Adele & Lorde, Masters of Email Marketing

Almost exactly one month ago, Facebook and Instagram went down, becoming completely unusable. The crash was notable not just because of its range, but its duration. For six hours, people couldn’t post on Facebook or Instagram, message through WhatsApp, or sign into Facebook-reliant services. Music and technology writer Cherie Hu noted the outage’s particular challenge for musicians:

The Facebook outage revealed a truth central to all social media platforms: they are digital space you rent, not own. The owners of these platforms dictate when, how, and if you reach your audience, not you. At best, this means Facebook’s algorithm selects only particular followers to show your posts. At worst, like we saw last month, it means you can’t reach your audience at all. This unreliability means social media can’t be your only channel of communication with your fanbase.

Enter email! Email marketing is an exquisite compliment to social media because it provides what social media cannot—a direct line of communication with your fans. When you send an email, you know that it will end up in someone’s inbox. This doesn’t guarantee that they’ll read it (that depends on you), but it does guarantee that they receive it. This kind of consistency is incredibly valuable for anyone considering a serious, long-term career in music.

Adele (or her marketing team, at least) know this well. The rollout for her latest album is a case study in focused, effective email marketing. On October 5th, she posted to Facebook a teaser for the “Easy on Me” video along with a link to her website. You, while wasting time doomscrolling instead of writing music, see this video. “Adele’s back! Wow, so exciting. Let me watch this video,” you say. You watch the teaser—you love it—and you follow the link to her website in hopes of learning when the rest of the album will be released. Here, the site’s landing page immediately prompts you to sign up for Adele’s email list, which you either do or do not.

What Adele’s announcement of this single offered was an easy way for her followers to get excited, then channel that excitement into a desirable action for her (signing up for the email list). Is it easier for Adele to generate excitement because she is a global superstar with ubiquitous brand recognition? Absolutely. Does it mean that you can’t also generate interest in your music, and channel that into email sign ups? Absolutely not.

Once you have your email list, what do you do with it? Lorde answers this question expertly. Through her email list (or “bulletin” as she refers to it), Lorde shares lyric drafts, works of art she likes, stories of her life, and, of course, tour and album announcements. Interestingly, she also directly engages with the fans who respond to these emails, answering their questions and showcasing their fanart. Essentially, Lorde runs on the assumption that every person reading her newsletter is her biggest fan, offering them content to match. If you’re unsure of what to include in a newsletter, ask yourself what your biggest fan would want. Alternatively, what would you want in an email from the artists you love?

image of Lorde from "Fallen Fruit" video, email

Most importantly is that Lorde’s commitment to email marketing has allowed her, in part, to leave social media. For many musicians, the burden of social media management is one they would happily leave behind if it weren’t for its supposed necessity. From Lorde, we see that social media isn’t, in fact, a requirement. What is a requirement is developing a strong connection to your audience. An artist of any level can accomplish this by building an email list and delivering consistent, meaningful content to their fans through it.

Is email as fun and sexy as TikTok or Instagram? Probably not. But its role in building a committed audience can’t be understated. At the end of the day, an artist is only as successful as the strength of their fanbase.

Are you a committed audience member who wants consistent, meaningful content delivered to your inbox by Tonic Audio? You can sign up for our email list here!

By Mike Powers

Mike is a composer, arranger, and artist manager who writes for Tonic Audio.