6 Types Of Emails You Should NEVER Send

I get a lot of emails from musicians asking me questions. I try to answer as many as I can, but I’ve been noticing a few serious email faux pas lately that I feel I need to address.

This isn’t meant to shame anyone, just help you understand how to best use the form of communication people are most comfortable with in today’s world – next to texting of course. I’m much more forgiving than a club owner or music supervisor.

1. Apologetic

Believe it or not I get “sorry to bother you” emails often! You’re clearly not sorry for bothering me otherwise you wouldn’t have sent it. Never pre-apologize. You sound weak and unimportant. OWN your email. OWN your question. OWN your request. Or don’t send the email.

2. Formal

Don’t send “Dear Mr. or Mrs. Soandso.” You sound like you’re trying to deposit a lump sum into my bank account from Nigeria. I’m not a Mr. in an email – or to anyone other than the bell hop at the Hilton. Neither are bookers, DJs or music supers. They are people. You’re not being respectful; you’re being uncomfortable. People in the music industry are informal. This translates directly to email. You don’t need to perfectly craft a beautiful 4 page email. Actually most people in the biz type emails in all lowercase. It’s quicker. It’s less formal. And less intimidating. What feels better: “Dear Mr. Herstand, The Electro-soft-hard-rock band PINK SHOES request a date in your establishment in the near future. We feel our sound will be best represented in your BEAUTIFUL VENUE with our amazing fans present. We will HARD ROCK it, softly. Thank you, kindly. Sincerely, I’m an idiot.”


“can i grab a hold for pink shoes march 29th? draw 200. bill is set. thinking $10 tix. thanks!”

Believe it or not the 2nd will more likely get the response.

3. Lengthy

No one wants to read long emails. The longer the email, the less likely it will get read (or responded to). Keep it short and to the point. Most will read it on their phone anyway! Any initial email to someone you’ve never contacted should be under 5 sentences. It’s arrogant to think that the person on the receiving end has the time for your 9 paragraph email. They don’t know you. Are you that important? Then show them in 5 sentences.

Disclaimer: If you have a question for me don’t worry about keeping it under 5 sentences. I get that your questions may need more explanation. But do keep it short, please. If you’re contacting a booker, music supervisor, promoter, agent, manager, radio DJ, A&R, label, or virtually anyone else in the biz, 5 is your magic number.

4. Hotmail

I thought it died. Technically it did.  So don’t send email from a Hotmail account. It makes me think you’re 15 and afraid to ask me to the prom. Gmail is what most people in the music industry use. And what you should too. Or better yet, buy a domain and set up yourname@yourband.com account. Is your band professional? Then show it with your email address.

5. Poor Grammar

Ok, even though you don’t need to use capital letters, you DO need to use proper grammar and spelling. I am not your boyfriend. Do not shorten “you” to “u” or write run-on sentences. Or add a smiley face in your first, cold email (creepo). You don’t need to show off with big words, but please make it readable. If it’s “Sent From My iPhone” there’s more flexibility here and “texting language” becomes more acceptable. But if you’re sending an initial, cold email, do it from a desktop and heed the dotted red lines beneath your words.

Once you’ve built up a relationship and are bouncing quick messages back and forth then it becomes even less formal and more flexible. We are always on the go and email is quicker than ever. Typos are acceptable. “I haz got u UP NORTH ROCK draw 200 imho fml $10 ty.” Is not.

If you flunked 10th grade English class, well then, maybe you shouldn’t be the manager for your band.

6. Containing Attachments

DO NOT EVER ATTACH ANYTHING (unless requested). Many music supervisors actually have filters setup to send every email with an attachment directly to spam. And if they don’t, they will be annoyed that you are making them download your song. SoundCloud is the industry standard for sharing music. Include a SoundCloud link when pitching music supervisors or sharing your music with anyone. Share your best live YouTube link when pitching bookers.

Now more than ever business is done via email. And it’s done on the go. Keep it short and to the point. However, if you can’t get a response after a few follow up emails, don’t be afraid to pick up the damn phone!

