As an independent jazz musician, how do you encourage fans to sign-up for your mailing list?
Having an active list of jazz fans is valuable.
It provides a base audience for new music, tickets to gigs, or anything else you happen to sell.
But as anyone who has worked on this will know, actually getting people who like your music to give you permission to send them emails is not as easy as you might first think.
You need to really motivate them to do this and, for that, the incentive that you offer is key.
In other words: what value do the fans get in exchange for signing-up?
Few jazz musicians offer any incentive (or ‘bribe’) at all for fans to join their mailing lists.
If you do it, you’ll have a big advantage when it comes to building a list.
In today’s exploration of email sign-up incentives for musicians, we’ll cover:
- The top 3 incentives to avoid
- Why the music industry forgot about incentives
- 2 big reasons why the jazz genre is well-suited to offering them
- How and where to set up each one
- The good stuff: 6 quick and valuable incentive ideas for jazz
Let’s get into it!
Top 3 email sign-up incentives to avoid as a musician
Obviously some incentives are better than others – you’ll bring the most new fans if you offer something valuable to your target audience.
Here are some ‘weaker’ incentives that are worth avoiding:
1. “Get the latest news and updates”
This represents the absence of an incentive. But of course, you’re free to send news updates after you give a valuable incentive.
2. “Get access to an exclusive video / recording / etc”
Some fans might like this, but it’s a weak strategy. This content is more effective in public than exclusive—you’ll end up drawing in more total new fans that way. It deserves the right position in your audience development strategy.
3. “Get a free download of my music”
More on this one below.
What happened to email incentives in music?
What do Brad Mehldau, Esperanza Spalding, Joshua Redman, and Kamasi Washington have in common?
(Other than being world-class jazz artists, of course…)
At the time of writing, they don’t offer any incentive for you to give them your email address.
The music industry forgot about email incentives as the download era turned to streaming.
They had been too comfortable with one incentive—free downloads. And as downloads lost their appeal to the average listener—who now uses streaming—the industry didn’t get creative with new incentives.
It’s a tale as old as time: big companies who get set in their ways and leave opportunities for you, the independent artist.
You’ll have a big advantage over those who don’t take this opportunity.
Fortunately, jazz is the perfect genre for email incentives.
Why is jazz well-suited for email incentives?
Jazz has a rich tradition spanning over 100 years. That means there’s lots of material in the archives for fans to enjoy. And many fans are highly literate when it comes to jazz.
Therefore, you have a wealth of different potential offers at your disposal for different types of fans.
But maybe it’s time to focus, before getting ahead of ourselves, on how to actually set up email incentives.
Let’s quickly break that down!
Setup and how-to
Rather than drawing up a comprehensive guide on how to use email marketing software, which would take plenty of space, I’ll outline the general components of email incentives.
These are the pieces that you’ll put together in setup, regardless of which software (ConvertKit, Mailchimp, etc.) you use:
1. Landing page
This is a specific page designed to encourage email sign-ups. To target different types of fans, you can have multiple landing pages for the same incentive. For example, some landing pages can appeal to jazz musicians and some can target non-musicians. You make these pages in your email marketing software or in key positions on your website.
2. The link to your incentive content
When fans sign-up on your landing page, they get a confirmation email—which sends them to your incentive. That means you need a URL to serve up your content in one-click.
3. Follow-up email
Congrats, you’ve got a new fan on your list! Now it’s time to send a note telling them more about what they can do next to engage with you. It also gives them a chance to unsubscribe—remember, you want high-quality email addresses on your list; people who most want to hear from you. This can often be automated in your email marketing software, but you can also do it manually in the early stages.
Note that the follow-up to the incentive is just as important as the offer itself!
That’s because email is for building a long-term audience. You’re not just coming in and out with the incentive: it’s the start of something ongoing.
On that note, let’s get into the actual ideas.
Here are 6 incentives optimized for jazz that you can use today, with some details about the setup of each one.
6 email incentive ideas for jazz musicians
For each idea, we’ll discuss who it’s for (the target audience for the landing page), what the link is (where you’re sending them for the incentive content), and what’s next for those fans to enjoy (your follow-up email content).
