Connect With Us

Add Hypebot To Circleson

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

• MTT POSTS BY CATEGORY
• TUNE MTT RADIO
SEARCH
« Rock History: A Dialectical Narrative | Main | My Last Day On The Job. Thank You. »
Thursday
Jun242010

A&R Tips: The Art Of The Press Kit

If every artist, band or group represents it’s own brand, and must be sold as such to the public and to the music industry, then every brand needs to be packaged in a way that will effectively showcase it’s strengths and marketability. By now, most musicians understand the importance of a press kit- it is your brand, your image, it is you in a package and is the key to selling venues and a&r reps from both major and indie labels on the fact that you WILL make them money. But just making a press kit isn’t enough. In an industry with such a low barrier of entry, anyone can make and submit a press kit, decreasing your chance of actually getting recognized by those who matter. So what will you do to make your press kit more remarkable than the rest? 


There are right ways of making a press kit, and of course there are also wrong ways- but with every artist out there making one, you need more than just a ‘proper’ press kit. There are many different things that can be added in and certain techniques that can be used, that will make your press kit shine much brighter than the rest of the pile. 



Basic Types Of Press Kits

  • Traditional, physical press kit
  • Electronic press kit (EPK)

While you may be tempted to just use one or the other, it is very important that you always create a physical press kit. Not only are these more likely to be received by booking agents and a&r reps from record labels, but they can be customized in a way that the EPKs cannot, which is essential to making your press kit as attractive as possible. Not to say that EPKs are bad, because they are still a very helpful tool for promoting your music to bloggers and other online publications. But if you do decide to make one, make sure that it does not completely replace your use of physical press kits.

Currently, the most popular EPK service is SonicBids.


Gathering The Essentials

Besides being a sales pitch for booking agents and A&R reps, a press kit also needs to contain enough factual information about the artist/ band/ group to be able to base an article or review on:

Biography: Although a bio is just that, a Biography of the band (or artist), it is still a place to get creative. An interesting back story, if you have one, is a very marketable thing. All the same though, make it short and sweet- no one wants to read 5 pages of your musical history. If you have nothing special to say, get the bio over as quickly as possible.

CD demo: Bands should include their most recent music, or music that may be recognizable or has become a fan favorite. MAKE SURE IT IS A HIGH QUALITY RECORDING. No one wants to hear a low-fi demo made in a basement. Just remember, you get 30 seconds to make your case. If the person listening doesn’t find what they are looking for in your music after 30 seconds, they will most likely pass.

High Resolution Photo of the Band: An obvious must for every press kit. Not only is it very important to give press a high quality image to be reproduced in magazines, newspapers, blogs etc. but it is also a good way to showcase the look and feel of your band. Remember that no matter what you wear when you are in ‘artist’ mode, whether it’s for a photo shoot or on stage, you are making a statement.



Tour Dates (when applicable): Obviously, the more dates you have, the better it looks. By showing that others find you marketable, and are willing to book you, you will become instantly more appealing to the reps of bigger and better venues- to these people ticket sales are everything.

Past Shows (when applicable): Do yourself a favor, and leave this off the list if all you can say is ‘I played a backyard BBQ for my friends’. This is a good place to show off previous shows of importance, whether it be venues with a large capacity or sold out gigs.

Press Reviews/ Interviews (when applicable): Again, the more high-profile reviews and/or interviews you can include in your press kit, the better off you will be. This is physical proof to booking agents and A&R reps that your brand is worth something, and there is more money to be made by marketing it on a larger scale.

Contact Info: VERY IMPORTANT! Make sure you have multiple ways to be reached by those who are looking to get in touch with you. Give what ever info you would like, but make sure you leave the phone number, address and email address of the one person who represents the band, even if it is a band member. Also, to show that you are serious, create an email that is professional (i.e. my.band@yahoo.com).

