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How NOT To Use A Mailing List

There’s this band I know. I met them at a conference, and they seemed cool. I gave them my card. Big mistake.

First, they added me to their mailing list without asking. This was a faux pas, but I let it slide, because hey, I’m a musician too.

Then, the deluge. Email after email after email, sometimes three or four a week. Begging me to come to their shows, in places thousands of miles away that I couldn’t possibly attend. Begging me to call radio stations I don’t listen to.

Sometimes, I’d get an email announcing a show, followed by another email a half hour later, telling me the show was double-booked and they had to cancel. An hour later, another email! The show was back on again. Great.

Sometimes, they’d forget to mention what city and state they were playing. They’d just crow “we’re playing Benny’s Roadhouse again this Saturday! Come on out!” Buh?

Once, they emailed me the entire text of article that happened to mention their band’s name.

When one of their gigs was cancelled, they emailed me asking me to call the club and complain. They even provided the phone number and name of the club owner. In OHIO. (I live in Seattle.)

Eventually, I realized that I had totally forgotten what this band sounded like. They never sent any links to MP3s or streaming audio of their songs in their messages. But by that time, I’d stopped caring, in spite of the band’s exhortations: “we LOVE you! You guys ROCK!”

When I finally went to unsubscribe, I found there was no way to do it without emailing them personally and asking to be removed. As stupid as it sounds, I didn’t want them to recognize my name. So I set up a filter in my email program, and now every message from this band goes straight into the trash, unread, the moment it arrives.

You can avoid being this band. Here’s how:

  • Don’t add people to your list without asking first – I know it’s tempting. Don’t do it.

  • Only send gig announcements to people who can attend – the only exception I can think of is if you’re going on a tour through several regions. Get a contact database that allows you to slice up your mailing list by country, state and city, and use it wisely.

  • Include ALL necessary information about your gigs – don’t stop at just the venue address. Is the show all-ages? Is there a cover? Is smoking allowed? Are there opening bands?

  • Don’t ask fans to do your dirty work – things go wrong, gigs get cancelled, etc. Apologize, suck it up and move on.

  • Send something interesting – a link to a photo, an MP3 demo, a soundcheck video, links to other artists you like, anything that might entertain or amuse. Make your message something people look forward to receiving. Think: toy surprise inside!

  • Provide clear unsubscribe instructions – this should be in the footer of every email. Don’t hide it or make us ask. Just because someone unsubscribes doesn’t mean they’re no longer a fan. Deal with it.

When someone gives you their personal email address, it’s a vote of trust. Don’t violate that trust by being annoying, irrelevant — or boring. A little effort and consideration might mean the difference between your message getting read and getting trashed.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

Scott Andrew is a Spinme.com correspondent.

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