Let’s talk about spam.

You go home and sift through today’s mail (actual mail, from the mailbox outside your house, that the mailman delivers). You get a few bills, a birthday card from grandma (hopefully with $5 in it), and a bunch of junk mail. You know what junk mail is. I mean, how many people really win a million dollars in a sweepstakes that they never actually entered? You toss the junk mail in the garbage – possibly with the bills – then put grandma’s card on the shelf.

It’s annoying, but you train yourself to discard the junk. You expect a certain amount of this type of mail, so it’s not a surprise. You learn to spot it so you don’t waste your time opening it.

That pretty much sums up the effectiveness of the mass emails you send promoting your music.

Here’s a couple of stats. Mass emails usually have about a 3% open rate. An open rate is how many people actually open the email that you sent. Since spam accounts for a high percentage of our mail, we’re already accustomed to opening only a select few of the emails that we receive.

Next, a good click-through rate is about 15%. A click-through rate is how many people actually clicked whatever link you sent in your email. If you have a clever enough subject title, they might open the email. But once they see it’s music, 85% will just click out of it.

Oh, and that’s 15% of the 3%, by the way. Not 15% of what you originally sent.

So let’s say you’ve collected 1,000 email addresses. That means approximately 3%, or 30 people, will open it. Out of those 30, 15% will actually click the link. That’s about 4 or 5 people.

Now comes the conversion rate. A conversion rate is the percentage of people who actually liked the music and either bought the album, signed up for the mailing list or whatever else your goal was. I’ll estimate very high here and assume your music is really good and your conversion rate was 25%.

That gives you a grand total of 1 person.

Out of the 1,000 emails that you sent out.

Starting to understand why mass emails might not be the best marketing strategy for an artist?

I know what some of you will say. “It’s worth sending out a ton of emails just to get those 30 people to listen.” Well, let’s talk about the other 999 people you emailed that didn’t become fans. Chances are, you’ve ended up being marked as spam by a majority of them, effectively ending your opportunity to send them music ever again. And if you’re lucky, some of them merely ignored you. But guess what? Once they ignore your email, chances are they’ll ignore anything you send after that, because your brand has already been associated with junk.

These are firm statistics, by the way. I’m not skewing anything to try and prove a point. These are facts. Marketing executives get paid very well to understand how to properly quantify marketing campaigns.

I’ll explain why spam still exists. Despite an extremely low conversion rate, it is still a relatively cost-effective way for small companies to market – especially if they’re selling a gimmick. They buy mailing lists and an inexpensive mailing list program and shoot out millions of emails. 0.5% of 1,000 might not get you very far, but 0.5% of 1,000,000 will (that’s 5,000). And if you’re selling penis enhancement pills for $50 each – when they cost you next to nothing because they’re basically tic-tacs – or if you’re stealing identities (which make up an enormous percentage of these emails), well, spam can be quite an effective means of marketing. If you reach out to enough people, you will find some who are naive enough to fall for it. That’s why the Prince of Nigeria sends you emails asking you to help him launder his deceased father’s fortune out of the country. Out of a million people, you’re bound to find a few thousand who are willing to send you their bank account and social security numbers. Sad but true.

But as an artist, you’re selling your brand. You’re selling you. And if you’re just throwing your name out there and hoping that someone stumbles onto it, well, you’re already setting yourself up for failure. Throwing shit against the wall and hoping something sticks is not the method you want to use, I can assure you. Your brand needs value. If people are already associating your brand with spam or junk, then you’ve already diluted it to the point where the music won’t matter.

See, penis implant companies don’t care how people view their brand because their company name is expendable. They’ll probably change the name 40 times as they mail servers flag their domains or the Better Business Bureau shuts them down. For them, it’s about the product. The idea. But for an artist, it’s all about your brand.

And @’ing people on twitter is even worse.

Imagine you’re sitting with your family, eating dinner when the phone rings. It’s someone on the line asking you to buy credit protection. You either politely ask them to take you off their list or irately scold them for calling during dinner. Either way, you hang up the phone without buying credit protection.

That’s the equivalent of @’ing someone on twitter.

It’s as annoying as walking to a restaurant with your girl and having some rapper throw a cd in your face. Then, if you take it, he tells you to give him $10.

See, we only open a small percentage of the email we receive. We aren’t forced to open the spam. We can simply ignore it. But when you log on to twitter, you usually search your mentions first, and every time you see an unsolicited music link, it ruins your twitter experience. It’s there, it’s open. It’s in your face.

Remember MySpace? Remember 90% of our messages and comments being promotions from other artists? Our friend requests being sent by bots? I haven’t looked at my YouTube or Facebook inboxes in probably over a year. It’s what ruins social media. It’ll eventually ruin twitter as well.