18 Responses

  1. Jason Didner

    Well said, Ari! Since I play children’s music, I tend to deal with family entertainment industry more than the typical music industry contacts. But I can definitely put some of this to use – be a little less formal on introducing myself and stop sending attachments on a first-time outreach. – Jason

  2. Bill Gates

    Let’s send selfies to Ari via Snapchat flipping him the bird.

    Who died and made him the Elvis of Email?

    • GGG

      You do realize this is just an op-ed and not a document signed into law, right?

  3. Paul Resnikoff

    Ari, it seems like a long-held axiom that email is the most important marketing channel for musicians and artists. Do you agree with this in 2014, or do you feel as though it’s a suite of different communication channels?

    • Ari Herstand

      In professional settings, email is the most important. Then the phone. Twitter can be used to make contact, and can be somewhat effective, but eventually you’ll need to graduate to email to have private negotiations. Private Facebook messages are too intrusive for initial contact – especially if you have no mutual friends. If you get someone’s number, don’t text first, always call.

  4. puddlejumper

    Ignore the first two if you or your recipient are British.

    • Jay

      I know you’re kinda kidding…but no

      An email that starts with an apology for getting in touch will annoy British people just as much as anyone else. If I email you it’s because I’ve researched what you do and believe there is value in us talking. The apologetic opener says ‘I’m just firing off emails to people on a list, don’t blame me I’m just doing my job’

  5. annielin

    Agree with these points. A note: sometimes certain music supervisors might be okay with *one* small introductory MP3 attachment (and not a giant zip of the last 50 beats you made). I’ve definitely been in that situation where I think “Well, it’s in my inbox so I might as well just listen to it to see if it’s any good.”

    I don’t like obnoxious, pretentious and graphic-heavy signature blocks. For example, it’s kind of silly to see a person sign off as President and CEO of a record label where they’re the only employee — and the only artist.

    Unrelated heads up to DMN: when a person decides to log into the commenting system with Twitter, the login process erases any comments that have been written in the text field.

  6. DMN has changed...

    I, for one, love it. Ari is now the preeminent voice of this blog. Finally, Paul has stepped aside and is letting a true indie artist write the majority of the articles. Bravo!

    Not sure where Paul fits in anymore, but Ari is finally ‘leading’ instead of ‘analyzing’. I hope that Ari gets to own a significant piece of the equity of DMN. He deserves it and should demand it.

  7. Willis

    Hotmail is a sin, but AOL isn’t? Actually both services send/receive emails just fine. If I’m supposed to care what someone thinks about my email service, I suppose I should also take advice on hair, clothes, car, etc. What a joke. I’d rather get an email through Hotmail from Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney over an email via Gmail from Justin Bieber any day.

    • seriously?

      this is a completely unnecessary comment (As is mine) – but go ahead, by all means, toss out another prehistoric email service and actually help solidify his point, by showing that those that use the old school services, rarely have anything important to contribute…

      • Willis

        Zzzz…attempting to negate my feelings and thoughts shows that it is actually only your post that is unnecessary.

        “Prehistoric” is a term that relates to history before a written record, so you’ve used the wrong word in trying to say that Hotmail or AOL are no longer valid. Both services may be old, but they do the same thing successfully as Gmail and other more current services. As for value of contribution, there are two sides to that valuation (from the standpoint of the sender as well as the receiver). While you may not value what I express, others may. Your opinion is one that I do not value. FYI – I’m not using Hotmail to add my comment to this thread. Duh!

  8. Jarrett

    This isn’t just a music industry (industries!) issue!

    And, if you think anything longer than 5 sentences is long (even between cold contacts)… you got another thing coming.

    And yes, capitalize where appropriate. We in the non-music world actually do appreciate a little more effort — and frankly, I think its just Ari’s circle that doesn’t capitalize.

    • Jennifer

      Trust me, we in the music world appreciate it too! If someone doesn’t show the bare modicum of respect by using punctuation and capitalization, chances are I’m not going to show them the respect of reading their email. What crappy advice!