In today’s plugged-in world, where the ubiquity of the social media network reigns supreme, keeping in touch with your fans is paramount to success in the music industry. When I buy a new CD, I expect more from the band than the possibility of a secret bonus track; I expect the whole (online) user experience: a website, a music blog, a Facebook band page with Facebook band tabs to visit; a Twitter account to follow, and a band newsletter to subscribe to. So what does this mean for music artists trying to survive in this cut-throat industry? Simple, your fans want to hear from you – not just your music; fans want content, and one of the best ways to provide this content is by newsletter.
With a veritable cornucopia of email service providers to choose from, it’s no easy task to find the right provider, especially if you’re in the business of beat testing and not A/B testing. Nevertheless, despite how daunting the selection process might seem, and how tempting it may be to start emailing newsletters yourself, it’s highly recommended that you choose a web-based provider for distribution. Before you start your search however, it’s important to define what you’re looking for in an ESP. Once you’ve established all of your needs, we recommend that you base your choice on these critical factors:
- Ease of Navigation and Use;
- Deliverability & Reliability of Service;
Here’s a review of four leading newsletter technology providers for bands…
MailChimp is one of the newer email service providers in the context of this review. However from our research, Mail Chimp provides one of the best entry-level opportunities for small businesses (including up-and-coming music artists) as they offer: a good balance of pricing with a free plan for a mailing list of up to 2,000 subscribers; a good level of reliability; and a decent set of reporting metrics.
From a user standpoint, the interface is as simple and fun as its mascot. Most notably, contact list management is straightforward, and creating emails is a jiff with a wide selection of free HTML templates and their Design Genius editor to create your own designs. Inherent in the simplicity of its design however, is that it’s not quite as loaded with features as some of the competing email providers. For one, Mail Chimp does not allow users to compare message reports. Nonetheless, MailChimp has an add-on that lets you leverage certain Google Analytics data giving you insight on certain ROI data that wouldn’t be available otherwise. Finally, in addition to being fully integrated with PayPal and Google, Mail Chimp is also fully integrated with Twitter and Facebook to help you spread the word about your newsletter.
Super Band-bonus: With MailChimp you can create campaigns in several different email platforms (without even having to log in!). You can even use their i-phone app to manage your account making it perfect for use when you’re on tour and you can’t get to a computer! Just another reason why MailChimp is BandMark’s preferred ESP.
In terms of reliability, Exact Target claims to have an average system up-time of 99.99%; unfortunately, an audit of customer reviews of ExactTarget’s software paints a slightly less appealing image. Users claim that the software Exact Target is running is outdated, and there are many reports of bugs. Other users still complain about ET’s incomplete and poorly written documentation, in fact I couldn’t even find a price list for their services anywhere on their site!
Biggest Band-bummer: Although Exact Target’s complex software and reporting allows you to create those highly targeted, personalized communications required to cut through media clutter, engaging with your fans shouldn’t be this complicated, or time-consuming.
Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com)
Having been in business since 1996, Constant Contact is one of the oldest email marketing services around. In terms of ease of use, Constant Contact has a well-designed interface that is relatively easy to learn. For novices, Constant Contact is reputed as having excellent customer service and support, including online support communities and access to your own dedicated support agent. In terms of features, Constant Contact offers a wide range of standard email creation and sending features, as well as some neat optional features like the ability to archive emails and host them on a Constant Contact homepage.
Constant Contact email templates are simple to use and format-tested in all major email programs. Unfortunately, compared to other providers, the flexibility of their template designs is limited, and only available when using their in-house templates. Nevertheless, Constant Contact has a built a good name among the sea of providers, and with a 60-day free-trial you can see for yourself. The only downside is that this email service provider is on the more expensive side of email marketing service providers. On the other hand, in terms of deliverability and reliability, you get what you pay for with Constant Contact, which boasts a 97% inbox delivery rate.
Biggest Band-bummer: While Constant Contact offers a relatively standard tracking options, it does not allow for social media integration, conversion tracking, or integration with Google Analytics. So if you’re planning on selling your band merch through your newsletter, this newsletter technology is not for you.
Courrielleur is a French-Canadian ESP based in BandMark’s hometown of Montreal. In terms of ease of use, Courrielleur has the typical set of mailing list management and a fair share of automated features which take care of list management for you. Courrielleur also offers a decent selection of free newsletter templates that are format-tested in all major email programs. In terms of tracking and reporting, Courrielleur offers a pretty straight-forward dashboard and visuals to help you understand your campaign. Courrielleur is well-suited for use in all industries as evidenced by its diverse group of clients from agencies, companies and government bodies including: EDC, Dom Rebel, Lotto-Quebec, NVI and Ogilvy.
Super Band-bonus: In terms of the general administration of your account, one of the bonuses of Courrielleur is that it allows the possibility of multiple users per account, unlike Constant Contact. Courrielleur also offers the ability to make secure online payments. Both of these features are perfect for on-the-go musicians who want to spend more time making music.
Biggest Band-bummer: Although Courrielleur offers a free-trial, there’s a 99$ activation fee upon sign-up. Also, an all-French website means you better brush up on your 7th grade French classes tout-de-suite!