How To Get Your First Profitable Mailing List Up And Running

Mailing List CompaniesMailing lists (Aka newsletters) are one of the most under used tools by independent musicians. Using email marketing software such as Aweber, you can effectively build relationships with your fans and market to them when appropriate. Though they’re one of the most powerful ways to making money and keep in contact with fans, very few independent musicians use them and are therefore losing out on a lot of money. Major labels have been using newsletter and mailing lists for years to effectively communicate with fans and make sales, but no one’s really told the ‘little guy’ why ‘the money’s in the list’. In this article we’ll be looking at what mailing lists are, why they’re so effective at keeping you connected with fans and making you money, the different types of email marketing services there are (And which is best for you), and finally how to build your own money making list.

You may have noticed on the right hand side of this website that we have a ebook we’re giving away. It’s completely free, so a lot of our readers have went on to download and enjoy it. So why are we giving it away for free? Is it to keep readers happy by giving them exceptional value for just being here? Is it to enhance the interactivity of this website? Well yes, it’s for both of those reasons, but also for another: It’s an exchange process. As you’ll notice, in order to get this free ebook you have to enter your name and a valid email address. It’s a win win situation, you get a free ebook, and we get your details so we can contact you and keep you informed with any music related information we feel you may find useful. So how will this help you better monetize your music? Read on and we’ll let you know…

What Are Mailing Lists, And Why Is Email Marketing So Effective

Once you enter your details and confirm your email address, you are automatically added to the Independent Music Advice mailing list and sent your ebook. But what is a mailing list? Well, a mailing list is a list of people’s contact details to which information is sent to. It can be via email, phone number, or address. In this post however, we’ll be focusing strictly on email addresses which is needed for email marketing. Email marketing is the process of marketing to the people on your mailing list direct to their email inbox.

So that’s what mailing lists are, but how can they help you? In a number of ways actually, both with making money and gaining and keeping fans. Some of you may have heard the saying “The money’s in the list”, a saying which states how your mailing list can be your central and most important earner. Here are some of the reasons why mailing lists are so important to have:

  • You’ll Always Have Access To Your Fans.
    Mailing lists are one of the best way to keep in contact with your fans. While Facebook friends and twitter followers are useful now, what if one day everyone stops using these sites? You’ll have to start up all over again on the next big social networking site, which is a lot of time and effort. This is what happened with MySpace, many people have ended up with pages of thousands of ‘Friends’ which has no use to anyone. If you had a mailing list however, you could simply send a email out to all of your subscribers letting know how they carry on interacting with you. So no matter what site goes down, you’ve still got your list.
  • It Acts As A Reminder.
    Some people will really like your music, visit your website a couple of times and then forget about you. It’s not that they don’t like you any more, it’s just that there’s so many things to do on the internet it’s harder to keep people’s attention then ever before. If however you have a mailing list, you could email your list say once a week (Or whenever something big happens) and remind them that you’re still around. This will cause people to revisit your site and make sure you stay on their mind.
  • It Builds Up A Strong Relationship Between You And Your Fans And Increases Interactivity.
    When people first come across your website, they don’t know much about you or how trust worthy you are. They may download your free gift in exchange for their email address, but not really look to take that relationship any further. If you start sending them good content and freebies directly to their email address though, they may start paying more attention to you and gain trust in what you have to say and do. That makes it easier to convert subscribers into real fans, and have your fans promote you when something big is going on (E.G an album release).
  • It’s A Good Direct Marketing Tool.
    As mailing lists give you direct interaction with your fans, it’s an ideal way to promote your latest product. If you’ve build up a good relationship with your mailing list subscribers (See the previous point for details about this) they’ll be more likely to listen to your suggestions or buy your products. Let’s say for example you’ve got a new gig coming up. You can always advertise your gig on your website, but not everyone will visit your website every day. If however your send out an email campaign, all your fans get word direct via email regardless of if they’ve checked your site in the last month or not. This of course increases the likely hood of ticket sales an in turn means more money.

Now you know why newsletters are so important, the next step is to find what tools you’ll need to collect email addresses, send emails, and keep track of how people are interacting with your advertising campaign.

Email Marketing Services Or Self Hosted Email Marketing Software

There are two ways you can send your email newsletters, via “email marketing services”, or by using “self hosted email marketing software”. Let’s look at what these are, as well as the pros and cons of each:

Email Marketing Services.

mailing list companiesEmail marketing services are designed to make email marking easy. They’re websites that have everything you need to run a email marketing campaign in one place, so you can add your contacts (With their provided form), create and send emails to customers, and see detailed statistics of how each of your subscribers interact with your messages. Aweber is the industry standard email marketing software, as they provide everything I mentioned above and more. They also have a very high email delivery rate and have been going for years. Below are the pros and cons of using email marketing services:

You don’t have to be technology smart to use these services, it really is email marketing made easy. You also get everything in one place for a monthly fee, so you don’t have to worry about ordering upgrades to receive statistics etc (Which is required with self hosted email marketing software). With email marking services everything is done on someone else’s server, so you can set a campaign, turn your computer off and go and do whatever you want. With self hosted email marketing software however this isn’t possible as you have to keep your computer on the whole time.

If you’re new to list building and haven’t got anyone on your list already, the monthly fees can soon add up before you start making your money back. Having said that, of the course of it’s life time your mailing list should earn you a lot of money if you use it right.

