Ryan Baustert, like most musicians, didn’t think about the business side of music when he first started booking gigs with his band Throw the Fight.
They got their start back in 2003, playing in small clubs, house parties, and bars in the Wisconsin and Minneapolis area.
18 years later, they’ve sold 40,000 albums, have over 265,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, over 23,000 YouTube subscribers, and regularly sell out shows. Throw the Fight writes all their own hard rock songs.
Along the way, Baustert came to think of himself as a marketer just as much as he’s a songwriter and guitarist. He attributes part of the band’s success to leaning into the business side of music. “You do it for so long, it ends up becoming a part of your identity and you don’t even know what you would do without it,” he says. “There’s so many talented musicians and so many bands out there that no one will ever hear of because most musicians don’t realize that it takes so much more than talent to start building a name for yourself. You really have to just hustle hard.”
His most powerful marketing tool? His email list. With 4,000 subscribers and counting, it’s Baustert’s foundation for promoting Throw the Fight to fans old and new.
“I’m a big fan of the 80/20 rule—the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort—and focusing on the stuff that’s driving the most results. For me, that’s email,” says Baustert. “We love ConvertKit. As soon as I switched to ConvertKit, I started to see immediate results.”
We sat down with Baustert to find out more about his top five pieces of advice for musicians looking for their big break—and how email can do the hard work of creating die-hard fans for you.
Every musician needs an email list
Most bands put all their effort into Instagram or Twitter, but that’s like handing the keys to your car to a complete stranger and hoping for the best. You need a platform you can control to distribute your music: an email list.
So many artists are heavily reliant on social media, but it changes all the time. The algorithms change, you don’t own the space. Ever since MySpace all the way up to Twitter and Instagram, I’m having conversations with people to try and convince them to join my email list and continue the conversation.
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That’s not to say you should stay off social media altogether. But he recommends shifting your mindset. “Social media is the tool that helps you find your audience. But the intent should be to get them off social media and onto a platform you own and control, which is your email list.”
- New singles
- Album announcements
- Tour dates
- Merchandise drops
- Music videos
“It really just depends on what we’re promoting and working on,” says Baustert. “We’re always trying to get new people through that funnel and expose them to our music and the back catalogue.”
Let your music lead the way
Growth doesn’t have to be fancy. To build Throw the Fight’s email list, Baustert uses a combination of organic social media, paid Facebook and Google advertising, and some old-school sign-up sheets at their merch table when they play live shows.
But the biggest driver of new sign-ups actually comes from targeted landing pages optimized for conversion, paired with a free offer. “We get most of the people onto our list through a ConvertKit landing page, and we just give out our latest record for free with a free download,” says Baustert. “I always get questions about whether that even still works because everyone’s streaming, but it does. It’s less about the medium and more about the value you’re giving them.”
That’s because when you lead with your music, the rest falls into place. Whether you play hard rock like Throw the Fight or low-fi, EDM, pop, or something new, it’s about finding your audience, not trying to please everyone.
Providing a free sample builds trust right away and gives potential fans a reason to sign up in the first place. “Giving away a bunch of free music is really easy to do,” he says. “From there, we’re just building out a funnel to drive people to the other things that matter, like following an artist on Spotify, and subscribing on YouTube, or following them on BandsinTown and services like that.”
Once you connect all those different things with your email list, it really starts to catapult your growth online so you can work a lot smarter.
Just make sure it always comes back to the music. Include a clear and compelling call-to-action on that landing page, and any other promotion you have, to your email list. Says Baustert, “I include my landing page link in the description of everything we put up on YouTube, all of our bio links, and throughout our website.”
Automations turn interested people into diehard fans
Once a fan joins your list, the fun part begins.
Baustert uses ConvertKit’s Automations to create a simple onboarding flow that showcases the band’s greatest hits, upcoming shows, and more—without needing to lift a finger. “Once people download the record and we’ve got them on the email list, we’re sending people to Spotify and YouTube and various videos and pitching merchandise and other news through ConvertKit’s automations,” he says. “It’s the 80/20 rule again.”
Onboarding is the opportunity to make a lasting impression—especially for someone who hasn’t seen you play in person. You can give them a sense of who you are and what you stand for and start to build them into superfans.
