The Email Junkyard: Why Your Booking Emails Fail

If you’ve been reading the Educate and Entertain blog for any amount of time, you know that I do a ton of email marketing to keep my calendar full of good gigs.

Today, I’ve got some quick but powerful tips to help you do a better job with your own outreach emails (the ones you send in hopes of booking a gig for your act or band).

Best practices for sending marketing emails8 Email Mistakes Musicians (and Plumbers) Make

Whether you’re a storyteller, musician, poet, or pipe fitter, avoiding these mistakes will all but guarantee better results with your marketing emails.

Mistake #1 – The Subject Line Stinks

This is the first – and perhaps most important – place to get things right, because it all ends here if we don’t.

A weak subject line means your email simply does not get opened.

So, put yourself in the shoes of your recipient – do they care about “XYZ Band – Cleveland’s award winning disco trio,” or “Now booking 2021-22?”


email marketing for musicians - dave ruchThink instead about what they care about…

  • a happy audience?
  • an interesting presentation?
  • a packed house?
  • a reliable performer?

…and that should give you some better ideas for your subject line.

Another approach is to include the name of their venue in the subject line, which always encourages more opens.

Mistake #2 – There’s No Hook Once They Open It

The quicker you can establish that your email is directly relevant to their needs, the more likely it is that they’ll continue reading.

You only have a few seconds to do this.

If they have to scroll around to figure out why they should be interested, you’ve probably lost them for good.

Mistake #3 – It’s Too Long

People are busy. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point, providing links to anything you can’t describe succinctly.

Mistake #4 – It’s All About You

Similar to the advice on your subject line, craft your email messages with your recipient’s needs and wants in mind – what do they get out of hiring you?

What is the benefit of having you perform?

There’s a great exercise for turning your features (recordings, notable gigs, awards, etc) into benefits (what do they get out of it?) in the article Want Better Gigs? It’s Not About You.

Mistake #5 – No Relevant Testimonials

When we’re hoping to interest a venue in booking us for a gig, the words of other venues are far more powerful than anything we can say about ourselves.

Always include a few choice testimonials.

Dave offers pro instruction for artists.
– CD Baby

BUT, if you’re approaching a summertime festival with an adult audience, for instance, and the raving quote you use is from a children’s show you did, that doesn’t work either.

Use testimonials that are relevant to the exact audience you’re reaching. (See how I did that above?)

Mistake #6 – You’re Not Sending to Enough People

I hear from performers all the time that they’re exasperated with email outreach – they’ve sent 50 or 100 emails for bookings and not gotten a single response!

Get used to it.

email marketing for musicians - dave ruchThink about it. Of all the unsolicited emails that show up in your own inbox every week, how many do you respond to?

Yes, but my show is perfect for them. I just don’t understand why they didn’t get back to me?

Plain and simple, they’re swamped.

Or it might be budgeting time, or they might be all set for now, or it might take several more “touch points” before they feel comfortable contacting you, or ….

It’s a numbers game – not a spam game, but a numbers game.

The more highly-targeted, relevant contacts you have to reach out to, the more booking inquiries you’ll receive.

Want to get a bunch of gigs? Plan on sending thousands (not hundreds) of emails to exactly the right people.

Email Marketing Numbers Laid Bare

Here’s an illuminating example – let’s say you’ve emailed 100 venues. We’ll use some current averages from the email marketing industry to put things in perspective:

100 emails sent
x 20% average open rate =
20 emails opened
x  3% average click through rate =
.6 people (as in LESS than one person) who clicked on any of your links

Now, you may end up hearing from one or two of those 20 people who opened the email and didn’t click a link, and you might even be contacted by one of the 80 that supposedly didn’t open your email – the reporting isn’t perfect.

But it’s just as likely that you won’t hear from any of them. The sample size is just too small.

Want a bigger contact list? Try this.

NOTE: With all of my mailings, I shoot for at least a 25-30% open rate and a 10% click-through rate, but the numbers above represent industry standards for email response.

Mistake #7 – Spam Triggers

Whatever you do, avoid any and all spammy language when sending bulk email, lest yours ends up in the dreaded folder-of-no-return.

email marketing for musicians and artists - dave ruchWhat to avoid?

  • dollar signs in the subject line
  • the words “Free” and “Sale”
  • excessive punctuation!?!

For further reading, here’s a big list of 100 words to avoid in your subject line, and another list of general spam words to avoid.

Mistake #8 – Too Many (or No) Calls to Action

It’s a really good idea to have exactly one thing you want your email recipient to do, and make sure you actually ask them to do it – preferably in a few different spots within your email.

marketing emails for musicians - dave ruchIf the goal of your email is to generate bookings, don’t also provide links to “buy tickets for our upcoming show at the XYZ theater” and “follow us on social media” and other things not directly related to your goal.

Competing calls to action confuse people, and confused people tend to NOT take any action.

Pretty Simple, Right?

So there you have it. Eight painless and proven ways to increase the number of responses to your next email campaign.

I’d love to hear what’s working for you, and what you might add to my list. Questions are welcome too!

The “Comments” section is just below.

About The Blog

The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms for Connected Educator MonthSince leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.

Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.

The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.

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