Self Hosted Email Marketing Software

Self hosted email marketing software is email marketing software which you download onto your own computer and run from your own server (Instead from someone else’s server like email marketing services). Here are the pros and cons of that:


Self hosted email marketing software can be cheaper to use. Where as with email marketing services you have to pay a monthly fee for as long as you want to use them, with email marketing software you only pay a one off fee and you have the software for life. Everything’s also stored on your own computer, so you have full control of your collect information.


Self hosted software is harder to initially set up then email marketing services, as there’s a lot of things you need to do to make everything automated. While there are instructions, they can still cause a lot of headache and confusion. You’re also sending everything from your own server, which means you’ll have to keep your computer on while everything sends. This will be especially long if you’ve got slow or a limited amount of internet, so in that case self hosted email marketing software isn’t for you. The final con is the upgrades. While with email marketing services you get everything from the beginning, with email marketing software you often have to pay additional yearly fees for extras such as statistics and sending via more servers. This can end up being very expensive.

Conclusion; Which Mailing List Companies Should I Go With?

I personally prefer email marketing services. Although I was using self hosted email marketing software for a while, the programs weren’t compatible with some other software I was using and it was to fiddly to pick up quickly and use. I also thought the yearly statistics was too much to pay and added up to be too much over the year (If you don’t need statistics then self hosted software is a lot cheaper, but statistics are very important to getting the best out of your email list). While I can see it will have its uses for bigger companies with dedicated servers, for the average musician email marketing services such as Aweber work best.

How To Build Your Mailing List

Now that you know why having a mailing list is so important and you’ve hopefully signed up to Aweber, it’s time to start building your mailing list. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s important to give people an incentive to join your mailing list. A free music download or a free ebook is more likely to get you subscribers then you just putting up a form and saying “Please subscribe”.

Once you’ve got your form in place (Your email marketing software should provide you with a form to collect people’s details with) the next thing to do is get people to sign up. Now remember, not everyone that visits your website is going to sign up to your mailing list, but if you offer a good incentive (For example an exclusive track or video etc) then more people will. One thing I’ve learned is that more people sign up to your mailing list if you simply ask them to. I notice I get more people signing up when I advertise my current ebook on twitter saying “If you haven’t got our free ebook yet you can download it from this page” or “Want a quick music career boost? Then download our free ebook”.

Another effective way to gain more people on your mailing list is by using a non intrusive pop up. If you’re new to this website, you may have noticed a pop up advert advertising our latest ebook when you first came on. While pop ups annoy some people, they are extremely effective. People have no choice but to look at them when they come up, and if it’s attractive and relevant (Which it should be) they’re more likely to take action. Once again, it comes down to “ask people and more will do what you want”. Since I’ve added that pop up (Other wise know as a lightbox), I’ve seen a huge increase in people signing up to my mailing list (More then a 200% increase). I use two different types of lightboxes on my websites, but the best one for people who don’t web design that want a quick and easy solution is the WordPress plugin Hybrid Connect. With Hybrid Connect you can get a lightbox up and running within a few minuets, and start getting more subscribers straight away. A word of warning though, I’ve noticed not all pop up boxes work with self hosted email marketing software. And while I’m not sure if Hybrid Connect does or not, it’s best to ask them first (Or worse case buy the product, and if it doesn’t get a refund). Email marketing software works fine with this plugin though.

Monetizing Your Mailing List

Today we’ve looked at how to get your mailing list up and running. All the information and advice in this guide will allow you to build a mailing list and start getting subscribers. If you want to take your mailing list to the next level and really increase the money it makes however, check out our post “Advanced Strategies To Monetize Your Mailing List” (no longer available, instead search “The IMA Music Business Academy” for a more advanced guide). In this guide we will show you how to increase the amount of subscribers you get from the same amount of visitors, how to identify your subscribers that will make you the most money, how to automate relationship building with your subscribers, we’ll give you advanced opt in box strategies, and much, much more. So check it out.

6 thoughts on “How To Get Your First Profitable Mailing List Up And Running”

  1. It may not be the best way to build your first list but, I have had a lot of success building my list by offering “free memberships’ to blogs and similar types of sites using WordPress. Plus, since there are a lot of plugins, like Magic Members, that will automatically add free subscribers to your main list as well as your membership site list, you will be able to contact them even if they cancel their membership. Adding a free trial period to regular membership sites can build your list in the same way. The key is making sure that they are being added to both lists (membership site list and the main list).

  2. Great idea Jennifer, that’s actually one of the things on our to do list as we just recently (Yesterday) set up the membership side to this site. Thanks for the tip.

  3. Very true, mailing lists are a great way to communicate with and build relationships with your customers.

  4. @Jennifer. Hi jennifer, I was thinking of using Magic Members for a site I’m developing. I’ve checked out the demo and discovered you can use a Mailchimp API key for auto responding. I was just wondering if it was also possible to have members automatically added to one of your mailchimp lists during the sign-up process. Would be awesome if it could…


  5. Couldn’t you just send emails from ypur email address directly to your fans individual email addresses??

  6. Yes you could, but it’ll take a lot longer when you’ve a lot of people on your list. Also mailing list services provide a lot of other features which allow you to see what your subscribers are interacting with and more. They also allow you to send professional looking emails easily.

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