Why You MUST Build Your Email List

You’ve put in the hard work to get where you are.
You practice, even on your days off. You keep your social media profiles updated. You’ve created a small network that leads to performing opportunities.
But the work doesn’t come as steadily as you’d like. And, as a result, your income feels wobbly.
Performing is what you love to do the most — but how can you get professional performance opportunities outside of your immediate network?
Today, we’re sharing one strategy that you MUST have in place if you want to book more gigs.
Before we share it, it’s important to let this sink in: getting booked takes a lot of hustle on your part. It might even feel like a full-time job.
It takes time and effort (and the right strategies).
The truth is that most musicians aren’t hustling. And many who think they’re hustling, are actually putting their energy into the wrong things.
So, if you commit to taking the initiative and following the steps we outline today, you’ll be leaps ahead of your competition.
Does that sound like where you want to be?

Then keep reading for our favorite strategy that’ll get you more gigs.

Think Like a Manager

We mentioned “hustle” earlier. And before we share the details about our favorite gig-getting strategy, it’s important to clarify what we mean by that.

Yes, you’re a musician.

But when you’re trying to build your career, you also have a second title: Manager.

Before you can commit to doing everything required to getting more gigs, you must first own the fact that YOU are charting a course for your career.

YOU are your own agent. So, it’s important to think like an agent in order to find the success you want.

What do agents do? They seek opportunities. They follow up. They clearly communicate the value that a musician provides. And they keep doing that — again and again.

If you’re goal is to find more opportunities and book more gigs, there’s one tool that you need above all else…

Your email list.

The Importance of an Email List

Have you ever heard the phrase: “the money is in your list”?

Many online business owners say this when referring to their email lists. And the same is true for independent or freelance musicians.

Having a dedicated email list of contacts is vital to your success as a musician.

Usually the independent performers we work with fall into one of two categories:

  1. They have an informal list of contacts but it’s nothing they maintain regularly and they’re not quite sure how to make the most of it
  2. They have an official contact list but they don’t reach out to it regularly — and they’re not really sure what “regularly” means

Today’s post will help no matter which category you fall into.

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to cultivate a list of up-to-date contacts who you reach out to regularly. (And don’t worry, we’ll tell you what we mean by “regularly.”)

But first things first. Your email list isn’t an email list without people’s contact information. So whose information do you need?

Who Should Your List Include?

We recommend you create a few separate lists (which is quite easy using the software mentioned below).

  • Email List #1: Fans
  • Email List #2: Venues, presenters, promoters, and anyone else who might hire you to perform
  • Optional Email List #3: Fellow artists and collaborators

Today, we’ll focus on Email List #2 — venues, presenters, and promoters — because that list is key to getting performing opportunities on your calendar.

Quick sidenote: Engaging with fans will likely also help you make money and move ahead in your career, but the primary purpose of emailing fans should be to nurture your relationship with them, rather than “sell” to them. You can mention that there is a “store” on your website or that your new album just came out — but that should be done in the context of a warm message that you expect your fans might want to hear. Make sense?

Okay, back to the list of venues.

This list should include a variety of leads, meaning people who could potentially hire you or who have hired you in the past. Here’s how to break them down:

Past presenters: those who have hired you before and, if all went well, are likely to hire you again.

Warm leads: those who have shown interest in what you do and want to learn more.

Cold leads: those who might not know who you are yet, but based on researching their previous seasons and artists that they frequently engage, you know your work would be a good fit.

When you’re trying to get your foot in the door, your contact list might weigh heavily toward cold leads. And that’s okay!

Be aware that some cold leads are better than others. It’s vitally important that your email list includes leads who are the right fit: they serve the same audiences you do, they’ve had success with performances similar to yours in the past, and their venue meets all of your requirements.

If you don’t take the time to research the best presenters, venues, and promoters for your work, then your emailing efforts will fail.

Beyond that, it could also turn people off which does the opposite of what you want! Remember, presenters move around from venue to venue. It’s possible that someone who works at a venue that isn’t a good fit will work at a different venue next year — one that would be an excellent fit.

The last thing you want is to alienate presenters today by demonstrating to them that that you haven’t done your homework. They’ll be much more likely to listen to you in the future if you show your professionalism by doing your research and email only those who are truly a good fit for what you have to offer.

Finding venues and presenters who are the best fit for your performance is a HUGE topic — bigger than we can explain here. That’s why we created this free guide to help you find the right venues.


So now you know WHO needs to be on your list. And hopefully you have a healthy number of names (you definitely will if you use our guide mentioned above).

The next step is figuring out how to organize all those contacts.

How to Organize Your Email List

You’ll learn quickly that once you start to think like an agent and regularly reach out for performance opportunities, keeping track of all your communication can feel a little unwieldy.

But if you do some smart planning in advance, you can easily eliminate that excess stress.

Here are two simple ways to keep your email list organized.

