nicole.medina-(gestion.cultural)
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Nicole Martín Medina

Gestora Cultural – Abogada/MBA

Don’t try to sell a steamroller to a symphony orchestra

Misunderstood email marketing and other failed attempts to make contact

 

Today, I received an email from an unknown sender stating that email marketing is not dead, it is more alive than ever. For a second, I’m thinking. I reviewed a few emails I’ve seen lately, and I think again that it may not be dead, but I wouldn’t say it’s in good shape either. At least not in the manner in which email marketing for artists’ representatives or artists ought to be conducted. Personally, I think it’s a road to death. That is, to the email bin right away.

I laugh to myself, and I convince myself that it is, and that I already have a new idea to write about.

For many years, I have been receiving messages and emails from artists, artists’ representatives, or managers because of my work and my growing visibility on the internet through my social networks and blog. Some people just want to make themselves known, while others ask for an interview or meeting. Others directly offer their products for sale. All of these objectives are legitimate. Anyone in their position would perform similarly, although perhaps in a different manner, I hope.

Pre-selection systems are necessary if you want to have time to attend to what is essential and urgent because you receive 50 or 100 promotional or advertising emails a day. I consider myself to have a technical profile in cultural management, so I wouldn’t give an opinion on whether a proposal is artistically valid or not. Consequently, the criteria that I employ for scrutiny are of a technical-formal nature.

Over the past few years, I have received almost everything, both positive and negative. I am aware that I am not the only one who receives all kinds of initiatives, nor am I the only one who evaluates them according to technical-formal parameters and concludes that some of them are simply bad. To put it differently, to the wastepaper basket.

It surprises me that so many people in cultural management are still trying to access the market in this way, despite all the information that exists today on digital marketing and communication.

There is a lot of information available on how to run a good digital or classical marketing campaign. However, I have not seen much that discusses what not to do.

I’m not claiming to be a marketing expert. Of course, I studied marketing at various times during my education, particularly focusing on digital marketing. Nonetheless, the conclusions I am about to present are derived from my daily encounter. You don’t need to be a professor to see that this cannot be the right way to go because some of what I will say is so eye-catching. This new post discusses what you should avoid when trying to get an artist contract.

 

Preamble.

Don’t try to sell a steamroller to a symphony orchestra.

To make clear what this article is about, I begin with what I consider to be total nonsense. I’m getting weekly business or sales proposals for symphony orchestras that offer us:

  •  e-bikes (Is this supposed to be an electronic bike? Looking on google, the “e” in this case stands for the word electric, not electronic. So I get it);
  • stock market investment proposals (i.e. someone want to offer us money for our shares – I beg your pardon? In the case of a foundation? [1]   – or they’re looking to get us involved in offshore projects and other weird stuff [2]).
  •  or heavy machinery used in construction or industry (Seriously?).

 

No intentes vender una apisonadora a una orquesta sinfónica - Email marketing mal entendido y otros intentos fracasados de toma de contacto
Picture: Pixaby - dimitrisvetsikas1969

 

It is true that certain machinery is utilized in an orchestra or theatre for assembly and transportation, but what about bulldozers, steamrollers, and tractors?

The only explanation I can think of is that some more or less serious companies sell email lists, and, as you can see, they are not worth a penny. The segmentation they offer is lousy.

 

 

A. When contacting someone as an employee of a cultural organisation or company

 

1. Check the name of the company you are writing to to make sure you are not using a false or wrong name of the entity you are writing to.

I am amazed at how many emails I have received that have the name of the orchestra spelt incorrectly, or that have confused us with another orchestra or organization. They are numerous.

There is often a confusion between symphony orchestras and philharmonic orchestras; there are also symphony or philharmonic societies that have slipped through the net. It is similar to confusing La Palma with Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Palma de Mallorca.

In any case, if I receive an email addressed to a company for which I am not employed, I promptly delete the email.

OK, I am usually a good person, and sometimes I answer and explain the confusion in order to help. Now, if this error is followed by others, I don’t think about it: recycle bin. There are too many messages coming in every day to be able to respond to them all.

 

2. Check the names of the people you are addressing, and make sure that they at least still work in the company you are writing to.

