These tips can minimize headaches and maximize success when it comes to connecting with your audience and growing your mailing list at your live shows.
Whether you use Constant Contact, MailChimp, or any other digital marketing program, keeping in touch with your music fanbase via carefully crafted e-blasts can be a great promotion and sales strategy.
The actual process of gathering names and email addresses for your list before and after a gig, though, can be more difficult than you’d expect.
Most indie music artists are familiar with variations on the standard theme: bring an email sign-up sheet to the gig, gather whatever names you can, and try to decipher bad handwriting as you input all the data into your email marketing platform after the show.
Here are some tips to minimize headaches when gathering new sign-ups and help you maximize your success when it comes to growing your mailing list at your shows.
Promote your mailing list from the stage
Many indie artists put a mailing list on a table in the back of the venue and wait for people to sign up. Why not try a more engaging approach? As singer-songwriter Avi Wisnia recommends in an older post of mine, “Working the Crowd… Offstage,” make an effort to promote your mailing list in between songs and pass it into the audience from the stage.”
As Wisnia explains, “… people are already engaged and listening. They’re in deep and not going anywhere. Also, you don’t have to worry about peddling your mailing list afterwards and wasting time standing around while people scribble down their names.”
Have multiple sign-up sheets, especially if you’re playing a larger venue, so you can pass them in multiple directions at once. If the vibe is right and your show is long, consider passing around the mailing list sign-up more than once during your performance.
Good pens, good paper
This might seem trivial, but when it comes time to type up hand-written email addresses, you’ll thank yourself for investing in decent writing materials. After all, the last thing you want is scratchy, incomprehensible writing from a cheap pen that’s almost out of ink. Test out your pens before a show and make sure they write well and don’t smear — and be sure to always have an extra pen or two in your gig bag.
When it comes to paper, consider using something a step up from white printer paper on a cardboard clipboard. Personally, I’ve gotten noticeably better sign-up results when I pass around a leather-bound book that looks like a journal. After all, I want my sign-up materials to evoke an impression of “cool and interesting indie music artist” rather than “doctor’s office check-in.”
While it’s not hugely likely, pens and notebooks can get lost, damaged, or stolen when you pass them around an audience. So while it’s helpful to invest in materials that will get the job done and make an impression on your listeners, don’t use anything that you can’t stand to lose. And if you are passing around a notebook, I recommend entering all new names, and possibly taking pictures of the pages, before each new gig. That way, you have the information backed up in case your sign-up book takes an unexpected permanent vacation.
Gimme some space
When it comes to legibility and being able to correctly type up the handwritten names you’ve gathered, allowing enough space on the page makes a difference. One helpful tactic is to print up custom sheets of paper indicating where people should sign up, leaving plenty of space in between entries. This may require more paper, but it’s much better than having three drunk people’s bad cursive tangled up together on an over-cramped page. Similarly, if you’re using a notebook, adding bullets or numbers indicating where people should sign up — and leaving lots of space between them — can serve the same purpose.
Make your mailing lists fun
Can you add custom graphics to your mailing list sheets? Are you able to print them on neon or tie-dyed paper? Did you find some vintage Hello Kitty or monster movie notebooks that reflect your vibe and sound? What if the mailing list provides a space for each new signee to draw a picture or write you a haiku? Anything you can do to make the experience of signing up for your mailing list different, fun, and thoroughly un-ordinary will help you maximize your efforts.
Tie it to something
If there’s an event or upcoming release you can use to encourage sign-ups, be sure to mention it. “Hey, want to sign up for our mailing list?” may get you some results, but “We have this amazing new album project/tour/video game soundtrack that we’re working on and everyone on our mailing list will get a free single/ticket/sneak peek” has greater potential to get attention.
It always worth offering something special to people who sign up. It can be anything relevant to your band and music — free downloads/download cards, merch discounts, VIP-only behind-the-scenes videos, advance sales access for new music — as long as it encourages people to join your e-community and learn more about you.
Make it personal
Even if you pass around your mailing list multiple times during a show, it may not reach everyone who’d be interested. If possible, watch from the stage and make note of anyone who seems particularly into what you’re doing. A personal approach after or between sets, a kind hello, and a simple message — Hey, thanks so much for listening. Did you get a chance to sign up for our mailing list? — can go a long way towards gathering new mailing list sign-ups.
While the analog approach of passing around a sign-up sheet can be quite effective, don’t shy away from using new technology to help you gather names and emails at the live music gig.
One great example is a feature from Constant Contact called Text-To-Join. With this service, it’s simple to set up a system where audience members text a code word of your choosing to a certain number; they get a response back asking for their email address. Once they respond, they are automatically added to a segment of your email list that you choose ahead of time.
This option also lets you craft custom “thank you for signing up” responses that automatically deploy when people text to add themselves to your mailing list. Are you enticing new sign-ups by offering a free download or a discount code for future ticket orders? You can set up the system’s auto-response to deliver the necessary links or information to make it happen.
Another option? Ask everyone to pull out their phones, announce your email address, and ask everyone to send you a note or a text. It’s a little less savvy than the text-to-join option, but it can be quite effective.
Don’t be a bully
Be friendly and proactive when requesting mailing-list sign-ups, but never push the issue. It’s not worth alienating a potential fan or making listeners feel uncomfortable just to add another email address to your collection.
Also, remember that the single most important thing you can do to build a loyal fanbase for your music is to put on a great show. While providing a platform and encouraging email list sign-ups is a necessary part of those efforts, stop short of doing anything that will compromise your ability to focus on delivering a great musical performance, from downbeat to final note.
Do you have tips for maximizing your band’s mailing list efforts on the gig? Tell us in the comments below.
Disc Makers’ regular contributor Michael Gallant’s debut trio album Completely received a four-star review from DownBeat magazine and a five-star review from Critical Jazz, which stated: “This, my friends, is the future of jazz. Fresh, invigorating, progressive – there are simply not enough positive adjectives to list here.” Learn more, download through iTunes, or purchase through CD Baby. Follow Michael on Twitter at @Michael_Gallant or on Facebook.
Working the Crowd… Offstage
5 ways to grow your email list
How to segment your email list (and get more fans opening your emails)
Permission marketing and the new music business
The musician’s guide to content marketing