Is SMS Marketing for Musicians Still a Thing?

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Photo credit: Fausto Sandoval

As an indie artist, I’m always looking for the best way to engage with my fans. And I’m sure you feel the same way. A few years ago, SMS marketing for musicians became the new hot thing. But is it still relevant? Is it still effective? Short answer: yes and yes. But only if you do it thoughtfully and intentionally. Here’s how you can get started…

What Is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing is just text message marketing. (In case you’re curious, SMS stands for “Short Message Service”). So people give you their phone number and allow you to text them about your music.

Why Use SMS Marketing?

We’ve seen social media platforms change drastically since they launched. For example, we went from chronological feeds to curated algorithms. The companies behind these platforms change how their apps work all the time.

And that’s the thing: these apps belong to the companies, not to you and me. We don’t have direct access to our fans through these platforms.

This is why SMS marketing can be really good for indie musicians. If and when social media apps change how things work – or worse, if they go away completely – you will still be able to contact your fans directly.

It’s the same idea behind email marketing, just with people’s phone numbers.

How To Grow Your SMS List

So how do you get people to give you their number? Here are some methods you can try:

  • Collect numbers at your live performances
  • Offer people an unreleased song in exchange for their number and use a keyword they can text in (all the best SMS platforms let you do this)
  • Do a giveaway of your merch
  • Just ask – post on social media something like “Hey you should text me: [YOUR PHONE NUMBER]”

How To Use SMS Marketing the Right (and Legal) Way

Using SMS marketing effectively as an indie musician means you have to be thoughtful and strategic. So here are some ways to approach text message marketing so you’re staying legal and also not annoying people.

Stay legal

This is obvious, but you have to get permission. Don’t buy phone number lists. Don’t just text random numbers. People hate that, and they will hate you. It’s also a legal thing.

You also have to stay in compliance, but any reputable SMS marketing platform will ensure you do this (or at least provide resources for your education).

Lastly, make sure it’s clear how people can opt-out. Respecting a person’s choice to opt-out helps them respect you, even if they don’t want to get your texts.

Use it for (mostly) essential messaging

You can’t text your fans too often or you will annoy them. So here are some essential reasons why you may send out an SMS campaign:

  • Tour or show announcements
  • New music
  • Unreleased music
  • New merch
  • Sales on merch

If you think of some interesting conversation starters that fit within your brand, feel free to send out an SMS campaign. Just make sure you respond to every text. People expect a reply, and you don’t want to leave your fans on read.

Segment and personalize

On your SMS marketing platform, assign your subscribers to different lists and use tags. This will make it easier to contact your fans based on location, purchase history (concert tickets/merch), and how they opted into your list (like via a keyword or giveaway).

And whenever you send a campaign, use the “first name” tag so it will autofill the person’s name. If you have the names of some subscribers but not others, you can make the no-name subscribers’ first names “there.” That way, your message would be something like “Hey there…”, while still including the name of the subscribers who have given you their name.

Ultimately, you’re trying to build a lifelong connection with your fans through SMS marketing. Think long-term. Don’t annoy your fans. Always respond to their texts. Message them the way you would be okay with if you were in their position.