The second point to avoid is addressing individuals, particularly managers, who have not been employed by the organization to which they are writing for a considerable period of time. Positively, you should check whether the person you are addressing really still occupies his or her position or opt for a generic alternative heading.

I imagine such situations arise when the names of employees are posted on a company’s website or even when, in the past, there was a personal connection. The sender jotted down the contact info at some point and hasn’t checked them again.

However, you must not send mass email on autopilot. I am unable to quantify the number of hundreds of emails that have been addressed to individuals who have been employed elsewhere for a period of ten to fifteen years. Yet, another reason to rule out contact. A huge lack of interest in my institution is shown by anyone who doesn’t check whether the people they are addressing are still with the company. Recycle bin.

 

3. Don’t send offers that don’t match the organization’s artistic program.

I understand that this point could be an annex to the first point, but I don’t see it in the same way. At this point, it is about artistic proposals in the broadest sense. Even so, they don’t look much better. The difference is that I usually laugh at them, as the case may be.

These are instances where artistic proposals are sent without having examined the website of the recipient company or its season and programming. The offers sent indicate a total mismatch between what is offered and the artistic aims and interests of the company.

A famous example throughout Europe of how not to do email marketing is the offer of the Alphorn concerts.

How do I know that it is a famous example throughout Europe? By having coffee breaks at orchestra management congresses.

During the recent congresses I have attended in various European countries, among my colleagues, we have engaged in a lot of laughter regarding this particular topic. We had all received this artistic proposal on several occasions. In certain instances, it appeared to us as though we were sending a chimbasso to a butcher’s without any further explanation. I guess you get my point.

Don’t get me wrong. It is an exquisite and artistically intriguing proposal, featuring an instrument that I have always admired for its distinctive sound. However, it would be prudent for the sender to carefully evaluate whether the proposal aligns with the artistic direction of the respective orchestra or company. Furthermore, it would be unwise to repeat the proposal every few months without prior segmentation.

Another suggestion for the waste paper basket.

 

No intentes vender una apisonadora a una orquesta sinfónica Email marketing mal entendido y otros intentos fracasados de toma de contacto 2
Picture: Pixaby mklisch

 

4. Do not submit offers that are not in line with the cultural enterprise’s size, budget, or other factors.

In point three, the mismatch between the offer and the contacted company results from its objective and programming, now it is more quantitative than qualitative.

For example, there are artists who send entire projects, all of which are valid and interesting, without first informing themselves about the logistical and budgetary possibilities of the recipient.

Some of you will tell me that in order to know this information, you must first get an interview or a meeting. While this is not an unreasonable refutation, it is not entirely correct either, since it is not necessary to know confidential details. It is imperative to acquire a comprehensive understanding, expressed in figures, of the artistic direction in which an orchestra or organization is proceeding.

Particularly in orchestras funded with public funds, which constitute the vast majority in Spain, there exist publications that contain legally established information on transparency. These publications contain compulsive economic-financial data, such as the annual budget, the number of concerts performed, the number of personnel hired, and even the annual accounts with all the valuable information they contain.

Sending a project with a hypothetical budget that appears to be destined for the Chicago Symphony to a nearby orchestra established as a private association with a tight budget is a waste of time. It should be borne in mind that budgets submitted are often doubled or tripled in the end due to strategic and logistical inadequacies. Furthermore, it is even worse.

Once again, the sender has not completed their homework and will ultimately end up in… where? Indeed, in the recycling bin.

 

5. Don’t just send whatsoever, calling it a CV

This point is another pet peeve of mine because it is something easy to do well. As we approach the era of artificial intelligence, my comprehension of it is diminishing. How is it possible that so many people in the industry are unable to write a decent CV, either in text or table format?

I sometimes receive one or more pages with a single block or paragraph of text and two odd columns, using a hardly legible font, with figures sometimes in numbers and sometimes in letters, and without any highlighting. There is no academic background, no professional experience, or other categories.

For a symbolic example, here are two photos:

 

Curriculum vitae in text format:

Nicole Martín Medina - Don't try to sell a steamroller to a symphony orchestra
Picture: Pixaby - analogicus

Curriculum vitae in tabular format:

Nicole Martín Medina - Don't try to sell a steamroller to a symphony orchestra
Picture: Pixaby - terimakasih0

 

I would say that the old-fashioned table format curriculum in Word is now almost obsolete. Digital arrangements of visually appealing and dynamic tables have replaced it. In today’s world of Canvas and company, you must know more than just opening a list without a heading and closing.

