Why you never get an email response

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This is an excerpt from Ari Herstand’s book How to Make It in the New Music Business (second edition).

We’ve all been there. You’re attempting to manage your business, but one extremely necessary party isn’t responding to your emails.

I know this can be awfully frustrating when you’re contacting clubs for potential shows, music supervisors for placement, other musicians for favors, press for reviews, or festivals for booking and no one is getting back to you. So what do you do?

Follow up. The key to this industry is polite persistence.

I’ve gotten nearly everyone to reply to my email through this method (even rock stars and big-time managers). If after three beautifully crafted emails they still haven’t gotten back to you, don’t get discouraged. 

They’ll scan your email each time—if not just the subject line or sender field—and each time they’ll make a mental note (always Reply from the original email so they can see the thread and the subject line says “Re:_____”). If they see a seventh email from you with each one more polite than the last, they’ll eventually write you back.

If people don’t respond to your email, it isn’t because they hate you. It isn’t because your music sucks. It isn’t because they found out you slept with their ex (well… maybe).

It’s because they just don’t have the time. Right. Now.

I know it’s tough to say the same thing over and over again, but find a way to be just as kind each time with different wording. And above all, keep the emails short. One of the reasons people don’t respond is because they open your email and see it’s a mini-novel. No one has the time for that. 

And remember, keep your initial email under eight sentences. “But Ari, I just spent three weeks crafting the most poetic, perfectly worded essay explaining why there has never been a band more ideal than us to play this club.” Don’t care. Delete. Rewrite. Eight sentences! No more!

It’s also about timing and luck. Some days they’re putting out fires, and other times they’re staring aimlessly at their computer screen when your email comes in and reply right away.

Also, to help curb your neuroses, install the email add-on HubSpot to see who has, in fact, opened your email (syncs with Gmail, Outlook and Apple Mail).

You’ll at least know if the other party was interested enough to even give it an open. If not, maybe you should update your subject line (but still reply from the original email with the “Re:___ .” But even if they do open it (as noted above), they may just not have the time to respond or deal with it. So, again, follow up.

Once you do get an email response, you should reply right away. Do not make them wait (like they made you wait). This is not a dating game via text. If they’ve finally taken the time to devote the mental and emotional effort it takes to fully concentrate on your issue in this moment, every passing minute from when they hit Send to when you reply, they will increasingly lose interest. And if you wait too long to reply to their response, you may have to play the follow-up game all over again.

On one occasion, I had been trying to get into a club (that will go unnamed) for months (years). One day I finally got a response. I immediately replied back, and then the booker immediately responded back to me. And we basically had about 20 back and forths within the span of 10 minutes. I was top of mind, so it was super easy to just continue the conversation. Show booked, negotiated, locked down (with some jokes thrown in for good measure), in 10 minutes (+ 3 years).

Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make it in the New Music Business (second edition), a Los Angeles based musician and the founder of the music business education company and blog Ari’s Take. Follow him on Instagram @ariherstand.

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