Part 1: organizing personal email pitches

To get your foot in the door, it’s best to reach out personally to the venues, promoters, and presenters, as long as they’re a good fit!

Remember, if you randomly email a bunch of people or venues, your emails will likely get ignored — or worse, you will lose credibility. (You don’t want that!)

To help you reach out the right way, we created our free guide, Make What You’re Worth: How to Get into Venues That Pay.

Organizing contacts for personal emails is as simple as creating a spreadsheet. We recommend using one spreadsheet for all of your contacts and dividing each list into separate tabs.

Example of an Email List Spreadsheet

The advantage to using a spreadsheet is its simplicity. The disadvantage is that it can make it a little more challenging to brand yourself, schedule emails in advance, or send bulk emails (to all of your fans, for example).

Which brings us to your section option….

Part 2: sending mass email updates to your contacts

If you want to keep your contacts updated about what’s going on in your world, you can send a mass email.

When sending mass emails, it’s important to make sure everyone you’re emailing has opted in to hearing from you (in fact, it’s illegal in most countries to send a mass email to someone without their consent).

You can start with a list of friendly contacts and build it over time to include presenters who know you (and have agreed to be on your list).

When you’re ready to send email blasts, you can do so using an email service provider.

An email service provider provides more flexibility by giving you pre-made templates, allowing you to write and schedule emails in advance, and sending one email to many people at the same time.

Two of the most popular email service providers are MailChimp and Aweber. We’ve used both. And just like anything, they each have their pros and cons.

MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 contacts, which is why many people prefer it. However, it has limitations when it comes to more complex email campaigns and subscriber organization.

Aweber has a monthly fee and provides a bit more flexibility over MailChimp, but this only becomes noticeable if you are looking to use those extra tools.

We usually suggest that our clients start with MailChimp.

Compared to a simple spreadsheet, both of these email service providers have a learning curve. Don’t expect that you’ll sign up and intuitively know how to use the systems. But once you get the hang of it, an email service provider can be quite convenient.

Wait! Do This Before You Reach Out

You have your list of contacts. You know how to organize them. And now it’s time to reach out.

Not so fast!

If you dedicate your time to doing these three things before you reach out, you’ll be leaps ahead of the competition:

  • Know your message and mission. Get clear about the purpose of your project or performance.
  • Package yourself. Brand your project or performance so that it has a specific look and feel — treat it as if it’s a product.
  • Gather your promotional materials. Pull together everything a presenter or venue might need: website, videos, reviews, repertoire, etc.

Do you have all of these things? Great! Now you can reach out.

What Should Your Email Say?

Here’s where many musicians go wrong. (So, read closely!)

Writing an effective email to presenters is a delicate balancing act: you want to say enough about your project without being long-winded, promote yourself without sounding pushy, and be professional without sounding stuffy.

It’s a tall order — but it’s not impossible. Just keep these things in mind:

Keep it short. Remember that this is an email not a novel. The people you’re writing to are extremely busy. Get right to the point.

Share the benefits. If you’re making a pitch, kick it off by clearly stating how your project or performance will help them. Is it a great fit for their audience? What kinds of audiences is it best suited for? Does it echo projects they’ve had success with in the past? What’s in it for them? Have you had previous successes or received testimonial statements from those who have presented you in the past?

Sound like a real person. It’s important to be professional but you don’t have to be a robot. Use natural, conversational language.

And if you want to make it as simple as possible, you can download our copy-and-paste email templates here, as part of our free guide to finding venues that pay.


What If You Don’t Hear Back?

Let’s say you do everything right. And you hear crickets.

We understand how frustrating that can be! But remember, you’re thinking like an agent now. So you don’t just shrug your shoulders and walk away. You follow up.

When it comes to personal emails, we recommend that you follow up via phone or personal email message after about one week after your original message.

After that, how often you follow up depends on how warm the lead is — and your personal comfort level. You can comfortably follow up with past presenters and warm leads about every 6 to 8 weeks. Plan on following up every 3 months or so with cold leads.

Following up with mass emails is different from personal emails. The purpose of an email blast is to stay in front of people’s minds and keep them in the loop regarding your career. It’s likely that you won’t hear back from the people you send a mass email to. And people might even unsubscribe. That’s okay! In this case, it’s not about following up but about consistently communicating.

It can also be helpful to review who actually read your email and who clicked on the links within it. Looking into this might help you prioritize who to send a personal follow-up to, and when.

You can send a mass email anywhere from once a month to a few times a year — whatever you do, just do it consistently.

Can’t I Hire a Manager to Do All This?

If this seems like a lot of work — it is!

But before you can get noticed by a manager or agent, it’s important to lay the groundwork for your own career. We talk about this a lot on the blog. Click here to learn if you’re ready for a manager.

If you’re not quite ready for a manager yet, that’s okay. You CAN take the reigns and create your own opportunities. One email at a time.

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