Clients often ask me “How often should I send out emails to my/our fans?” Many times, musicians fall into the trap of thinking that because there’s nothing imminent going on (album release, new music video, tour dates) then they shouldn’t be “bothering” their fans. Or they say “my fans get tons of email already, they don’t want any extra from me.” This is absolutely, 100% the wrong way of looking at things.

First, if your fans signed up for your mailing list, it’s because they want to hear from you. If you’re a big U2 fan, you’re psyched when you hear from Bono and The Edge. Your fans feel the same way about you, so don’t presume otherwise.

Second, it’s mission critical that you keep your fans engaged during you “quiet periods,” so that they’re mobilized and ready when you’ve got something important to announce. If you have a severe lapse in communication with your fans, don’t be surprised if they’ve moved on and lost interest when you’ve got something big to announce. It’s your job to keep them engaged!

So what to do? Here’s a recommended approach that is based upon the typical timeline for a musician…

Writing Songs
This is the time that’s typically most challenging. You’re not trying to sell new music, you’re not touring, you’re not even in the studio recording a new album. But this is a great time to let your fans into the songwriting process, an effort that will likely pay huge dividends down the road. How many times have you bought the latest album by an artist you like, only to discover that they’ve gone off on a radically different tangent, so much so that you don’t feel like you connect with their music anymore? It’s happened to me dozens of times, and I’ve got a solution to the problem. During this so-called “quiet” time, bring your fans into the loop. Tell them what you’re listening to on your iPod. Tell them what artists are influencing you during the songwriting process. Tell them what life events are influencing that songwriting process. And while you’re at it, offer them some great deals on your back-catalog music and merchandise.

In The Studio
So now you’re in the studio, and you’re putting together your next album. Like in the “writing songs” stage, you don’t yet have anything “new” to sell (album, tour, merchandise). But you’re engaged in a really unique experience – the recording of your songs for posterity – and your fans would really enjoy the opportunity to see inside the process. Taking your fans step by step through the recording of a song will enable them to gain a whole new appreciation for how much work goes into recording your album (and will likely give them some much-needed encouragement to support you to the fullest, by buying the high-quality version of the album, showing up at at least one show on the tour, and maybe even buying and regularly wearing one of your T-shirts). Each mailing, send along an updated version of one selected track from the album. Perhaps you start off by sending a “raw” version of the song, just you and a guitar or piano. In the next mailing, you send them a low-fi studio version, with limited instrumentation. And each mailing, you let them get closer and closer to the final “release” version of the track. Maybe you even give that track away to celebrate the release of your new record. By that point – I guarantee you – all fans who have been engaged by this series of emails will want to buy the album.

Album Release
Here’s where all that work starts to pay off. Your excellent email campaign has increased your subscriber base, and when your album’s released, all of a sudden you’ve got a slew of new fans who are mobilized and ready to support you and buy that album. They’ll spread the love at all the social networks (“liking” you at YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, etc.). And the sales will hopefully multiply as a result, particularly if you offer multiple price points to meet the needs of your fans/customers. Your album serves two great purposes, not only is it an opportunity for you to share your songs with your fans, but it’s also a great promotional tool for your forthcoming live shows…

On Tour
For the artist, touring can be a grind, particularly if you’re traveling on a shoestring budget and managing yourself. But to your fans, touring sounds like a real thrill, and sharing the experience via a thoughtful “tour diary” is one more way to keep your fans excited and engaged. Talk about the different places you visit while on tour, the sights you see, and share some funny anecdotes from your shows. Bring your fans into the touring experience – hopefully you’ve got plenty of positives to share – and give your fans some good reasons to come out and see an upcoming show.