They’re all suggestions, and obviously you might find different ideas—hope it gets your creativity flowing!
1. Private preview of an upcoming release
I’m using this one on williamchernoff.com at the time of writing:
This is the very top of my website’s homepage. No ambiguity about what I want the visitors to do!
And if someone pre-saves on Spotify (which gives me their email), they also get it.
The idea is that they’ll appreciate the gesture, enjoy hearing the song, and show up to save and listen on release day.
- Who’s it for? New fans who discovered you online, including pre-saves.
- What’s the link? Private SoundCloud.
- What’s next? Ask them to hit reply, introduce themselves, and say where they found you.
2. Sheet music
Giving fans a deep look at your compositions (or arrangements) can be interesting.
How about a Bandcamp name-your-price digital download that includes sheet music?
You’ll get their email address. Note that this is just a value-add to the old ‘free download’ incentive!
- Who’s it for? Fellow jazz musicians.
- What’s the link? Bandcamp checkout, but you could also do a webpage with PDFs/folders.
- What’s next? Links to videos—maybe where you play through your favourite jazz transcriptions, or play with your ensemble.
3. Discount code
Pretty simple—offer 25-50% off of a key product from your merch/music store, to audience members who already know you but haven’t signed-up with email yet.
- Who’s it for? Existing non-email audiences like YouTube subscribers and Facebook ads retargeting.
- What’s the link? Straight to your Bandcamp or merch store…
- What’s next? …and deliver the code with an immediate follow-up email.
4. Free CD
⚡ Whoa! ⚡ Giving away CDs? I’ll try to explain quickly.
As we already know, the future value of your mailing list can be large. You could have a significant amount of money per fan coming through it across multiple years.
It’s worth considering a special high-value incentive for people likely to provide high future value. You might make back the cost of that CD pretty fast if they buy other music from you or attend a gig.
This is also an excellent way to ask for the fan’s postcode and location info, in a situation where they’re happy to offer it.
- Who’s it for? Fans who still listen to CDs, whom you meet personally and become friends with, and who are potential super-fans. You’ll send this offer manually instead of having it easily searchable.
- What’s the link? Something more personal like a private thank-you video.
- What’s next? A discount code that works across the rest of your catalogue.
5. Tech rider
This one came to me recently, and it’s super-specific. But I’ve actually grabbed a couple of promoters’ emails by servicing my tech rider to the place they want it most — the inbox.
Think about it: if you just offer the tech rider PDF for download, it can get lost in their downloads folder instead of being ready and searchable in their email. Some people have a strong preference here.
I’m fascinated by this type of ‘practical’ incentive where it doesn’t feel like a mailing list sign-up at all. I’d love to hear any similar ones you come up with!
I set up the incentive in a section on my EPK page:
- Who’s it for? Promoters browsing your EPK.
- What’s the link? A private webpage or PDF with all your technical information (if it’s a webpage, definitely offer download to a PDF version as well).
- What’s next? Show off a recent concert video, livestream, or great press that you’ve earned.
6. Listening library / reading list / record collection
Every jazz aficionado has one, so why not share what you’ve been listening to? It can be your all-time favourites, your recent finds, or even some musician biographies that you’ve enjoyed over the years. It’s likely that some of your jazz fans would have fun connecting with you over this material.
- Who’s it for? Jazz enthusiasts who consume plenty of jazz-related content.
- What’s the link? A Google Doc or Sheet, or maybe a Notion page, that collects all the titles in an easy-to-read format.
- What’s next? Ask them to hit reply and share their own favourites.
This is a deep topic that merits plenty of thought. Now you’ve already seen some ideas about:
- What an email incentive is (and isn’t)
- Which types of jazz fans you can prepare them for
- How to deliver them
One area for your investigation from here on is how best to get these incentives in front of your fans: Facebook ads, video/written content, social media posts, and more.
Will Chernoff is a Canadian bassist, composer, entrepreneur, and writer. As a jazz artist, he released his first album Aim to Stay in 2020. Visit williamchernoff.com to learn more.