JEFF GRETZ OF ZAO TALKS HEAVY METAL EMAILS
We talk MySpace, running the bands' online marketing, and scheduling emails
Hello, HEAVY METAL EMAIL folks!
This is the first official “email newsletter” from your pal Seth at HEAVY METAL EMAIL, and it’s an interview with Jeff Gretz who plays drums in Zao, along with From Autumn to Ashes, and a million other projects (including the killer ZOMBI and Friends).
My apologies to anyone who read this interview already on the community site. I’ll be closing that down soon, and everything will move over to this newsletter format. A new interview will be coming out next Monday!
This interview supports the purpose of HEAVY METAL EMAIL: to learn how folks in heavy metal are using email marketing to connect directly with their fans - let’s go!
You joined Zao before Twitter existed, right? 2005?
Yeah, 2005. Pre-Twitter. Even Facebook and YouTube were still off the grid, at least for bands. That was the Myspace era.
I remember having REALLY big arguments with a lot of people surrounding the band at the time, and with other bands, about not letting go of an actual website. My argument was, “if this MySpace thing goes down we lose all contact and are starting from scratch.”
Then Zao went dark for a bit when MySpace actually went down, and wiped everything out. By the time we came back everything had shifted and we were playing catch up, and still are to an extent.
Back to the original question about Twitter; we still struggle with that one. Just don’t have the time or energy to devote to those algorithms. Can’t tell if it makes a difference for a band like us or not.
How long have you been working the online marketing side of things for the band?
Pretty immediately after joining. It was a case of one, seeing it needed to be done and in an involved way, ie the band itself, not some marketing team answering messages and questions, and two, nobody else in the band really wanting to do it or having the time. The job has stuck with me to this day. I really don’t mind, though.
You don’t have to disclose exact numbers of course, but how do socials perform vs email? Sales, clicks, “engagement,” etc. again, totally fine to be general about this.
They all feed into each other. We don’t worry so much about the click counts or the engagement. We do find that the more we engage - even if it’s with trolls - that it all helps beef up everything.
I think people tend to pay a bit more attention because of the engagement from the band. Email list is good for the real diehards, especially when it comes to new releases and big announcements like shows. But I feel like the social thing helps people find out we are still active in the first place, which then feeds back into stuff like them being on the email list.
How do you grow your email list? I know there’s a subscribe box on the website. Anything else beyond that?
I would say probably 95% of our email list has come from people that have bought things through bandcamp. Every time someone buys something that email gets added into “the list.” And honestly, that has worked out tremendously.
We have never really farmed email addresses at shows. People will sign up in that scenario as almost a, “oh I guess I should support,” but the turnover is too big.
When you are sourcing from people that go out of their way to purchase something from the band, that is already a prime person to have on your list. These are people that go out of their way to support bands in a direct way and want to buy shirts, records, CDs. They are also more likely to go out of their way to got to a show.
You use Mailchimp for the Zao email list, right? Do you have any tips or tricks for using that for people who might just be starting an email list?
I don’t remember why I picked Mailchimp in particular, but it does the job. The nice thing about Mailchimp is you can see how many people open the email, how many people click on links, what links they click on.
I am constantly tweaking how the emails go out, and what the setup is based on which links are being clicked.
Subject lines are huge too. You want them to feel the need to open it, so too much info sometimes can be bad. Keep it just vague enough that they need to see what is up.
Also don’t hit people too much. If you swamp them with emails too often you become an annoyance and they unsubscribe.
How often do you send out emails?
When there is something to say, honestly. There is no schedule. And there are times where I will lay off if it’s something that isn’t time sensitive, but I know there is another thing around the corner.
I would rather have an email with two or three big things in it, as opposed to hitting them with three separate emails. Maybe the people aren’t in the region you happen to be playing a show in, but they will click because they see “tour dates,” and while they are in there they think, “oh crap they aren’t coming to me, but oh look, I missed this album that came out last month, I will grab that."
How'd the release of your most recent album 'The Crimson Corridor' go?
It was pretty great. The first pressing of vinyl was almost immediately sold out, and we had a dead zone almost where there wasn’t any left, I literally had to tell distributors, “I don’t have anymore to send you for now.” The CDs even moved. It was a good feeling especially since we didn’t know if anyone even would buy a record after the past year and a half of uncertainty.
HEAVY METAL EMAIL THOUGHTS
💰 Having the emails of people who have bought your album in the past is very important, so make sure your fans know they can buy music via Bandcamp, and not just stream it on Spotify. Give your biggest fans the chance to support you.
⏰ As far as frequency, Zao can get away with not sending too often - that’s an honor. But online stores can send like eight emails a week! I totally believe you can send something once a week, so long as it’s more than just “hey, pre-order our vinyl.” Use your existing photos and captions from social media and put that into your email newsletters - not all your fans are on every social media network, and even if they are, because of algorithms they probably didn’t see it anyways.
💀 Someday Twitter and Facebook and Instagram will be dead. Heck, MySpace was the #1 music site on the entire internet back in 2006, and AOL Music was #1 in 2008 - neither are a blip on the radar today. So make sure you’re building your email list today, while you can still reach some of your audience on social media!
How can you use these insights for your heavy metal project? What ideas here can work for your audience? Let’s discuss! Reply to this email, or click the button to leave a comment.
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