14 common (and idiotic) email mistakes musicians should avoid…
“Hey bro. Whassup? I’ve attached 12 mp3s of songs I just recorded. Can I pick your brain this week on what I can do to get to the next level? I only need about an hour of your time. Call me.”
I received that actual email today from a musician whom I have never met. He copied 87 other music business people on the same email.
Most music business professionals conduct a substantial part of their business by email. As a musician, or someone conducting business in this industry, you should have some very basic understandings of email protocol that will help you immensely in achieving the results you desire.
How to avoid being an email idiot….
Here are 14 common mistakes you should avoid when emailing:
1. Spell Check before sending. I’m not saying that you need to be a good speller. I’m a terrible speller actually. But you should be concerned with making your email as easy as possible to read. Spelling mistakes do not help your cause. Clicking that “Spell Check” button before you hit send can mean the difference between your music being heard and it getting deleted.
If u makee it diffucult 4 me to reed you’re email, you havee just tremendously decreased ur chances of getttin a ressponse form me.
Ideally your email settings should be set so that they automatically detect spelling errors and alert you of these errors. If you do not know how to use spell check on your current email system, take a moment to research it, and by “research it” I mean; Go to Google and type in “How to spell check my emails”. That should get you started in the right direction.
2. Don’t be too formal or too informal. Your email should reflect the relationship you have with the person you are writing. In your first email to someone do not refer to them as “bro” or “Mr.” (Although if you were going to choose one of the two, “Mr.” is much better!). “Hi Dave. I work with The ABC Band and I was hoping I could speak with you about an upcoming festival in your area.”
An email like that is totally fine. Had that same email started with “Dear Mr. Rose” or “Hey bro.”, I would have taken it less seriously. Although, like I say, of the two I’d prefer “Dear Mr.” over “Hey bro.”
After you and I have gotten to know each other, we’ve gone out drinking together, and we’ve shared stories about our first rock concert as a kid, then you can start calling me… Nah, come to think of it, NEVER call me “Bro”, ever.
3. Understand “Reply” vs. “Reply All”, and how and when to use each. The first step in this is to notice whether or not others are copied on the email. If there are others then pay close attention to whether or not your response is appropriate for everyone to see, or should only the sender see it. If you want everyone to see your reply, of course click “Reply All”, if you want only the sender to see it, click “Reply”.
But finding the “Reply or Reply All” button is the easy part. The seemingly challenging part is knowing when to use each.
For example, if I write you and your four band mates and ask “I’m available to meet on Wednesday at 3pm. Would that work for you guys as well?” Reply All to say “Yes, I’m available at that time but 2pm works better.” It allows us all to follow the progress of scheduling the meeting when you reply to all.
However, if I write you and your four band mates saying “Great song. I love the guitar tones and the backing vocals are really strong in the bridge.” Reply, do not Reply All, when responding with “Thanks. Jimmy couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket and we’re about to kick his ass out of the band if he doesn’t shape up so I’m surprised it turned out that well.”
Just pay attention to who is on the email and whether or not they all need to know your response.
4. Never use “Please advise”, Comic Sans font, or Purple text. Just don’t. Papyrus font also makes you look like an idiot.
“Please advise” is a phrase annoying people use when concluding an email. It comes off as snippy and can irk the recipient. Furthermore, it often accompanies a problem or unresolved issue and it implies this is the recipient’s fault. It also puts the burden on the recipient to fix the problem often without offering any sort of real solution. It’s just a passive-aggressive way of putting the ball in someone else’s court.
“I sent you my music 2 weeks ago but I never heard back from you. I sent you all 12 tracks. It’s important I hear from you soon as several labels are interested in signing me but I would prefer to sign with you. Please advise.”
Just don’t use that phrase and you’ll be just fine.
Comic Sans is just the worst font in the world. Period. And if your Comic Sans email is written in purple, you may as well be writing to say “My super swell song about unicorns and sunsets is fun and diverse. It’s got something for everyone. I know people who shop at J.Crew who like this song but also people who shop at Abercrombie like it too.”
5. Never ask a question that could be answered by Google. I received this email once. “Yo. Deep South. What y’all do over there? I need a producer.”
6. Do not CC the entire music business on your email. Figure out how to blind copy when sending to multiple people. Fortunately most music business people will be ignoring your email and will not reply, much less replying to all which could get incredibly annoying if they did since you just CC’d 293 people, most of whom have an email address starting with “info@”.
7. Do not send important first time introductory emails from your iPhone. Or if you must send it from your iPhone, please turn off your iPhone signature that let’s me know you did. I get this email a lot too (usually at 3:17am, which is another no-no to send an important email that late at night)…..
“(3:17am) Dear Mr. Rose. I’m writing in hopes that we can discuss my band, The ABC Band. I’ve included a link to our website where you can listen to some songs and watch videos. We have a show coming through your area and I’d welcome the opportunity to meet in person.
please excuse any typos, sent from my iphone”
8. Keep it short! Your email to me, or any other music industry professional, should be less than 3 simple well-written paragraphs. Anything longer deserves a phone conversation. Do not write telling me about your 9 year history with your drummer and how your diverse background has fused together to create a sound unlike any other band in rock-n-roll, that both J. Crew and Abercrombie shoppers will appreciate your music.