To make things even worse, imagine getting the CV without correct or complete contact information. Recycle bin.

The internet is full of tutorials and articles on how to write a good CV and how to design it attractively so to stand out from the thousands of CVs we receive. It’s not that hard, but it does require some time and effort, and I’ve noticed that plenty of artists don’t bother and stick with the same document for a long time.

In the case of musicians, I would like to add that in this context, it is also not advisable to send home videos of us singing in the bathroom, or playing the cello on the terrace with our pot-bellied neighbour having a barbecue, regardless of how beautifully we play. OK? 

I am not exaggerating[3], I am not. I am still able to recall the name of the sender.

 

B. By establishing communication with an individual through informal, more private channels such as social media, personal email, and the like.

 

More and more contacts are made through LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and so on, as the popularity of social networking continues to boom. So far, everything seems good. When we make contact through the network, the rigour and seriousness with which we usually approach a company by post or email are often lost. Although, this is not serious because it seems to be one of the characteristics of these means of communication, roughly speaking.

However, if making contact via social networks is more like an attempt to flirt, I, personally, don’t find it funny any more.

 

6. Be careful not to confuse an artistic proposal with a sentimental proposal.

I get numerous messages from unknown artists who find me on one of my social networks, asking how I’m doing. Afterwards, they await.

After some time, they write “Hello, how are you?” Maybe they add something along the lines of “Are you online at THIS hour?” (It is not odd that I am online at this hour. The strange thing is that you are contacting me in the middle of the night.).

Being taught to be nice and polite makes me want to say something, but I don’t know what yet. What am I supposed to say to something like that from a person, I don’t know at all?

I’d say, “Since you’re going like a bull at a gate, get to the point and say what you want. At the very least, I would have a sense of what to say.

On numerous occasions, I have replied with something akin to “Good afternoon, thank you very much for getting in touch,” only to receive one of these two responses, which I will simplify:

  •  “You have bright blue eyes.” Help! Recycle bin. Contact blocked.
  • A detailed monologue about the project they would like to offer me. Schlag mich tot[4] .

You might think these are isolated instances, but they’re not. I need more numbers than I have fingers on my body in order to count the cases in the last two years alone.

 

 7. Building a business network is a long-term undertaking. Don’t get too confident.

Furthermore, I do not consider it advisable to ask for contact with someone and then, as soon as you are accepted, send a sermon about your projects, skills, and worth as an artist. This could potentially be a variation of point six.

I wonder if the people who sent these messages never thought about why the person they’re addressing should take the time to read their message out of all the others. There is not even an introduction, kindly asking the sender to read the proposal.

Social media only works over time. Strategies implemented in a sudden manner are ineffective and ultimately result in failure.

Digital relationships ought to be established without any form of solicitation, akin to the traditional methods of good friendships, wherein we established contact based on shared interests and the pleasure of getting to know the other individual. With the passage of time, perhaps it is possible to ask to be considered.

In my case, anyone who contacts me without further ado and bombards me with commercial messages will immediately be deleted. And I am certainly not the only one.

It is imperative to mention that requesting the mobile or email address of a third-party (such as a colleague, friend, or other) from an unknown individual as soon as they establish contact is a complete no-go.

 

No intentes vender una apisonadora a una orquesta sinfónica Email marketing mal entendido y otros intentos fracasados de toma de contacto
Picture: Pixaby – geralt

However, it has also happened to me.

 

C. No, not at all.   Therefore, never!

Finally, there are three things you shouldn’t do in any situation, whether it’s official or private.

Nicole Martín Medina - Don't try to sell a steamroller to a symphony orchestra
Picture: Cripi at Pixaby

8. Errors and typos

In digital times when language is reduced to symbols, emoticons, abbreviations and hippogriffs, if foreigners like me manage to write decently, a native Spaniard (or Englishman) cannot confuse “haiga” with “haya” or “haber”. Similar English mistakes might be confusing “lose” with “loose”, “their” with “they’re” or misspell “two”, “to” and “two”.

