The incredibly simple secret to writing emails that get replies

Everyone working in music receives a lot of emails all the time for a wide variety of reasons. Writers and music critics, for example, receive press releases from anyone with an artist or release to promote who is smart enough to find their email address. They also have messages from editors, personal contacts, and – in the case of blog editors – aspiring professionals looking for an opportunity. It’s overwhelming, and it is becoming increasingly hard for any one message to stand out.

Many marketing blogs will tell you that an eye-catching subject line is all you need to get someone to open your message. This may be true in certain circumstances, but an open only brings a reader to your message – it does not make them engage with it.

If people don’t like what they see at first glance your email is no more successful than the messages that were trashed without an open. Grammar and structure aside, there is one thing that can grab the attention of a writer (or anyone) at first glance:

Use their name.

First or last or both, doesn’t matter. Just use it.

This seems surprisingly simple, and it is, but the vast majority of publicists, artists, and others vying for attention these days do not take the few seconds needed to properly address the recipient of their emails.

Here is a sampling of the most common, least engaging greetings being used today:

  • Dear Music Blogger
  • Hello, Music Friends!
  • Dear [Wrong Name]
  • Media Friends:
  • To whom it may concern
  • ATTN:
  • [Name] <– This happens when they leave what should be automated forms blank, and it happens a lot.

Technology may make connecting with one another easier than ever before, but it still lacks the personal touch of traditional conversation. Even letters written by hand required something more tactile than digital message can allow. Using someone’s name tells them you view them as something more than a faceless body existing in the void of the internet that you seek to use for leverage in the entertainment industry. It’s so simple, yet can mean so much. It tells someone you see them and their work, which often is the result of great sacrifice, and it subconsciously makes them care a bit more for what you have to share.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.