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The strategy this artist uses to get 49.6% open rates is actually pretty simple

According to Mailchimp, the average email open rate for musicians is 22.86%. And the average click rate for that category is 2.84%.

That means that when artists send “email blasts” about their upcoming tour, they can expect less than 3% of people who subscribe to them to actually click on a “buy now” link for the show in their area. 

So if your artist has 10,000 people on their email list, they can expect about 300 people to actually check out the ticketing page. And depending on the artist and the effectiveness of the ticketing site, you can expect at least half of those people to leave that page without buying a ticket (at least not the first time they visit the page). So let’s just say that 150 bought 2 tickets each, so your artist sold 300 tickets with one email to their list of 10,000 people. 

3% may not seem like a lot of clicks, but the engagement and purchase percentage of email marketing is actually much greater than social media posts. Like 10x better — it’s true. Though email is old news, it’s actually still the most profitable marketing channel for any artist, from a garage band to Katy Perry.

With that in mind, I want to show you how to double the effectiveness of your most profitable marketing channel.

What I’m going to share with you is the exact process I used to increase one of my client’s average open rate from 19% to 49.6% and their click rate from about 1-3% to 19.6%. 

There are several steps we took to achieve this, but the strategy is very simple: focus on the super fans.

You’ve probably heard of this before. Some call it the 80/20 rule: the recurring phenomenon that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This holds true in nature, in business and in your fan base.

It is likely that about 80% of your revenue is coming from 20% of your fan base. In fact, it’s probably closer to a 90/10 ratio. 

So the key to increasing anything about an artist’s business—album sales, tour revenue or email open rates—is to focus on that top 20%. 

The biggest obstacle to growing revenue in the music business is not knowing who your super fans are.

When I take a client through my program, we systematically focus on discovering who these top fans are. Because that knowledge opens up everything. It doesn’t just increase open rates, it increases revenue overall—even from the bottom 80% of fans. 

So how did we do it?

1. Capture fan data through thoughtful generosity.

This first step was critical. Although this artist already had a decent-size email list, we knew that there were likely a lot of super fans out there that we didn’t know. And if we didn’t get their email address, we could never treat them as special.

But how could we get that fan data without being salesy or annoying? 

Thoughtful generosity.

We ditched the “sign up for updates” and “get my newsletter” messaging. Instead, we offered fans exclusive music each week. No, it wasn’t all new songs. Most of it was actually old demos, work tapes and fun cover songs. And as you’d expect, this offer was much more appealing to the artist’s fans than “get my newsletter.” I knew we were on the right track because the fan reaction on social media was unanimously positive. 

If you want to capture fan data (and you really, really should), don’t offer information. “Get updates” is boring and uninteresting, especially because you’re probably going to plaster those “updates” all over your website and social media channels, too.

Instead, offer access. Your fans want to be included, to be in the in-crowd, to know you more than the average casual listener. In my client’s case, we offered unreleased, raw work tapes with the story of the creation of the song. Not much work on our end, but hugely valuable to the fan who now feels like they really know the artist.

2. Automatically track and organize fans based on their activity.

Most artists send “email blasts.” I hate that term. Who wants to get “blasted?” The mental picture I get is the artist just spraying information all over the place, with no regard to who gets hit. Everyone’s the same, they’re just a number, a data point on a big list. That’s a crappy way to approach messaging your fan base.

The truth is that great marketing listens as much as it speaks.

So when my client began to send emails every week, I set up an automation rule that tagged people who were actively listening to the weekly demos and work tapes. If people clicked the link to listen to the song, they were automatically tagged as a listener.

Using "link triggers" allowed us to listen to the fans and organize them automatically.

Using "link triggers" allowed us to listen to the fans and organize them automatically.

The other thing I did was include options for subscribers to opt-out of the weekly messaging, without unsubscribing from the email list. With one click, those fans were tagged and excluded from future weekly messages.

These are small, easy adjustments that make a massive difference. 

Side note: Be wary of any email marketing platform (Mailchimp included) that doesn’t make the process of organizing subscribers based on activity easy and automatic. Without that feature, I guarantee you’re leaving money on the table. There are many great options out there, but for this artist we chose ConvertKit.

3. Segment messaging accordingly.

This is my favorite part. No more “one-size-fits-all” messaging. Because we used a tool that allowed us to automatically organize our most active fans, we could then message them accordingly.

As you can see in the screenshot below, we started sending these weekly broadcasts to only those fans who specifically opted-in to receive those emails and/or those who had clicked to listen to a track in the recent past. From that pool of fans, we then excluded fans who had chosen to receive either monthly-only emails or no song email at all.

This gave us about 15% of of the total list — yup, the 80/20 rule strikes again!

We easily filtered down to the top 20% of fans using activity-based tags. [Exact tag names have been grayed out for privacy]

We easily filtered down to the top 20% of fans using activity-based tags. [Exact tag names have been grayed out for privacy]

The results have been fantastic.

Since switching the focus to the most active fans, my client's emails have been averaging near 50% open rates, more than double the industry average. And the click and unsubscribe rates are crazy—so much better than before.

When I started working with this artist, their emails were actually getting opened less than the industry average. But with a few intentional tweaks, their entire marketing effort is becoming more and more valuable.

Don't believe the industry average—you can get fantastic results just like this. [Subject line has been grayed out for privacy]

Don't believe the industry average—you can get fantastic results just like this. [Subject line has been grayed out for privacy]

Segmenting down makes the whole fan base more profitable.

The thing is, open rates for weekly emails are just the very tip of the iceberg. This shift in thinking affects all music marketing efforts in a significant way. Here's how:

1. You can learn from your super fans.

Most artists don't realize what their super fans would actually pay for, because they don't even know who their super fans are!

With this segmentation and organization technique you could find out how much you could charge for VIP passes in certain cities. You could discover that your fans would love a high-end weekend experience in the Bahamas. You could be selling way more vinyl and other specialty items from your merch store. 

You might be thinking, "Wait, but why do I need to segment down to find that stuff out? Why not just message everyone?" Read on...

2. You can avoid over-messaging casual fans.

The problem with trying to find the high-end money-making opportunities from all of your fans is that you will inevitably turn off the bottom 80% of your fan base. 

Read that again. Without intelligent segmentation, you could annoy the majority of your fan base. And what happens then?

They unsubscribe. They unfollow. 

And although most of your money will come from your top 20% anyway, a huge chunk of your revenue is still coming from your more casual fans. 

These are the fans who will likely still stream new music and maybe even come to a show. But if you over-message them, they’ll unsubscribe and never hear about new music or projects. And you will miss out on that potential revenue.

But do you know what happens when you continue to engage the top 20%? By the time you release a new project those fans will feel so connected to you that they will be much more likely to spend $50+ on your music, shows and merch this year.

The quick and dirty:

When you segment your fan base correctly, you can increase revenue from your top fans without sacrificing any revenue from your casual fans.

And here's a little bonus tip for the road.: Your top 20% of fans can grow and fluctuate over time. In fact, it's possible to convert a casual fan to a "VIP" with an automated process that doesn't cost you any extra time. But that's an article for another day...


Want some help?

If you have questions about this stuff, I'd love to help you implement this strategy and take control of your music business revenue.

Click below to apply for a strategy session with me, no charge.

Blake Stratton