I am aware that I occasionally miss accents of the Spanish language, exhibit handwriting dances, and am also capable of omitting a subjunctive.

However, I assure you that I will never confuse “haber” with “a ver” (or in English “your” with “you’re”) or misconjugate verbs with vowel alternation. I’m sorry. There is nothing to argue about.

To avoid any confusion, I am not referring to a WhatsApp message that is quickly typed with two fingers between work colleagues, friends, or acquaintances, but rather to emails, letters, or contact via Messenger or private messaging on other social networks.

If we are sending an artistic proposal privately, via social networks, or through official company channels, it must be well-written. At least in my opinion, this is another reason to discard someone. Again, another email to the recycle bin.

 

9. Undisclosed recipients

Another one of my favourite technical-formal errors is those that are addressed to an undetermined group of recipients, such as undisclosed recipients.

If I sense that the message is not addressed to me, it is as straightforward as that. If a message is not labled in a personalized way, I don’t have time to read it. 

Nicole Martín Medina - Don't try to sell a steamroller to a symphony orchestra
Picture: Maklay62 at Pixaby

Even worse, when the undisclosed recipients are fairly disclosed. In these cases, the sender has copied hundreds of email addresses without taking care of the data protection rights of each of them.

This occurred to me last week.

As a cultural manager in an orchestra, I suddenly received correspondence from an educational institution with MediaMarkt. Do you believe this is feasible?

No, I have not read it. I do not consider this to be a serious proposal or, put another way, I would not want to enter into a contractual relationship with someone who does not take the slightest care about confidentiality at work and makes a slip-up like this. To the trash basket.

To top it all off, it was a vocational school seeking employment opportunities for its students. I cannot believe it when I see these things, because if that’s what students are taught, then no wonder access to the market for young people under 26 is so complicated.

 

10. Insist and insist, and do not accept a polite refusal.

If, in the end, a proposal has been passed through the filter without ending up in the recycle bin and at the same time  it has been answered by me – either because I have passed it on to the person concerned or because I have dealt with it in one way or another personally – if I have even answered several times, explaining the why and how of each decision, I should expect to be accepted and respected. Especially in situations where the answer was negative. One must know how to accept such a refusal and not insist on it repeatedly because, in this way, one closes doors for the future. Among colleagues we call these cases “the clingys”. Where will all the nags end up? That’s right. In the wastepaper basket.

Although some of these points may seem unbelievable, I have seen them all, through rather private channels and at work, and many of them on multiple occasions.

Cultural managers are often overwhelmed by email marketing offers. To get a favorable response, and perhaps in the future, a contract, you have to do your homework and study very well who you are addressing and why you are addressing this person or company. To prevent typos, it is imperative that someone corrects us, as we are unable to discern our own errors.

It is also imperative to seek advice if uncertain.

A missed opportunity can have a permanent impact.
Bad impressions are often irrevocable.

There is so much literature on how we can improve our documentary appearance. It should not be that difficult to avoid at least these 10 mistakes.

For the reader who may be interested, I have attached, as usual, a selection of sources that provide guidance on utilizing email marketing effectively and crafting an appealing and effective design (only Spanish language).

 

And with this, we’re done for today … Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you are interested in learning more about marketing in cultural management, kindly leave me a comment through the usual channels.

 

Nicole Martín Medina

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

April 2024

(Originally in Spanish/Translation Deepl/Revision NMM)
 
 
NOTE:
This article is available in German and Spanish, too. 

GERMAN: https://nicolemartinmedina.com/de/missverstandenes-e-mail-marketing/

SPANISH (original): https://nicolemartinmedina.com/email-marketing-mal-entendido/

 

 

*****
 
NOTES A PIE: 

[1] For my readers who do not know the law, a foundation has no shareholders or partners, it is a non-profit legal entity. It is absurd to want to invest in its shares, as the share capital is not divided into securities or shares.

[2] As if the culture world had plenty of money to invest in off shore companies.

[3]I am not exaggerating at all. However, I have modified the specific example out of apprehension that someone might recognize him or herself

[4]This German expression is translated as “smash me dead, die suddenly”.

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