And by automating the process, you’re building a lasting audience for the people that are going to come see you again and again. Your casual fans matter, but it’s the diehards—the ones who buy every album, comment on every video, follow your band around for a summer on tour—that are going to make a difference to your bottom line.
Throw the Fight uses a seven-email sequence that looks like this:
- Email 1 delivers the original offer of a free album or music download, depending on what the band is promoting, and a thank you note.
- Email 2 promotes social links and Spotify channels.
- Email 3 delivers the latest single.
- Email 4 has the most recent music video and promotes their YouTube channel.
- Email 5 is all about Spotify, which is one of Throw the Fight’s biggest channels. They use a combination of ConvertKit and FeatureFM for streaming services so fans can pre-save new music and automatically get notifications when anything new drops there.
- Emails 6 and 7 showcase merchandise and a few odds and ends before dropping subscribers into their regular newsletter cadence.
Segment tour promotion to stay relevant and exclusive
Then, they use their email list to promote tour locations and dates—but not to everyone at once.
If you live in Boston, then you’re probably not interested in a show happening in Kansas City. Likewise fans in San Francisco probably won’t drive all the way to Austin. When someone subscribes to their email list, Throw the Fight asks for location so they can only send upcoming tour dates to people within a reasonable radius of a given show. They can then filter subscribers by location to avoid promoting shows in out-of-reach cities.
“We keep people posted on our tour dates or local options with segments, at least when we’re on the road and playing live shows,” he says. “Whenever we’re going to be in town, we use ConvertKit to send an update to people in those geographic radiuses so they can come see us play.”
That way, every email they send builds excitement with features like countdown timers to the next big show or promoting new music on Spotify.
Besides segmentation by geography, they also pull out other music industry insiders and change their messaging. Says Baustert, “I have people who are in the music industry segmented from everyone else on our list, so that if I’m sending out something that’s more of newsworthy or a press release, then I can target booking agents, publicists, and industry people.”
Every audience is different. Don’t overthink—test.
Fans in your audience aren’t just paying attention to you. They’re following dozens of bands and artists, reading the news, getting emails from their friends and family, and more in their inbox. It’s up to you to cut through the noise.
Songwriting often requires testing out lyrics or bass lines to see what sticks. The same is true with your email program. You don’t have to overthink your marketing if you’ve got the right email systems in place. “It’s really as simple as setting up a landing page and building a couple of emails,” says Baustert.
Don’t overthink it because it’s super easy to refine your process over time. But you can’t get any results if you don’t start.
Follow the data and don’t be afraid to make changes based on how you’re doing. “Tweak small things and improve the process every month. As time goes on, just keep refining and making it better and better. It doesn’t have to happen all at once,” he says.
Sometimes things as small as subject lines can really make a difference. “We’re constantly testing subject lines to see which get better open rates and which ones don’t,” says Baustert. “And if there are emails in a sequence where some of the open rates aren’t at the level of the others, then I’ll use that as an indicator to change them.”
Then, connect the dots. “Be really intentional about setting goals and having measurable results,” says Baustert. “I’m constantly reminding myself that we’re running our own race. It’s super easy to look at other people in the space and other musicians that are leaps and bounds ahead of where you are and that’s just a recipe to make yourself miserable.”
Create a brand, not just music
Your music is only one piece of your overall brand. Your brand is the way people perceive you, from roadies helping load your gear to the studio technicians helping you lay down a track. “The design elements and photography are only a small part of it,” says Baustert. “It’s also about being professional when you’re playing a show and how you treat people online, the way that people perceive you. That’s the kind of the approach that we’ve always taken.”
Being a talented musician and being a talented business person are two different skill sets, and you can do both. With easy-to-use tools like ConvertKit, anyone can be a marketer. “This stuff does not come naturally to most people. It’s learned. But it really works, for any genre of music, as long as you know who your audience is and why you’re doing this.”
ConvertKit makes it easy to focus on what matters: your music. Try your free ConvertKit account and start building your email list today.
The post The 80/20 Rule: How one band uses ConvertKit to reach more fans appeared first on ConvertKit.