Do you have great music but don’t know how to promote it? Do you wish you had a loyal audience who would listen to your music over and over again? Do you feel that your music marketing is lacking nuance and impact?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you’re in the right place.

Nearly a year ago, I quit my job in a B2B startup to focus on music full-time. Between DJing and freelance production gigs, I also helped bring my startup marketing experience to musicians.

In this article, I’ll share these marketing tactics so you too can promote your music like a top startup.

In an influential essay Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired, wrote about the “1,000 true fans” paradigm.

A “true fan”, Kelly wrote:

“…is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version.”

All an artist needs to sustain his art, Kelly postulated, is 1,000 of such true fans. If each of these fans pays you even $1/month (or $12/year), it would be enough to work full-time on your art.

So how do you build a network of 1,000 true fans?

Easy: a) make exceptional music, and b) collect emails aggressively.

I can’t help you with the former (though the Dozmia blog is a great place to start), but I can guide you with the latter.

As a musician, email is your most important channel for building relationships with your fans for three reasons:

  • Email supports long-form content which is crucial for building the kind of narratives that lead to strong fan-artist relationships. Storytelling is much easier when you have the canvas to share your thoughts.

  • Email is more exclusive than social media. A fan might follow dozens of different artists on Twitter, but he likely won’t have more than a handful of subscriptions to artists’ email lists. An email helps you stand out much more than a tweet or an Instagram post.

  • Email requires more commitment. To sign-up for an email list, a fan has to first find the subscription box, add his name/email to it, then confirm the subscription. This requires far more effort than simply tapping the ‘follow’ button. This lengthy process excludes casual listeners and preselects ardent fans.

Regardless of your genre or experience level, you should make email collection a top priority across all your marketing channels (blog, social media, even actual events).

Here are some ways to do this:

1. Collect emails on your website

The first place to add an email opt-in form is on your website. Make this form prominent and persuasive.

For example, Rapper Big Pooh’s website shows an email opt-in pop-up the first time you land on it. Rather than a simple “subscribe to my email” message, he uses more persuasive copy that aligns with his story – “become a citizen”.


Ideally, you should have an opt-in form in the following locations:

  • Your homepage navigation bar or footer
  • Your blog posts’ footer
  • Pop-up on the home page

You can use tools such as Optin Monster and Leadpages to create these forms.

You might have seen these “link bundles” on musicians’ social media profiles:


While the primary purpose of these widgets is to give fans the option to listen to your music on their favorite platform, it is also a great place to collect emails. A simple email subscription form – as in the example above – can net you additional subscribers without additional effort.

3. Offer content ‘bribes’ in exchange for emails

A popular “growth hack” among marketers is to offer laser-targeted “content upgrades” in exchange for emails.

Essentially, this means giving your audience extra content – B-sides, outtakes, a custom video, etc. – if they give away their email addresses.

This extra content has to be relevant to the original content. That is, if you have a new song, offer audiences outtakes from the same song, not another track.

The idea is that if someone is interested in one piece of content, he/she will also be interested in something thematically and topically similar that “upgrades” their experience.

I haven’t seen a lot of musicians do this. Marketers, however, swear by it, often getting opt-in rates as high as 10%. Give it a try for your most popular track and see the results.

4. Collect emails via custom URLs in live-events

Do you hand out any printed material – CDs, flyers, tees, cards – at your live events?

If you’re not asking people to subscribe to your email list on this printed material, you’re missing a huge opportunity to gather subscribers.

To do this, create a landing page using your email marketing tool. Mailchimp, for instance, has a good free landing page creator.

Next, add a highly targeted offer to this landing page that is relevant to a particular show’s audience. Say, if you performed a set from your latest album, include a download link or free video of a bonus track from the album.

Use a URL shortener such as Bit.ly to shorten the landing page address into something easier to type-in. If you can, pay extra for a custom URL.

Now add this URL to your printed material and ask people to check it out for free content (emphasize the free bit) and collect emails.

Do all the above and you’ll see a steady trickle of email subscribers. You can now send them highly targeted emails and start the process of turning subscribers into fans.

One of the core tenets of modern startup marketing is automation. This involves creating complex ‘funnels’ where you send potential customers highly-targeted emails based on their preferences.

