10 Tips for Open-Worthy Subject Lines

10 Tips for Open-Worthy Subject Lines

According to Constant Contact’s April 2018 report on email marketing industry averages, the Art, Culture, and Entertainment industry had an average open rate of 17.18% and click-through rate of 7.39%. This means that most of your email list—many of whom are likely valued collectors—will never see the artists, press releases, and offers inside your emails.

Galleries rely on email marketing because it is the most direct and guaranteed way to reach collectors at a very low cost. So, how can you beat the numbers, and make sure your emails are making an impact? When it comes to email marketing, a compelling subject line is your first line of defense.

Below, read the Artsy Email Marketing Team’s 10 tips for creating a winning subject line to boost your open rates and avoid getting sent to spam.

1. Have You Tried Leading With a Question?

Asking a thought-provoking question in the subject line catches readers’ attention by addressing them directly.


  • Coverage of major show “Which show has X publication talking?”
  • Art fair booth “We’re ready for Armory. Are you?”
  • Event “Count you in for the X party?”
  • Holiday “Looking for something special?”

2. Or Captivating Them With…

A great cliffhanger can make your email stand out in the fullest inboxes. When it comes to emails, curiosity drives clicks.


  • Featured/solo show “Guess who’s back in New York… ”
  • Art fair “Our best booth ever? See for yourself…”
  • General “You won’t want to miss—”
  • Holiday “Make sure no one gives the same gift as you”

3. Use Dynamic Language.

The language you use in an email can be less formal than a press release, so use the opportunity to excite collectors and promote your artists. When sending announcements for upcoming events, drive engagement with energetic language and a clear call to action.


  • Event “Mark your calendar…”
  • Upcoming art fair “See it to believe it—Gallery x Fair”
  • Collectors “Shake up your collection with these artists”
  • Holiday “Give the gift that’s *truly* one of a kind”

4. Communicate Concisely

Say it in seven words…(or fewer).

5. Choose Words Carefully

A compelling email subject does not have to be a gimmick—if humor does not fit with your gallery’s voice, don’t force it. Before approving any public-facing communications ask, “Would I say this to a collector?” It’s also a good idea to identify language to avoid, like these common trigger words that may send your email to spam.

6. Create Urgency, Spark Curiosity

A sense of urgency makes for irresistibly clickable emails, and an exciting subject line teasing newsworthy press releases, upcoming openings, or exclusive content encourages a reader to learn more.


  • Group show “Meet the artists your collection is missing”
  • Solo show “Quick! Catch X before she’s gone”
  • Art fair “3 days only—don’t miss us at X!”
  • Holiday “Get a/an [artit’s name] before it’s too late”

7. Write Multiple Subject Lines

Artsy’s email marketing team writes at least 20 possible subject lines for every email it sends. Use this opportunity to experiment with style and tone. Collect learnings from past email campaigns, even if it is anecdotal feedback from email recipients. What styles have worked in the past?

8. Check Your Personal Email

Keep an archive of emails from publications, museums, and e-commerce sites that stand out to you and your team. The more emails you read, the more trends you’ll notice and the better you’ll be at standing out in a crowded inbox.

9. Use a Tool to A/B Test Subject Lines

Email marketing platforms like MailChimp and Constant Contact allow you to easily A/B test subject lines, which can boost your open rate. These tools enable you to test different subject lines with a small sample of the full email audience so that you can send the remaining list the email with the winning subject line.

10. Track Performance

Keep a record of your emails with the highest open and click rates (as well as the lowest). Have any recent emails had high unsubscribe rates? Don’t give up if your open rate is below the industry average—keep trying new things and learn from past email campaigns.

Rethinking your approach to email subject lines is a great place to start strengthening your gallery’s digital communications. Use these tips to brainstorm email subject lines with your team and compare new subject line ideas with previously sent emails. Lastly, keep in mind the specific purpose of each email, and continue to deliver high-quality, engaging content that is worth opening.

Artsy has the industry’s highest email open rates, reaching the art world’s most engaged inboxes. Each week, our network of gallery partners benefit from this engagement when Artsy collectors receive personalized artwork recommendations from thousands of galleries around the globe.