I don’t need a website or a mailing list

need-mailing-listActually, yes you do!

And it is the single most annoying issue that I have to deal with time and time again with every musician, apart from perhaps those who refuse to listen to constructive criticism about their material.

I think it stems from the misplaced belief that when you believe that what you’re doing is great, you think that every opportunity will come to you. Sure, you must be great, but you still have to work to build a fanbase that will help you get to your goal.

Endlessly I have musicians sit in front of me and explain that they haven’t got a website because they have a Facebook page and they don’t have an email list as people won’t give up their real email, or because they don’t want to spam their fans.

Two facts

1. You have no choice. Owning and controlling your own website with your own domain means that you are no longer at the mercy of Facebook or MySpace (see what happened there?).


CD Baby's reasons why you NEED a website

Facebook really messed up your plans when they introduced Timeline the other day I’m sure. We’ll tell you more about how to combat that soon, but there’s the rub – if you don’t own your own real estate on the web, somebody else can change the game on you.

You absolutely should have a presence for your band and music on Facebook but having your own site means that you dictate how it looks, what the content is and what you want a fan or someone dropping by gets to see and hear. Your ability to design and make this space feel how you want it to and put across your image is unmatched by any social network.

Then there’s the fact that because you own it you get to use it that way….forever. No-one can take that traffic away from you and no matter what game gets changed, you’ll still have a place that your fans will want to come to. And that’s where you build the core of your relationship.

Of course, put all your videos on YouTube. But when you email your fans or tweet a link make it to the video that you have embedded in a post on your site, not to YouTube. That’s to the post on your site where they can also sign up to your mailing list, buy music and merchandise or listen to a stream of your new EP – all the way you want them to.

2. A mailing list means that you can interact with more of your fans more of the time – asking them to do whatever you want – come to a gig, buy a single, listen to a song. Whatever….you want.

People always moan to me about how people won’t sign up to a mailing lust. That’s because you’re doing it wrong. If you’re good and they like your music and you make the offer to sign up to your mailing list a good one, guess what, they’ll sign up. And they’ll stay signed up and they’ll open your emails.

If that’s not happening either your music isn’t up to snuff or you’re doing something else wrong.

And, when they want to hear from you, your emails aren’t spam.

Here’s why

I was inspired to write this post because of two things I read today. One was an old post from Ariel Hyatt on how to write an effective newsletter and this post from CD Baby about why your website is better than Facebook, from which we borrowed the image above.

Then there was this very lengthy business post about the future of the web in general and blogs in particular that completely debunked the myth that email is dying out to be replaced by messaging on Facebook and similar services. Utter rubbish.

If that’s your reason for not building a mailing list of fans, I’d urge you to read the whole thing. It’ll take half an hour, but about half way through it explains why building an email list is now more important than ever.

So, hopefully, that rant will inspire you to take on both these tasks. Every musician needs both.

Just imagine, if you have a mailing list and your own site, life can be really simple. You post something that you want your fans to see to your site and then you email them asking them to take a look. They open your email, click a link and go to your site. They like what they read, take the action you want them to and maybe buy your music or a ticket to a gig. If you’re really smart they might share it on Facebook or tweet it and spread the message further.

Rocket science apparently to most musicians. But not to you – just simple marketing.

Here’s how

We’ve written about this lots before – most recently in ‘7 steps to break your band in 2012’. See steps 2 and 3 for everything you need to know about building your own website and setting up a mailing list for about $20 per month. Really.

I don’t really care whether you use the services that we recommend for web hosting and mailing lists. As long as you buy your own domain and build a website and use something to build a mailing list, that’s a massive step forward.

Check that post for all the ‘how to’ info and we keep adding stuff to our section on ‘Fan mailing lists’ here.

But, more than anything else I can tell you, do these two things as soon as you have some music that you are convinced the world will want to hear. You’ll be astonished at what you can achieve.



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Ian Clifford is the owner of Illicit Media, a music management and consulting company. He is also the owner of Make It In Music, an online site that is the ultimate resource for aspiring musicians offering advice, tips, and insight on all the skills needed by modern artists to succeed in the rapidly changing music industry.

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Atul Rana - May 1, 2012 Reply

Cheers dude for this kick up the backside. My band has both a website and mailing list already. I only announce the mailing list sign up option on stage after a high point in the set. I don’t want to appear too salesy or pushy, I think it’s just a British thing not to plug so much and be more subtle. But this post is a reminder that the mailing list is gold, and that I need to constantly improve my stage performance and song writing to the extent that more people are compelled to come up and chat after the gig.

Also for some weird reason asking for money/emails just needs a certain degree of inner confidence that the vast majority of musicians I know just don’t have or want to develop.

Leanne Regalla - May 1, 2012 Reply

Amen! These are basics of business, and if you are a musician you are in business. Email is still the most powerful marketing we can do. Many of my fans and customers don’t like Facebook, aren’t on it much, and some don’t have accounts at all. So to reach everyone who cares to hear what I’m doing, I have to use email.

I pays well to study – and implement – just a little bit of business 101. It’s really not that painful. 😉

Niki Bright - May 1, 2012 Reply

Good article! Musicians may not like this statement… but they are business people. Their business is music. And all businesses need a website these days. Facebook, alone, is not a marketing strategy.

Chris West - May 2, 2012 Reply

“Actually, yes you do!”

I disagree with this Ian. Not every band/musician needs or should have a mailing list for 2 reasons.

1. If every band had a mailing list, no other band would benefit because most bands would spam their fans and then no one would want to be on any band’s mailing list.

Desperate musicians had started driving people away from MySpace with their pathetic cries of “check us out and leave a comment” long before MySpace committed harakiri.