You don’t have to create automated marketing funnels of course. Instead, you can start with simple automation by creating drip email campaigns.

A drip email campaign is ‘automation-lite’. Essentially, it involves creating a series of emails and sending them to each new subscriber.

Here’s an example of a simple drip email campaign I used for one of my marketing clients:


You might have multiple branches in this campaign based on the audience’s actions (say, if they don’t open two emails in a row sends them a feedback email). However, for most musicians, a simple campaign like the one I shared above will suffice.

Here are some tips to follow for creating better drip email campaigns:

1. Create multiple drip campaigns for different purposes

Drip campaigns can be of several types based on their intended purpose:

  • Top-of-mind: These campaigns meant to keep your name on top of your audience’s mind. Instead of detailed content, top-of-mind drip campaigns usually have short updates and news stories.
  • Educational: These are campaigns with educational content. Unless you are teaching something (say, your mixing techniques), you’ll likely not use them much.
  • Promotional: Promotional drip campaigns usually contain offers, sales, etc. If you’re giving away a discount on your new EP, or offering your old songs for free, you’ll want to use promotional drip campaigns.
  • Re-engagement: To “re-engage” is to find your least engaged subscribes and reconnect with them by offering highly targeted content.

As a musician, you should pay particular attention to top-of-mind and re-engagement campaigns. Both of these are pretty closely related. If someone hasn’t been opening your top-of-mind emails, it means they aren’t engaging with you. You can then shift them to your re-engagement list.

This sort of basic segmentation can drastically improve your engagement rates.

Here’s a drip campaign sequence that works well for most musicians:

  • Capture email and add subscriber to your list
  • Create a “top-of-mind” drip sequence (Sequence #1) with 3 emails about your music, upcoming releases, older songs, and performances, etc.
  • Create a “re-engagement” drip sequence where you ask what kind of content the subscriber is looking for, ask for feedback, or share content similar to the kind they used to first subscribe to your list.
  • If a subscriber doesn’t open your top-of-mind drip sequence even once, move him to the re-engagement drip sequence.
  • If a subscriber opens top-of-mind drip sequence, move him to the “promotion” drip sequence where you can pitch discounts on your new releases or shows.
  • Continue to send the subscriber top-of-mind content.

If you’re using ConvertKit (which I recommend because of its ease of use), your sequence might look something like this:


This is a much better way to engage with your audience than simply sending all of them the same email update.

2. Write better drip emails

While the sequence of emails is important, what you write in them matters even more.

Far too many musicians fall into the trap of overselling or underselling in their emails. They either drone on and on about their new single, or they underwhelm by writing a dry line or two about their upcoming show.

You don’t have to be a copywriter, but learning a few copywriting tricks can help.

The first trick is to use short sentences, a conversational tone, and paragraphs no longer than 1-2 sentences.

Ramit Sethi is a master of this tactic. Notice how short his paragraphs are in this email:


The next trick is to add a “P.S.” near the end of the email. This should contain your call-to-action (CTA) to a download link, video, etc.

Adding a CTA in the post-script works because people remember the beginning and end of a message, often skipping through the middle. Since the P.S. is the last thing they read in the email, they’ll be more likely to remember it.

Of course, Ramit uses it as well:


The third trick?


If you’ve been around any marketing forums, you would already know to start off emails with a Hi {first_name}.

But you can get even more mileage by adding personalization in the body of the message, especially near the dull middle parts. If your reader was losing interest, they’ll definitely perk up if they see themselves being addressed by name.

This is another trick I picked up from Ramit. Notice how he uses the {first_name} tag in the middle of a long message?


If I wasn’t paying attention, you bet I would after reading my own name.

There is a lot more to writing effective emails, but as a musician promoting your own music, even adopting a few of these tips will set you apart from your competitors.

Over to You

Top startups use a range of complex tactics – retargeting via Facebook ads, detailed segmentation, on-demand personalization, etc. – to extract more value from their audience.

As a musician, however, you can get a lot of mileage by adopting some of the more “basic” marketing tactics I shared above.

How do you market your music? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Ryan Harrell writes about music and music marketing on his blog at MIDINation. Follow him for marketing tips, interesting analysis, and finding resources such as a list of 101 blogs to submit your music to.


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