Don’t write me telling me about the first time you heard a Nirvana record and how you just knew this was your destiny, and if someone would just give you the chance, you’d work really hard.
Don’t share with me the kind of guitar you play either. We don’t care.
What we do care about is how you can make us money. We care about the names of other industry professionals you’ve worked with, or the size of your current fanbase/draw in your regional markets. We care about the facts and figures your songs have produced. (i.e. 78,000 views on YouTube, 12,200 downloads on iTunes, 107,000 plays on Spotify, etc.) And we care mostly about the music, so give us an easy place to listen.
I got an email the other day from a singer-songwriter and if I would have printed it I swear it would have been 20 pages long. And she didn’t even include a link to any music. Out of curiosity I wrote her back saying “Where can I listen?” and she said “Oh yeah, guess I should have included that. Here’s a link.”
This very sweet young lady thought to tell me about the fact that her grandmother Lucy was a bluegrass musician from Virginia, and how her cousin Jennifer got 4th runner up in the regionals for the Dayton Ohio American Idol auditions. And let’s not forget her parakeet that just loves to sing back her songs to her. The parakeet, by the way, is named Lucy after her grandmother. Music is in her blood, she said. She tells me all this but she forgets to send me music?
You’re killing me folks. Keep it short and get to the point.
9. Don’t email like you are texting. “Whassup? We want 2 play ur club. We rock !!!!! Got n e openings? Holla.”
10. Don’t send your entire email in the subject line.
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2014 8:25 PM
To: Dave Rose
Subject: I have a metal band called Burn Baby Burn and we’re looking for a record deal. We also need an agent. We could use a manager as well…. And a drummer. Know any good drummers?
11. Do not attach mp3s, or any files for that matter, when pitching your music. The only time you should attach an mp3 is when someone asks you to. There are so many more efficient alternatives to send your music these days. If you’re sending me an mp3 by email you may as well just snail-mail me your promo package in a folder, complete with a printed bio and a glossy 8×10 picture of you and your band mates, taken on a railroad track or in front of a brick wall. Emailing mp3s shows that you are out of touch with today’s method of music delivery and is likely an indication that you are also out of touch with other, more important, aspects of music and the business that surrounds it.
Instead of emailing an mp3, consider SoundCloud, Dropbox, or HighTail as ways to send your music.
12. DO NOT TYPE IN ALL CAPS. or all lowercase for that matter. If I have to tell you why you should not type in all caps then you need help beyond what this blog can provide. Google search “Why should I not email in all caps”, and you’ll find your answer.
13. Never use this subject line: “Check out my music!!!!!” You should also avoid “Please Read”, “Did you get my last email?” and “Can we meet?”. Those are equally as sad. It makes you seem desperate. And nobody likes a desperate musician. Just ask your ex.
14. Don’t ask to pick my brain. Allow me to clarify… If you have my cell number, if we have hung out socially, if we are friends to the point that I know your last name and how many kids you have… Then you may ask to pick my brain. However, if you are emailing a music business professional for the first time, do not ask to pick their brain.
I once overheard a musician say to an entertainment attorney “I don’t have the money to spend on legal fees, but I was hoping you could just read over this contract I received and let me pick your brain for a few minutes on it.”
There are so many elements of idiocy rooted inside this statement. But it’s sadly a common one. You somehow managed to work extra hours at the coffee shop, you sold your plasma, and you convinced your Aunt Trudy to loan you enough to buy that Les Paul, yet you want something as important as a contract review pertaining to your career to be done for free?
Not to mention, the phrase “pick your brain for a few minutes”, is semi-insulting. You think it’s only going to take a few minutes to help you navigate the complexities of this contract you have received? It diminishes the value of your career as well as that of the attorney’s expertise to assume that in a few short minutes you can find out everything you need to know about whatever document you would like reviewed.
The attorney appropriately responded to the inquiring musician by saying “Unlike other industries, I only have 2 things to sell, my time and my knowledge. You have just asked me to give you both of those things for free.”
In the same way that a few short minutes won’t teach you how to be an expert musician, those same few short minutes will not fully explain how to take your career to the next level.
By asking to pick my brain, for free, you have just suggested that my job is easy. That in 30 minutes or so you can figure out everything you need to know about getting to where you need to be. More so you have suggested that my time is not valuable – that those artists who pay for my time are not nearly as important as the free time I will be giving you, all because you have tracked down my email address and took 30 seconds out of your day to write me.
Let’s take it slow. Until we’re friends, don’t ask to pick my brain or the brain of any other music business professional. Just like you found money to buy that Les Paul, find money to purchase industry books that will help, maybe enroll in some music business classes on-line, or hire an entertainment attorney or consultant to help you work through this complicated business.
When sending emails, use some common sense that your grandmother tried to teach you. Remember – there is a human being on the other side of that email you’re sending. Treat them as such. Unless you’re an 8th grade teenager thEn PlEaSe aVOid eMAiLinG liKE oNe.