And no, you’re not “just getting the word out”. You’re spamming. You can call it or not call it anything you want, but you’re still sending mass, unsolicited music to people who aren’t interested. If they wanted to be kept informed of your music, they’d be following you on twitter or subscribed to your mailing list. The people who follow you are the ones who are interested. For them, you need only to post a link to the music over your own timeline. When your followers and fans see, they will be more likely to listen and RT it.

I get a lot of unsolicited links from artists whom I don’t know. They’re usually something like “check out the new smash hit “murda death kill homicide” FREE! download and RT!” When I get a tweet like that from someone I don’t know, I usually just hit “Block & Report Spam”. On occasion, I’ll look to see what else they’ve posted. When I see screens full of “check out the new smash hit ‘murda death kill homicide’ FREE! download and RT!” tweeted to not just me, but to @justblaze @kanyewest @aplusk, @kingjames and a dozen others, not only does it hurt my feelings(I kid, I kid) but it makes me wonder what that person’s plan was.

Okay, first, you don’t have a smash hit. If it was a hit, I wouldn’t need you to send me a link to it. I’d have already heard it. What you have is just another song. And second, even if your song was the greatest thing since “The World is Yours”, I promise you that Ashton Kutcher is not going to see your tweet and run to his computer to download the song and then spread it to the world.

Was that really your plan? Is there honestly a part of you that thought tweeting your link to Lebron James and telling him to “download and RT” was going to launch your career?

@iamdiddy check out the new smash hit ‘murda death kill homicide’ FREE! download and RT!

Stop. Read that sentence to yourself out loud.

Do you see how ridiculous that sounds?

I understand why artists do it. It’s free. It’s easy. You don’t need any special skills. And it’s like buying lottery tickets. Maybe the right person will hear it and make you a star.

But if that’s what you’re banking on, just buy lottery tickets.

Instead, focus your time on building relationships. That is what your priority should be. And no, that doesn’t mean tweeting Charlie Sheen and then getting frustrated when he doesn’t respond, giving you an excuse to go back to spamming. That means go build real relationships with real people. You can’t skip to the head of the line. You have to build from the ground up. There are a lot of good people trying to do the same things you are. Build with them. You aren’t in a competition.

Relationships…I’ll save that for another blog.

Agree? Disagree? Have marketing strategies or success stories of your own to share? Please leave a comment and let’s turn this into a discussion!

20 thoughts on “DOWNLOAD & RT THIS! (spam)”

  1. you know whats really fucked up though, when people who are in your corner claim to support you and you put up your music up without tweeting it directly to them and EVEN THEY IGNORE IT. If they rap also how can you not look at that as competition? If i wanted to compete i’d be battle rapping, i’m tryna make music.

    and i can honestly say i’ve seen less fortunate rappers build relationships with high level people and get farther in music than the greatest talent. Problem with the greatest talent they are like the prettiest girl in school. They feel that they don’t have to work on a boyfriend, one will come to them eventually. Problem is most these bitches are unpopular and ugly. Nobody wants they uninteresting unmotivated asses but for some reason they’ve built a world for themselves they are not Kings in…it’s pathetic.


    1. well, forming relationships with higher level people is less about music and more about personality. the friendships dont have a lot to do with the talent. it has a lot to do with the artist’s approach.

      when you get that rare artist like drake who combines talent with the ability to successfully network, you get the special artists. it’s rare, but it’s possible. either you need to have the skill set to build and maintain key relationships or you need somebody on your team that you trust that can foster those for you.


  2. I love this post, because it’s in the same vein as some other articles and debates that I’ve read this week. One was posted by entitled “Are Unsigned Rappers Turning Into Terrorists?” ( and The Independent wrote article on how Adele’s subtle nature and decision not to inundate the industry which has made her one of the most popular female artists of all time ( Very surprising in the age of Rihanna-Gaga-Beyonce. Also, I think the statistics are extremely important to note, because for the people that don’t like to read-they can understand the number game. So, I guess my question/response is: didn’t the labels do this to the industry? Haven’t they given artists the unreliable notion that “you need a street buzz” in order to even be looked at nowadays? So, how do unsigned artists find a PRACTICAL way of connecting with A&Rs, etc without attending every showcase, @’ing a mogul, or climbing a lightpole in Times Square? Have the labels and decision makers left them any other option?


    1. Just to go on your showcase line….

      If I’m reading this correctly, and I’m pretty sure I am, going to showcases is something you SHOULD be doing. Not only are they a way to get seen (not saying your going to get super exposure, just saying), but you can meet and build with other artists, as well as DJ’s, promoters and other people that can potentially help further your musical endeavors. Establish a dialogue with these people about all sorts of things, not just music…that way, when you DO talk about your music its appreciated more because you aren’t trying to force feed it to anyone. There are a bunch of other options out there, we just tend to gravitate to the ones that we believe to be the easiest.

