If you ever wonder about what one of the most important parts of a developing music career is, you might not ever think of your email list and newsletter as being near the top of that list. Having a big email list and delivering an effecting newsletter is one of the most important things a musician can focus on at all times during their career.
However, it should be no surprise that most musicians make a ton of mistakes when it comes to their mailing lists and newsletters. In my experience, here are 4 of the most common mistakes I’ve seen musicians make and also a few tips on how to avoid them.
1. Not Using A Proper Mailing List Contact Manager And Newsletter Service. If you’re still using a regular email account (Gmail or Yahoo) to manage your mailing list and send out newsletters, you can basically compare that to playing a $40 guitar over a nice Strat. Sure they both make noise, but one clearly makes the music sound better. The newsletter service Music Clout uses is Mailchimp.com - If your mailing list is under 2,000 contacts, Mailchimp is completely free. You can also send out up to 12k emails per month with the free account, so it should cover most independent musicians needs.
2. Carbon Copying All Of Their Mailing Contacts In a Newsletter. If you’re still using a personal email account to manage your mailing contacts and newsletters, then running into this problem can happen at anytime if you’re not careful. For example, we receive newsletters all the time from musicians that paste their entire contact database in these emails. If you CC your contact list to other musicians, it’s very likely they would find your email contacts relevant to their promotion needs and could possiblly use all of your contacts and hard work with just copying and pasting your contact list onto theirs. Sucks I know, but that’s usually what happens. That brings us back to the point, that you would never run into this problem if you are using a professional newsletter manager like Mailchimp.
3. Making The Newsletter Way To Long Just think about your own experience when reading emails you get. You most likely rush through them as quickly as possible to see if is anything that stands out and catches your eye as being interesting. With that said, one of the simplest mistakes most musicians make is making the information too long. When crafting your newsletters, think skimming. The info should be in small chunks that are easily digested by the eyes. Also, using images within the newsletter is a very good idea to keep the newsletter from looking boring.
4. Using A Boring Or Bad Subject Line If there’s one area that is considered to be the most vital part of a newsletter, it would have to be the subject line. A great subject line can be the make it or break factor it when it comes to your newsletter open rate. Newsletter open rates are low to begin with. On average if you send out 100 emails, only 14 will get open, and that being with a great subject line. So you could imagine just how low the open rate would be with a boring subject line. If you’re having trouble thinking of great ideas for an effective subject line, just google something like “great subject lines” and you should come up with thousands of references.
In Band Leading 101, we talked about how to run a rehearsal to get your band tight. We discussed having the appropriate charts for the musicians, running through a piece and breaking it down, and constructive criticism.
Once you land a gig, your professionalism really has to shine. Here are some must-dos to remember.
Always have a contract. This can be as simple as an email saying how long you’ll be playing, how much you get paid (and when), and what food/drink provisions you are entitled to. I can’t stress this enough. If it’s not in writing, the bartender may come to you at the end of the night and tell you that you owe THEM money (this recently happened to me).
On a big gig like a wedding or corporate event, it’s a good idea to ask for a 50% deposit upfront. That way, even if the event is canceled, all the work you put into preparing for it (and the work you turned down because you were booked) won’t be a waste. Again, have a contract for everyone’s protection.
Stay on top of things. If you are the one who booked the gig, make sure everyone knows what to wear, what time to be there, where to park, and what time your first note is played (AKA the “downbeat”), etc.
Delegate, if you can. If your group is, more or less, an equal partnership, make sure everyone is pulling their weight. Someone can update the website, someone can design flyers, someone can do the social media, etc. If you are doing all of these things and booking the gigs, build that into your cut of the pay. As I mentioned in Band Leading 101, not all bands are the same. Be mindful of your particular arrangement with the band members when asking them to help out.
At gigs (particular of the club variety) make sure you have someone running the merch table and collecting emails. It sounds sexist, but if a woman is able to do these things, your chances of collecting are higher. If he or she is devoting the whole night to this, be sure to slip them some cash in thanks.
