E-Mail Rocks for Christian Music Site

Christian music fans “constitute the most loyal audience in the world,” says Tim Landis, president of Christian music Web site iTickets.com, and now he has the numbers to back that up.

An e-mail campaign to 165,207 people this fall drew a response rate of 9.57 percent. The result is even more impressive considering that recipients had to complete a lengthy survey before being entered in a drawing to win a pair of tickets to one of two Christian music festivals next summer.

“In order to qualify, people had to give us a lot of demographic information,” Landis said. “It probably took five minutes to complete the survey. Getting all the demographic information helps us flesh them out for our database. E-mail list rental is a big part of our business, and this information will help that end of the business in the future.”

Landis described the festivals as the “Christian Woodstock” with 70,000 per day expected to attend Creation East in Mount Union, PA, and 19,000 to 21,000 daily expected for Creation West in George, WA. He is a co-founder of the Creation Festival. Come Alive Ministries Inc. directs the festival, and another Landis-owned firm, JMS Productions LLC, is its producer.

ITickets, Lancaster, PA, sent 165,207 e-mails Oct. 19, with 95,389 in HTML and 69,818 using text-only format.

“We have people in our database who can take HTML or text, and just to be on the safe side, we send text to people who have not been prequalified to receive HTML,” he said. “If we would have put more effort into it, the response rate would have been higher. We were in such a hurry to do this, and we basically needed to get it out immediately. The response was good considering we spent practically no time on it. I’m extremely happy.”

Respondents gave their name, address, city, state, ZIP code, age, gender and e-mail address. Recipients were targeted based on ZIP codes within 350 miles of the festival’s two locations. They included those who have visited iTickets.com or bought tickets to Christian-themed events through the site.

“I would say less than 20 percent of those who received the e-mail were people who have attended Creation Festivals in the past,” Landis said.

The survey also required the respondents to offer information about their background, including whether they belonged to a youth group or were a high school or college graduate.

In addition to building the iTickets.com database and promoting the show, another purpose of the e-mail campaign was to learn which acts fans wanted to see at the festivals.

“It was a spur of the moment thing, and I needed help booking it,” Landis said of the concert. “I know who the headliners are, but I needed to get feedback to book the B- and C-level acts. We had a couple of surprises, and some acts did better than I thought they would.”

The subject line read: “Help us book Creation 2003 & possibly win Creation tickets.” They were asked to rank their top 10 Christian artists in order. Recipients could choose from 250 Christian music acts or enter a band of their choice in the “other” category.

Landis would not disclose the campaign’s cost but said that “even if it was 6 cents per name, that’s less than $10,000. Compare that to a direct mail campaign where you would easily spend 35 or 40 cents to target each name.”

The immediacy of e-mail also was a plus.

“If I would’ve done direct mail, it would’ve cost a whole lot more and taken forever to get the responses back,” he said. “I got most of the responses in a week, and the results are still straggling in. This was not an easy thing for people to do because of all the information we required to complete the survey.”

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