      Just me dropping my double coppers into the wishing well.


      1. YES! I’m gonna speak on all that soon, but am aspiring artist should take EVERY OPPORTUNITY to perform. It is VITAL. But yea, I’ll address that soon. I’m gonna write a whole article on performing.


    2. First off – THANKS for sharing those links! We all need to do more of that. Share resources. There are TONS of great articles and info available to us. We need to keep passing these along. I will definitely read the ones you mentioned.

      Second – it depends on the label. Universal, for instance, has taken a very strong stance AGAINST blogs, websites and artists generating their own “buzz”. Many artists, however, use the blogs to stay relevant. It’s a very interesting time and we’re all curious to see how it plays out.

      But it depends on what we’re talking about – aspiring artists or those who are already signed.

      If we’re talking about aspiring artists, then yes. It is important that you can show there is interest in your brand. Now that you mentioned climbing a light pole, I’m sure there will be somebody who tries it lol. But we’re gonna get into some practical ideas in a future blog.

      I think the important thing is to do something ORIGINAL. Don’t keep copying the trends that worked before because it’s already too late and you’ll be doing the same thing as everybody else, thus effectively bunching you in with everyone else instead of standing out, which was the point of the tactic.

      Great comment tho – I’ll address the second part soon. 🙂


  3. I really, really liked this entry, because I think it touched on a point that we as people, or any one trying to push/market a product or brand tend to forget – we make it hard. Literally lol.

    I see that now especially after reading this. “You can call it or not call it anything you want, but you’re still sending mass, unsolicited music to people who aren’t interested…The people who follow you are the ones who are interested. For them, you need only to post a link to the music over your own timeline. When your followers and fans see, they will be more likely to listen and RT it.”

    This is actually true – my friends who are musicians, and the people I follow on twitter whose music I support, I definitely do retweet their shit to my followers… like usually the minute they post the link or immediately after I’ve listened lol. So this was CLARIFYING because I didn’t see that as marketing. I saw that as support. But when you put it this way, it’s clear that the people who do support you will help you market without you having to “force feed” it to them. I look forward to the “relationships” entry that’s to come. I think it’ll def be useful, especially if it addresses building relationships electronically/via social media (we all know you have to network in person).


    1. i’m glad that it made sense. it isnt trying to call anybody out. nobody’s doing it to annoy people. they’re doing it because they never learned the proper ways to market. hopefully, this (and my other articles) help a bit.


  4. This is a great article because it focuses on the importance of relationship building. Thank you for presenting this in depth article, the open rate and click through rate is something that a lot of people are not aware of.

    Thank you,


  5. Sir,

    You are a literary champion. Jesus would’ve blessed you with two bottles of wine during the last meal.


  6. It’s been a while since I’ve visited a site where I become hooked on every word. Culturevi you do a great job at laying out a well elaborated blueprint on how to succeed in one’s own way.


    1. damn i appreciate the words, for real. hearing things like this keeps me motivated to keep on writing and sharing. i’m very grateful to have an audience to be able to share these thoughts with. i know a lot of very smart, talented, experienced people who have a lot of knowledge but nobody to share it with.

      thanks again for reading!


  7. If there’s one thing that I love, it’s bringing in solid numeral facts. Highlighting the click-through rates and conversion rates are HUGE. I don’t know why artist who are trying to make a name for themselves twitter spam after seeing how that’s exactly what killed myspace & soundclick. I guess they view starting small by doing open mics, showcases and putting boots on the ground aren’t fast enough and don’t realize how counter-intuitive the spam tactic is.

    Thank you once again. Solid research like this almost shouldn’t be given away for free. You are literally writing a free “how-to” book on the internet that’s grounded in reality and facts.


    1. Yea I definitely speak in a lot of general terms, more strategy and feeling. But when I can, I definitely want to bring stone cold facts to the table. Unfortunately, plenty of people will ignore it, but at least I can say I told them.

      And yea, appreciate the words about the book. I was planning on writing one, but this industry, along with social media, changes so quickly that unless I was going to sit down and write it NOW, some of this stuff would become irrelevant. So I figured I’d just put it out here. Besides, I’m not looking to make money. I don’t want to sell the information, just share it.


  8. Reblogged this on efinit's Blog and commented:
    Social media has its benefits. It’s HOW you use it that determines if you reap those benefits. Check out Culture VI’s insightful piece on why your electronic marketing efforts may not be working.


  9. You are the shot for taking your time to help us small artist out! If my smash hit “kill death murder homicide” goes platinum I’ll be sure to pay my dues! No but I’m all seriousness thanks all these articles really help!


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