Creating a Merit-Based Music Economy: Compulsory or Blanket Licensing for Interactive Subscription Services
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B3. The Precious Mailing List

Most mass media promotion is so expensive that grass roots acts generally can't afford much, if any. The one type of mass media that has always been more within reach (especially since the invention of photocopying, and even more with the personal computer, prior to the Internet) is the simple flyer/newsletter mailing list.

Every time an act performs in public, they should bring an address sign-up book and encourage anyone who likes their music to sign up, if they haven't already. The audience knows it didn't find out about this act through advertising, because the act didn't advertise and the venue's advertisements usually don't contain enough to recommend the act without additional information. Also, the audience didn't hear the music on any controlled-rotation radio station, because most of these acts can't afford to pay the independent promotion fees (even for indie label campaigns, the low end is around $25,000, which puts it out of reach for most DIY-ers).

The mailing list is the central marketing tool for an act to reach its immediate audience. Then word-of-mouth from core fans brings others to later performances or prompts direct mail orders for the CD, with the core fans getting a "first kid on the block" boost out of it along the way.

In the Internet age, of course, an email list is a supercharged version of a snail-mail list (it's cheaper and more efficient for the act, easier for the fan, too). But until all potential fans have email, the paper version is still needed to fill in the blanks.

Even prior to the Internet age, many of the more attractive small venues (especially in urban areas) expected acts to have mailing lists and promote their own gigs, bringing their own audience as part of the deal. It is the first marker that an act that is serious about building a fan base. It's a bit like running a free fan club -- an opt-in community that doesn't mind a little well-targeted spam every once in a while. Direct niche marketing at its finest.

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