They nearly did it on Facebook as well and the events system is still messed up by desperate musicians. Compare invites to attendees on 99% of gigs.

2. There are also some bands that really don’t need them. Not every musician is on a quest to financial stability through music. We play with plenty of awesome bands that know full well they don’t, as a group, have the drive to sacrifice what you must to make it as a musician full time.

Some bands are simply not doing enough to warrant a list or website. There are still tons of bands still in the yearly/twice yearly album release cycle and they have their place and good on them. It’s a creative outlet and emotional release from boring day jobs. Good for them. Just don’t encourage them to abuse that we use with strategy and purpose.

It surprised me at first because I just assumed everyone had the same ambition as me. Sure, if you handed it to them on a plate they would take it but they’re not gonna work for it.

I’m pretty happy if other people don’t run mailing lists, it leaves more room for us serious ones who understand the benefit and understand how to use it without being spammy.


    Ian - May 5, 2012 Reply


    Thanks for the contribution – sorry it took me a week to reply.

    I think both your points are valid. It took me a long time writing this blog and the daily tips to realise that not every musician was on the same quest for mega stardom. You’re right – many want to be jobbing or hobbyist musicans and/or performers and are perfectly content to stay at that. That said, they would STILL benefit from a omailing list and site so that they could very directly target their small group of fans to come to those bi-annual shows or buy that once every couple of years CD.

    As for your first point, it’s sad but true that there will be many bands that simply don’t deserve attention and will build a mailing list and hence spam an audience that isn’t really interested. But, hopefully, I’m not preaching that but that music comes first and then proper targeted promotion and marketing will give you a better chance of achieving the level of success that you are aiming for.


Burnout: surprisingly refreshing | thefullmusician - May 31, 2012 Reply

[…] the blog Make in in Music has some great articles. Two good reads I’ve found lately have been on building a website and mailing list and ‘7 steps to break your band in […]

Simone - June 6, 2012 Reply

Hi Ian,

I’ve been reading threw this amazing blog for a couple of days now, it’s time to leave some thoughts.
So… you convinced me ! In a sense I was kind of convinced about (a) I need to work on a serious website (b) I need a mailing list. But until reading it here, I kind of was only doing things half-way. Chris’s contribution is right about the fact that not “every” band would need. But considering myself as wanting to make a living out of music (someday!), I realise I need… MY website.

What you mentioned about not only using the social networks to self promote ones music definitely makes sense. After what happened to MySpace, I really got the feeling I had put too much energy into something that was… “gone”.

Thank you so much for this post in particular, and generally speaking for all the infos posted here – I’m still discovering a lot of thoughts/advices that really make sense. Why did no one tell me before ?


    Ian - June 6, 2012 Reply

    Hi and thanks Simone. Glad to be of service.

    It really is that simple. Once your music is good enough to get a positive reaction from people the first time they hear it (which isn’t that sinmple!) then the internet makes building a loyal fanbase easier than it has ever been.


13 reasons you need your own band website | Make It In Music - November 30, 2012 Reply

[…] written about it before here, but I want to go into a little more detail so that we can try and convince every artist that this […]

Niklas J. Blixt - December 4, 2012 Reply

This post gave me lots of ideas about how I’m going to us my mailing list. Thanks for the inspiration and ideas.

Kenny - May 19, 2013 Reply

I would agree with the article but up to a point. You spoiled it with the nonsense that if no one signs up to your mailing list it is because you either: suck or are doing it wrong. Dogmatic or what? The fact of the matter is that I have a number of bands I follow on Facebook and have even bought their music BUT I never sign up to their mailling lists. Partly because most of their posts end up in my spam box and also because with the sheer number of emails I get the last thing I want is an email from a band asking me to do something that I have ALREADY been notified on Facebook. The premise that mailing lists are very important is also flawed in the context of pop music history. Very few people sign up to fan clubs and the like for popular bands nor to we all sign up to every band’s mailing list. Email fatigue is a fact and one spoiled by marketers spamming the living daylights out of everyone. Even with you guys, I rarely read your emails and basically go to Facebook to read whatever it is you are posting. This hype about mailing lists is all theoretical and you are missing the main reason why its effectiveness can be called into question. Facebook is more valuable than any mailing list. Yes I know about owning your own fans etc but a subscription website will do a lot more than an email mailing list in that respect. Also even if Facebook dies, goes south or whatever, if you are on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and your own website, your fans will still be able to find you.

    Ian - May 28, 2013 Reply

    Kenny – Apologies, I thought I had replied to this.

    You’re right – my viewpoint is dogmatic, but it’s based on experience with a large number of artists in many different genres. In every case we can tell from the data that the people on the mailing list engage with the artist more easily (the open and click though rates) and are way more likely to spend money on the artist. So it’s not theoretical, it’s rooted in real world data.

    Of course, there are very many dedicated fans who don’t want to be on a mailing list and will actively seek out their artist to see what is going on. But many don’t.

    What you’re suggesting is that it’s better to only speak to those fans who proactively seek you out for your latest news. But that leaves a multitude who may not see that message – why wouldn’t you want to have the alternative method of reaching them?

    I agree – don’t spam. But good email marketing isn’t spam, it’s about a relationship.

    I think what you’ve done here is projected your experience and values on to ‘all fans’ – and that’s a great way to miss a lot of people. Lots of people do want to be on a mailing list – let them!

Dan-O | DanoSongs - January 21, 2014 Reply

When you have your own website and email list you are building your own assets and fanbase.

MySpace was the ultimate less on not spending your time on building up social networks. Facebook will be irrelevant someday. Better have your own email list.

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