Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a Nashvillian” or the Nashville experience. “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew


As we head toward Christmas, please do not forget those less fortunate than you. To make sure homeless human beings receive the food, love, and friendship they need, please donate to the Nashville Rescue Mission by calling (615) 255-2475 or by visiting Nashvillerescuemission.org.  Thank you.


The “Grow Your Following” Series
for Singer/Songwriters and Bands

Part 5:  Building a Large, Effective E-mail List

by Dave Carew

In my most recent novel, one of the central characters is a female singer-songwriter in Nashville who passionately yearns to perform…then makes sure few people know about it. The mystery of why she does this is a driving force in the story.

But if you’re like most singer-songwriters, you want everyone to know you’re performing. And you hope they’ll all show up at your gig. A key way to make this happen is to have a large, targeted e-mail list. (“Targeted,” in this case, meaning “those people most likely to come to future shows.”)

How do you do that? I posed that question to Josh Jackson, lead singer of The Josh Jackson Band and of Yes Dear. In the year before I asked Josh, he had taken his band from total obscurity to being named “Best Nashville Rock Band” in the Nashville Scene Reader’s Poll.

Here’s what Josh told me:

“When I was launching The Josh Jackson Band, I took some time and e-mailed as many local musicians and music outlets as I could, introducing the band,” he said. “We had about 100 people sign up for our e-mail list just from this one effort. Also, giving family and friends our web address garnered a ton of additions.”

Josh told me his e-mail list grew, in no time flat, to more than 350 names.

A crucial second step is to capture e-mail addresses while you’re actually at your gigs. One standard way is to simply have an e-mail sign-up sheet at the door, often managed by the person taking the cover charge. And here’s another way: Before the show, place several postcard-sized, e-mail sign-up cards on every table in the venue. After you’ve performed about four songs, let people know there will be a drawing for a free CD (or whatever) soon, and that, in order to be eligible, they must complete the e-mail sign-up card and place it in a hat, which a friend of the band can take around the room. In my experience, this commonly results in 20 to 40 new additions to your e-mail list per gig. Multiply that times the number of shows you do per year, and you can see how your e-mail list can grow exponentially.

David M. (Dave) Carew is editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance publicist and copywriter.


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