Have a set list and give everyone copies. If you’ve been playing a steady gig for ages it’s possible to call out the tunes, but otherwise write the key next to the song name. You can also learn the hand symbols for different keys (e.g., two fingers pointing up = two sharps = key of D).
Keep things moving. Dead air is the killer of excitement. If you are the frontman/woman don’t ramble on. The more people there are, the more important this is. Speak slowly, clearly, and briefly.
Introduce the band. It’s always nice to be recognized, so, assuming it’s appropriate in the venue, give a shoutout to each member (leaving room for applause), introduce yourself, then say the band’s name nice and clearly. Cases where it’s not appropriate: funeral bands, wedding ceremonies (i.e. when it’s not about the band).
Thank the venue, tear down, collect, and pay out.
It’s important to love what you do, but it’s essential to treat a gig, even a low- or no-paying one, as a real job, because it is. Tom Rhodes, a Bay Area performer, recently said in an interview that he can tell within 30 seconds of seeing someone play at an open mic if they are professional or not. It doesn’t have to do with getting paid (although that is technically the definition of professional). When it’s your gig, be organized, play well, and carry yourself like a pro. It won’t go unnoticed.
DON’T play and leave.
DO talk to EVERYONE and remember their names. You can even write their name and description and review it at the end of the night. They will be so impressed the next week.
DON’T expect to be discovered. This is a networking opportunity with other musicians. Open mics only lead to gigs if you work your contacts and follow up.
DON'T just say "Good job". Be specific and sincere like "I really liked your hook" or "Your low range sounds great!" so they know you were paying attention.
DO introduce others. Even if you aren't interested in collaborating with someone, maybe you can give someone a good lead.
DON’T heckle. No one wants you to request Free Bird.
DO be gracious. If only one person is listening, play just for that person, and yourself.
DON’T talk loudly over a ballad. Everyone chats, just be respectful about it.
DO play contrasting songs. (One slow, one fast, one in major, one in minor, etc.)
Similarly, DON’T play two songs in the same key back-to-back. Even if an audience doesn't know, their ears will start to get bored.
DON’T apologize before you play a song. People want you to be excited about your song, not hear excuses for why it's going to suck.
DO make friends with the host, bartenders, and all staff. People like to work with their friends, so be a friend to everyone you meet.
DO have fun! If it's not fun, what's the point?
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Starting in the music industry can be an intimidating venture, as any newcomer will tell you. Since everyone wants to be in it, the music industry is very competitive and also, complicated. Unfortunately, if you don’t know any better, you could easily wind up victim to someone taking your money, time, and hopes of being a star; and giving you nothing but disaster. Below, we offer you the best things to look for when seeking a music manager to handle your career.
Getting Paid - One of the first things to be aware of when interviewing music managers to handle your music career, is how they address the issue of payment. They will, of course, take a percentage of your earnings for the services they provide. This is the trade off. However, caution should be taken if any potential music manager requires money upfront to represent you and/or your band. A reputable music manager knows that they will get a percentage of your earnings once they have completed the first part of their tasks.
Success - Secondly, when scouting for a music manager, you’ll want to find someone who has a past history of quality referrals and happy clients. Moreover, you should know who some of these clients are-because they are successful musicians. Even in the case of a new music agency, they should be able to offer you someone they have done business with that has made it big.
History- Closely tied to a list of successful past clients, the music manager you are looking to hire should also be able to disclose their full business history, i.e. why they got into the business, what their goals are, what achievements they’ve had, etc etc. Someone who seems guarded about their own or their business’ history should be avoided, because they have something to hide-and that something could easily be repeated with your hard earned money, business, and reputation.
Reputation- Lastly, and perhaps this should be sought in the very beginning, your potential music manager should have a good reputation. They do not have to be the best and most expensive music manager around, but they should be known around town-so to speak. This is why it’s best to get together a list of potential music managers and show the names and credentials to someone you know in the music business. Typically, if a music manager is successful, they will have heard of them.