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How to Tell a Story With Your Email Marketing (for Musicians)

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Email marketing has a huge return on investment. To be exact, there’s a 42:1 ROI with email.

Four billion people have and use email, and 95% of them open their email every day.

So as a musician, if you do email marketing right, it can be one of the best things for your music career. And the best way to use email is by telling stories.

Why Tell Stories in Your Email Marketing?

Think about the last time you hung out with your friends, family, or your significant other. How often is someone telling a story, however short? Pretty much the entire time, right?

“The other day I…”

“I just read this article and it said…”

“You’ll never guess who DM’d me the other day…”

For some reason, humans connect with stories. We like to tell them, we remember people’s stories, and we pass them on to others. That’s why relationship marketing beats traditional marketing almost every single time.

Traditional Marketing = 🤮

By “traditional” marketing, I mean running discounts, limited-time-only’s, and using sales-y language.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever use these methods. Sometimes they make sense, like when you have a limited run of merch or you want to be nice and offer a special deal to your fans. What I am saying is, your entire marketing strategy cannot be centered around sales efforts and methods.

You can’t rely on these traditional marketing tactics to build a sustainable music career. It doesn’t feel authentic and it doesn’t work in the long run. Think of traditional marketing as supplemental to your main approach: relationship marketing.

Relationship Marketing = 😎

Relationship marketing is when you connect with your audience. It’s pretty much that simple. It’s better to connect with people and expect nothing in return so as to not feel like you’re using others for your gain.

But when you connect with others, you start to care about them and they start to care about you. You know, like a healthy relationship.

And telling stories — of your life, of your creative process, etc. — is one of the best ways to start a relationship with your fans. Plus, you can show your personality better within a story. Whether you’re sarcastic, optimistic, pessimistic, chill, or have a huge personality, it will more easily come out when you tell your story.

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How to Tell a Story in Your Email Marketing

So how do you tell more stories as a musician? Well, I am by no means an expert storyteller, so let’s look at how the best storytellers do it.

According to Pixar

Pixar has many methods for telling a story, and former Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats shared her 22 guidelines for structuring a story. From that list, here are the rules I think are most helpful to musicians (edited to be more relevant):

  • You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to [your audience], not what’s fun to do as a [musician]. They can be very different.
  • Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  • Simplify. Focus. …You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff, but it sets you free.
  • Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  • Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  • [Have] opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likeable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  • Why must you tell this story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  • …Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  • What are the stakes? Give [your audience] reason to root for [you]. What happens if [you] don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  • What’s the essence of your story? [The] most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Pick the method from this list that you resonate with the most. Then use it the next time you send an email  to your audience and create a welcome flow using it.

According to a Company That Increased Their Email Open Rate by 123%

A company called Sleeknote increased the percentage of their email subscribers who opened their emails by 123%. How?

Well, they did a few things, one of which was they started telling stories in their emails. They found six elements that need to be a part of every story-based email for it to perform well:

  1. Use a curiosity-driven subject line
  2. Get the reader’s attention in the first sentence.
  3. Tell the story.
  4. Transition the story into your call-to-action.
  5. Then ask the reader to take action (i.e: buy my merch, pre-save my song, buy show tickets, stream my music).
  6. Include a funny visual element.

So, next time you send an email, use these six elements. Obviously, make the email and the story your own, make it authentic. But use these six steps and you should see your audience better connecting with you and the story.

Don’t stop here!

Continue learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, DIY home recording and production, composing, beat making, and so much more, with Soundfly’s artist-led courses, like: RJD2: From Samples to SongsKiefer: Keys, Chords, & Beatsand Jlin: Rhythm, Variation, & Vulnerability.

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Caleb J. Murphy

Caleb J. Murphy is a songwriter and producer based in Austin, TX., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed. He's been self-releasing music since 2009 in various bedrooms, basements, garages, and closets.