Now, that insane fan who thinks you're the greatest thing since the backbeat is not all that tough to keep. The fence-sitter, (not quite a fan, kinda likes it, yeah that sounds OK person who can become a fan or a stranger) - that person may be a challenge.
There's some tools to keeping fans and converting casual listeners into rabid fans who would pay for your used sweatsocks. This piece is about one of those tools.
The Mailing List
The most basic of communication tools. Perhaps the most important. If you play live, you probably have that yellow pad on the side of the stage area, and every few songs, your bassist mumbles something about 'hey, man, you wanna see our next show, like, put your name on the list'. Being a bassist, he has totally forgotten to tell people to put their address, and you now have a list of names that is pretty useless.
That's kind of like knowing the IP address of someone who heard your song. Interesting trivia and nothing more.
Go to your artist page and set up an email link where people click to get on your mailing list, join a fan club or whatever you think works. I know, that contact the artist link is right there, but you have to make it more visible. Prompt them - tell them they HAVE to join your mailing list if they want to hear the latest and greatest. An email address like MYBANDSFANCLUB@MYBAND.COM is a nice idea, too.
Yahoo has this great thing about joining groups and it does the emailings for you if you post news or something. No offense, but this service is pretty lame. I'm not sure why. From a mailing list of 80+ people, who were active "fans" (I knew this because if I mail them, I get listens), a total of SIX people signed up for my Yahoo group when I asked. Its just too complicated a sign in process. Oh, make that 5 people, since I'm one of them. Sheesh. And it was a horror to register into.
Using The Mailing List
What if I told you that there was a piece of software that let you keep a list of all of your fan club members and create mail merges with variables (Dear Wally instead of Dear Fan) for your mailings. What if I told you 80% of the people reading this piece already owned the software?
I'm using it this very second. Microsoft Word. Do a mail merge, but instead of merging to a printer or a document, merge to mail. You have to have your mail client properly configured and all, but there it is.
OK, here's another cool piece of software that does the same thing, but costs a bit less. Ummm - free. Go to www.coloradosoft.com/download.htm and download WORLDMERGE 4.0. Its easy, its fast, its hip, its free. It adds a little tag at the bottom that's an ad for WorldMerge that you can get rid of if you register for $50.
NEVER under any condition mail out your fan list as CCs where everyone can see everyone elses name.
What to mail?
There's a lot of factors to consider in using this mighty tool called the mailing list.
Not too often. Often enough. Monthly is a decent time period. Do not mail more than once per week or soon you will be deleted before you can say spamwich. Try not to wait longer, or some of those fence sitters will have no idea who you are when they get the mail.
New Tune? Live Gig? That's your big subject. Nothing happen in the last month? Push an older tune. DO NOT try to get more than THREE points across to your reader. Give them a FACT and an ACTION to take. For example: I have a NEW SONG. Go and LISTEN. We have a GIG. Please ATTEND. New TSHIRT out. Go BUY. OK, maybe a little more filler and a little more content, but that's the proper framework. If you have cute anecdotes (Last month, a dog ate our mic during a show) keep it AT THE END. Business first. Fun later. If they like you enough to read the business, they'll get to the fun. If it's a fence sitter, they want the music not the story. If you have several gigs coming up, make a gigs section. INCLUDE YOUR PAGE LINKS.
Text is boring but everyone can read it. HTML (webby stuff) looks rockin', but a lot - A LOT - of people do not have browsers set up to accept HTML. OR they have browsers that show HTML as attachments, and that scares away those afraid of viral attacks. So the answer? If you're real serious and have too much time, make your first mailing to a fan a question of HTML or text for future mailings (and, yeah, that mailing has to be text) and maintain 2 mailing lists. Frankly, make someone else maintain the two lists, you have more important things to do. Other wise you can send text with a link to a non-personalized web page that's the same info, but pretty.
Marketing trick for mailing:
ASK A QUESTION.
Simple, huh? But if you ask a question (doesn't even matter what it is - saying you want to know everyone's favorite guitarist is just as effective as saying you want to know everyone's favorite pasta) you get a reply. That reply will prompt a response from you. This keeps your name in their face. People like interactivity, and knowing you're more than an mp3. It also helps you define who your fans are. And some fans can be friends and they become your street team. Don't worry, if you mail 100 pieces, you won't get 100 answers to have to deal with.
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