus, there is a huge library of tools and best practices for capturing and sending emails. This is why, when you land on most artists’ websites, you’ll invariably see a newsletter link on the homepage.

lead generation major lazer

This brings us to the all-important question: how exactly do you capture emails? There are actually three components to this question:

  • What to offer in exchange for email addresses
  • Where to place this offer
  • How to get more people to take you up on this offer

In conventional marketing terms, these amounts to offer selection, offer distribution, and offer conversion rate optimization.

How to ask for email addresses

For someone to give away their email address, you have to offer them something in return. This “something” must have perceived value to your target audience.

I say perceived value because the notion of value will change from one audience group to another. A listener who follows you primarily on SoundCloud might be more interested in getting updates about new tracks. Someone who wants to see you live will be interested in your touring updates. Your goal should be to have offers that cover as many audience groups as possible.

What can you offer in exchange for email contact info?

1. A newsletter

The humble newsletter is a staple of music marketing. You’ll see it on nearly every savvy musician’s website, like on David Guetta’s website:

lead generation guetta

A problem with newsletters is that they can be too vague for casual fans. A fan who only wants to know when you’re touring next might not want to subscribe to a weekly (or monthly) newsletter.

2. Tour updates

For touring musicians, I highly recommend having a separate section where interested fans can sign up to receive updates.

You can plug this form on a separate “Tour” page, like Deadmau5’s LotsOfShowsnARow website:

lead generation Deadmau5

The reason for keeping a separate list for touring updates is twofold:

  1. Fans who are only interested in your live performances will be more likely to subscribe. Not everyone wants a newsletter in their inbox every Monday.
  2. You can segment your email list and send them more targeted content/offers.

3. Communities

A seldom-used but highly effective way to capture emails is to create a community around your music. Fans can sign-up to access this community where they can interact with each other. You get emails (and other fan data) and fans get to be a part of a community — a win-win for all.

For example, Bon Iver has a “Community” section on its website.

lead generation bon iver

lead generation community formWhen a visitor clicks the “Join Now” button, a sign-up prompt appears. Any field a user fills in is extra data you can later use.

This community is powered by Fullscreen Direct which is used by a number of marquee artists. You don’t have to go this route; even creating a free forum using MyBB or PHPBB will yield the same results.

4. Content upgrades

The idea behind a “content upgrade” is simple:

  • Create content
  • Create additional content that is related to this content and adds value to it
  • Offer the additional content in exchange for an email

Content upgrades work because the bonus content has strong contextual relevance to the original content. It is something extra that makes the original better (such as a music video that accompanies a song).

Content upgrades are widely used among marketers. As a musician you can offer outtakes, longer versions of a track, videos, an EP download… anything that would improve the existing content experience for your fans.

Regardless of what content you choose to offer, your focus should be on exclusivity and convenience.

When you offer a bonus video accessible only to email subscribers, you are promising exclusivity. When you offer a newsletter, you are essentially telling fans they can keep up with your music right in their inbox (convenience). Make these two values the foundation of your content selection and you’ll see strong email subscription rates.

Where to collect email addresses

I’m tempted to answer “everywhere” when someone asks me where they should place their offers (aka the email sign-up form). After all, businesses often place multiple sign-up forms on the same page to try to capture leads.

As a musician, being too aggressive with your fans by offering multiple email sign-up forms can make you appear too pushy, or worse, too commercial. On that note, here are a few places where you can place your sign-up forms:

1. Website header/footer/navigation

The most obvious spot to place your sign-up form (especially the newsletter form) is your website’s header footer or navigation bar.

Rapper Famous Dex has a “Newsletter” link on his website’s side navigation:

lead generation famous dex

Wiz Khalifa has a newsletter subscription form on his homepage and the website footer:

lead generation wiz khalifa

Ideally, you want one form to be “above the fold” (the portion of the screen visible when someone lands on your site), and one form to be in the footer. This is because a user’s attention peaks above the fold, then gradually decreases before rising again near the footer, as this eye-tracking study from the Nielsen Norman Group shows:

lead generation graph

By placing one form in the header/above the fold and one form in the footer, you maximize the chances of the form being seen.

2. Tour page

The tour page is an obvious contender for an email sign-up form. Anyone visiting this page has shown an interest in seeing you live. If you don’t have any current shows in the visitor’s location, you can offer to update him/her via email when you have new shows.

Another way to update people about shows is to use a BandsInTown page. For instance, on Steve Aoki’s tour page, you can opt to be notified when Aoki is in your area.

lead generation aoki

3. Social media link widgets

By using a link widget like 2Lin.cc, you can create social media widgets that give fans options to buy/listen to your music. At the bottom of this widget, you can embed a newsletter subscription form.

lead generation widget

Any time you have a new release, direct fans/followers on social media to this widget where they can listen to your music and subscribe to your newsletter, all on the same page.

