Multiple Levels of Engagement for Musicians

Tom Hespos writes from the point of view of a music fan, frustrated that he feels left out when his favorite bands come to town and he doesn’t know about it until it’s too late. For too long, record labels and music managers have just assumed that fans will find out about gigs on their own. The result: Lefsetz’s weekly rundown of why stadiums and sheds aren’t selling out like they used to.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, baby bands tend to overuse tools like e-mail newsletters and MySpace bulletins. As I wrote about in More Gigs Now, your fans in Baltimore really don’t care if you’re playing in Pittsburgh this week. And yet, I get invites to gigs in Denver, Seattle, and Los Angeles: three cities I have yet to actually visit. (You would think I would have gotten around to visiting L.A. at least once by now, right Jay & Jen?)

Hespos sets a further challenge — all he wants to know is when his favorite acts are coming to town so he can see them. He doesn’t really care about all the fluff and filling in most band newsletters. And he, like most of your fans, doesn’t want to deal with tracking that stuff through PollStar.

So, a technical solution to create multiple levels of engagement between yourself and your fans:

  • First, when creating your newsletter signup form, use a system that will allow you to collect the zip code (or postal code) of your new fan.
  • Next, give that fan a choice of whether they want to receive *all* of your newsletters, or just news about when you’re playing in that area.
  • Finally, use e-mail segmentation to send your weekly newsletter with *no* gig alerts (other than a quick rundown) to everyone on your list who has opted-in. Then, send out very specific, personalized gig announcements to just the folks within a 30 minute drive of each venue.

This ensures that you’re communicating to all of your fans, and you’re not burning anyone out on your messages.

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5 responses

  1. 30 minutes seems kind of short for a gig radius. I follow a regional (northeast) band that regularly plays in Boston, NYC and all points in between. It’s *four hours* to NYC from where I live but I want to know about it because it is doable by car even on a Friday night.

  2. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. The problem has always been finding an efficient way to manage the mailing list and control sending of messages to people within that radius.

    Do you know of any mailing list software or an online service that has this functionality? And is affordable for the indie musician?

    Myspace has something that approximates this, but it’s extremely unweildy (and broken the last time I checked). You set up an Event invite and then put in a zip code and it will spit out all your friends how are within the radius… but you have to click on each individual friend to add them to your list and you have to do an invite for each show. Not to mention the fact that Event Invites are probably one of the least looked at features on the site.

    I currently use ListMessenger and have a mailing list of around 3000 people from all over the world. I have a hard enough time keeping up with the newsletter as is, so there’s no way I’m gonna be able to manage the list by location unless its somehow integrated into the software I’m using.

    At the very least I’ll probably break the newsletter out into “Shows only” and “Everything else” versions, but it would be nice to be able to add a list of zip codes for the dates and have it automatically go out to just the people within whatever radius I specify.

  3. The forthcoming update has an ‘events’ component where musicians (and others) can input events and they will automatically get recommended to everyone who listens to that band within a radius from home that they (the user) specify. Just another little piece for a big puzzle.

  4. Chet, you’re in the (highly appreciated) minority. According to some research and my own personal experience, most fans are much more casual. Unless you’re playing a stadium/arena, it’s more likely that your fans are only willing to travel about 30 minutes to a gig. (That research is the foundation for one of the books I wrote, and the strategy we developed helps bands realize that they can play much more frequently without burning out audiences.)

    Dan, IntelliContact and both allow you to collect, sift, and sort this way. I may end up making some tutorials if I can catch some spare time this month (or next).

  5. Thanks for blogging the piece.

    I probably shouldn’t pick on the music business. Marketers of all stripes are guilty of “all or nothing” marketing where folks can be hardcore enthusiasts or nothing at all, with no options in between.

    There’s probably only a handful of bands I’ll give my e-mail address to – basically, musicians I know personally. I suspect most fans simply don’t have the mental bandwidth to want to get ALL this stuff, ALL the time, from ALL the bands they’d like to see live.

    On another note, I went to go see a band in pre-Katrina New Orleans that I really loved. I signed up for their list. Well, one guy also played in another band, so he sent me stuff from THAT band. Then the drummer from THAT band played on the side, so he sent me stuff from his other band. See where this is going? Fans don’t typically dig the e-mail pass-along routine.