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Sharing… really DOES mean caring.

July 17, 2009

In my recent emails to my mailing list, I shared a plan that I thought would be a great “win-win” scenario for everyone.

The plan was this:

Current fans would encourage their friends who also listen to/like my music to sign up on my email list…

…once those new folks signed up, they would write me a quick note telling me who their friend was that referred them…

…and then BOTH the pre-existing fan and the new mailing list member would receive an MP3 with a sneak peek at the upcoming album (being released this fall).

I think this is a pretty good system, and there’s a small fail-safe in place:  I’m willing to bet that anyone who isn’t TRULY interested in being on the email list won’t take the time to write me personally.

Why don’t we automatically sign up for “free gifts” when the catch is that we have to give our email address to the company making the offer?  I mean, if we’re interested in that company and their products, it’s no big deal. But if we’re not truly interested, we don’t really want to be bothered in our inboxes.

Putting that requirement in there was my way of filtering out the people who don’t care.

Of course, the incentive of getting some free, exclusive music lit a fire under quite a few people, and some folks definitely put a lot of effort into trying to recruit others to the cause.

A lot of pre-existing mailing list members tried these things:

-they forwarded my email to everyone they knew.  No attached note of explanation; they just dumped my email in their friends’ inboxes and assumed someone would understand why or take the time to read it.

-they sent out a message of explanation…  as a mass “CC” email, or sent cut-and-paste comments to friends.

-they didn’t write any friends at all… but they wrote to ME to tell me the story of how they joined my mailing list (in some cases, over a year ago), and so they felt like they deserved the free sneak-peek.

-some people just wrote to me and said, point blank, that they hadn’t tried to get anyone else interested, but they’d still LOVE to hear the new material!! (exclamation exclamation smiley face smiley face exclamation smiley dreck dreck dreck gurgle vomit…).

Not surprisingly, hardly anyone who tried these methods got the free sneak-peek, because their friends either:

-ignored their messages entirely

-read the message, crinkled their brow, said “Seriously?…”, scoffed, and pressed “delete”

-didn’t read the details, signed up on my list, and promptly forgot about it (never sending me a note)

-or…. what I’d bet on is that some people DID read the whole thing, signed up on the list, and then…

…something kicked in… they tried writing to me but didn’t know what they’d say… it just felt… dishonest.

I have some friends who, if they mention that they enjoyed a particular record, will cause me to go buy that record strictly because of their suggestion.  I know these people care about music the way I do, and when they are obviously moved by something, I know there is a high likelihood that it is something of quality.  This rarely backfires.

I have discovered most of the new artists I’ve listened to over the past decade from the spoken recommendations of these people whose tastes I admire and respect.  Usually, these recommendations have come along with a loaned CD, or from a cherished listening session in someone’s car or living room.
I assume that phenomenon occurs outside of my little world…  and I was hoping that by encouraging my listeners to share, that a small percentage of their efforts would result in new folks discovering the music I make.
My intention was to reward those who cared enough to take action.  I see now that there was confusion about the action I assumed would be taken.

See, hardly ever have I been inclined to oblige the suggestions of people who don’t seem genuine about why they’re making a recommendation…  “CHECK OUT THIS AWESOME BAND” is something that was never cool, even on Myspace.

So… it stands to reason that blanket-bombing one’s entire address book with an impersonal plea to “JOIN THIS MAILING LIST SO I CAN GET SOME FREE STUFF” is a total turn-off.  Hardly anybody who got a request like that responded to it.

Some of my listeners who tried unsuccessfully to get people on board seemed hurt by this…  but they weren’t upset with themselves, or with their friends… quite a few of them wrote to ME.

“I KNOW at least two of my friends signed up, and they said they would write to you!  Did you send out the preview yet?!!?”    …I got messages like this for 10 days straight.  More than a few, really.

I wrote back to everyone personally and gave them the bad news:  though they had the best intentions, it seemed that something was stopping their friends from joining the ranks of People Who Care…

…and that is the fact that they don’t really care.  Some bit of integrity kicked in and wouldn’t let them send me a note.

Incidentally, I HAVE sent out the album preview.  To twelve people.  Seven new mailing list members and the five people who turned them on to my music…

…the old-fasioned way.

By PLAYING it for them.

In person.

Face to face.

Sharing, the way it works best.  :)

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