4. Pop-ups

Annoying though they may be, pop-ups are highly effective at capturing email addresses. Pop-ups are effective precisely because they interrupt the user. It’s not always ideal in terms of user experience, but it does help in drawing attention to the sign-up form. I don’t always recommend using pop-ups, but if you’re running a specific promotion where capturing emails is more important than giving your users a smooth experience, they’re worth a try.

How to collect more emails

In marketing terms, a conversion rate refers to the percentage of users who perform a desired action. For example, if 100 people land on your site and two of them buy your tracks, your conversion rate for track sales would be 2%.

The field of marketing that deals with improving conversion rate is called conversion rate optimization. Conversion rate optimization is a strange alchemy of copywriting, design, and sometimes, sheer luck. Small things, such as changing the color of a button can improve conversion rate dramatically.

lead generation conversion rate

A small improvement in conversion rate can yield significant results over time. Improving your sales’ rate for tracks from 2% to 3% means that for every 1,000 visitors, you’ll get an additional 10 sales (from 20 up to 30). That can make a difference pretty quickly.

In our case, since we’re focusing on collecting emails, there are a number of things you can do to improve email collection rate:

1. Emphasize exclusivity

“Why would I give you my email address?”

This is the first question a visitor asks when he/she sees a sign-up form on your site. One way to answer this question is to emphasize exclusivity. Make the visitor feel like he/she is part of an exclusive club of fans who get priority access to your new material and bonus content.

Zayn Malik’s website says so in those exact words.

lead generation in zayn

In your next form, don’t just ask people to sign-up; tell them that you’re going to share something exclusive with them. Then follow-through on that promise.

2. Make the form stand out

A form that doesn’t draw attention to itself is a form that’s not doing its job. Your site visitors shouldn’t have to search for the sign-up form; it should be easily visible on the page by itself.

There are two ways to do this: a) form placement and b) form design.

Form placement refers to the actual location of the form. As I mentioned earlier, you should have a form in all heavily trafficked areas of your site: the header or navigation menu, and the footer.

Form design is how the form looks. Far too often, musicians use colors and designs that don’t stand out. While it might be better for aesthetics, you want people to notice the form, not ignore it.

You want both the form and the call to action to scream “click me!” One way of doing this aesthetically is to use a color that stands out on the page. Ideally, this is a color you haven’t use elsewhere.

3. Clarify the purpose of the form

Your form copy should make it clear what the user is signing up for and what will happen after he/she clicks the “Subscribe” button.

Far too often, musicians use vague terms, such as “sign up.” This doesn’t tell the visitor whether he is signing up for a newsletter, a community account, or something else altogether. Clarity in copy will help sell the email list much better.

Start by identifying what the user will get once he signs up for the list, like this copy on COIN’s subscription form:

lead generation coin

Next, ensure that your call to action tells users what clicking the button will accomplish. If they’re signing up for your email list, tell them so in the copy. For example, Steve Aoki’s sign-up form call to action clearly states the form’s purpose.

lead generation aoki 2

Users don’t like uncertainty; put them at ease by ensuring clarity in your form copy.

There is a lot more to improving conversion rates than clear copy and design. For most musicians, however, the above will be more than enough to ensure a healthy subscription rate.

Next steps

If you follow the above advice, hopefully you’ll have a regular stream of visitors turning into subscribers.

What should you do next with these subscribers?

The first step would be to make good on your promise and send them regular updates, exclusive content, or whatever you’ve offered. Start by creating a regular content calendar that ties in with the rest of your marketing output. Whenever you have a new promotion, send an alert to your subscribers.

The most important thing you can do, however, is to segment your list. You want to identify your “superfans,” i.e. subscribers who interact with your content heavily.

These superfans are usually people who:

  • Regularly open your emails
  • Follow you on social media (cross-reference your email list with your Facebook followers using custom audiences)
  • Have bought something from you, such as an album or merchandise

Your goal should be to engage these superfans and get them to introduce their social network to your music. Offer them exclusive access to new content and make them feel privileged.

At the same time, you also want to identify disengaged subscribers. Look for subscribers with low open rates and limited interaction with your website, social media or music. Depending on your available marketing resources, you can either ignore (or remove) these subscribers or double down and push them exclusive content to engage them.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more you can do once you have a list of email addresses. You can slowly capture more information about your subscribers (such as phone numbers or zip codes) by offering them more content. You can create hyper-targeted segments and pitch them merchandise. You can create a community around your superfans.

But all of this begins with an email address. Capture this and you’ll have the raw material for building your music marketing machine.


Ryan Harrell quit his startup ambition to chase his music dreams. Besides working to be a full-time producer, he helps musicians become better marketers at MIDINation. His favorite genres are Jazzhop and firmly believes Samurai Champaloo had the greatest soundtrack of all time.

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