Whether you use a physical press kit or an electronic press kit, the information used should remain fairly similar. However, an electronic press kit does give you some additional options such as videos and website links that may be difficult (though not impossible) to include in a physical press kit. Here is the basic info that is typically seen within an EPK:

  • Biography
  • Music clips (with accompanying lyrics)
  • High resolution press photos
  • Tour dates
  • Promotional videos
  • Website or website links
  • Press reviews and interviews, etc.
  • “RIYL” or “Recommended If You Like” list: a listing of artists of similar styles or genres
  • High resolution photos or images of the band logo, products, etc.
  • Contact information


The Competitive Advantage

Once you have all of these elements ready to go, there are some techniques that can and should be employed in order to make your press kit more appealing then all the others:

Take off the shrink wrap from the CD: This may seem insignificant, but you must look at it through the eyes of those who do look at press kit after press kit. By removing the shrink wrap, you are saving all of those looking at the press kit the headache of having to remove it themselves, keeping them in a good mindset as they listen to the first few seconds of your CD. Do you really think you will stand a chance if the person puts the disk into the player after struggling with the shrink wrapping? No… you wont.

Cover Letter: Just like with a resume, there should be a cover letter in your press kit. A cover letter is a formal and personal introduction to the band and the music. Click here if you don’t know how to create a cover letter.

NOTE: THERE IS A CORRECT WAY TO MAKE A COVER LETTER. A POORLY DONE COVER LETTER CAN HURT YOU MORE THAN NOT INCLUDING ONE!

Put Your Contact Info On Anything and Everything: Just remember, your press kit will most likely be one of many in a pile. Just as school teachers give constant reminders to put your name on all of your work, make sure you put your contact info on everything you can. Pictures get separated, CDs get removed and misplaced from their cases, cover letters get separated from the rest of the press kit, you get my drift? PUT IT ON EVERYTHING!


Proper Packaging

All of the contents of your press kit needs to be put together into one clean and professional package, as it not only reflects how serious you are about the opportunity at hand, but is a sign of respect to those receiving it. A manila folder is most likely the best option, but no matter what kind of folder you do use, make sure you get the band name printed on to it, not drawn, but printed. Again, professionalism is important and will go along way when trying to make a first impression. Also, make sure that everything stays nicely inside the folder- your press kit will be in a pile with others, if something important from your press kit falls out, such as your demo CD, you can kiss that opportunity good-bye.



At this point you have everything you need for creating an effective press kit. Just keep in mind that you represent a brand, and an overall image, and you are attempting to convince a professional that your music is marketable and WILL be profitable if given the opportunity.

What steps have YOU taken to give your press kit the competitive edge? Please answer in the form of a comment below.

Jon is the co-founder of MicControl, a music blogging network based on a music social networking platform. This post originally appeared on the MicControl blog on June 24, 2010. Jon can be found on twitter and facebook.



Reader Comments (33)

Definitely passing this on to a few people who need it.....

Excellent stuff.

I've litterally just been asked for my first hard copy press kit. I'll be using this as a checklist.

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

Excellent advice to follow here, Jon! You cover all the bases.

June 25 | Registered CommenterChris Bracco

Thanks all! Im glad you all found this helpful. Feel free to add in any recommendations/ advice to make this more comprehensive if you feel it is lacking anything.

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

@universal indie records - if you want a PDF version of the article, please let me know! I'll make it as easy as possible for you to pass the article on to others :-) Feel free to contact me via Facebook through the links above.

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

Sonic Bids is one of the classic rip off of the music industry it is such a shame that reputable people stain themselves by highlighting them. Other wise this is a cool article.

June 25 | Unregistered Commentersowait

@sowait - please feel free to suggest something better. I personally don't feel sonic bids is all that great, and I think their required use for SXSW submissions is a complete scam, but I have yet to find another service that does a better EPK.

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

In my experience having run a label, a webzine, & worked in radio - unless I love your band already I want everything to fit on one sheet of paper & anything you want me to actually read should be on the first side. A personal letter for why you are contacting me is always nice & gets my attention since a non-form letter is only included about 1% of the time.

Taking the shrinkwrap off & shoving said one sheet of paper into it is helpful as I put the stuff in a box & listen about once a month & stuff is easily lost. Also a RIYL sticker with key tracks listed on the CD is great.

Also it doesn't hurt to ask if I am interested in hearing it before sending something in & it isn't rude to contact me two weeks after the submission & a month after the submission to see what I thought of it.

I'm assuming that I'm a typical guy in the industry for these preferences.

I thought the most challenging part to being a self-promoting musician was going to be writing and recording quality music, and coming up with the money to get it replicated but honestly, it was the production of the press kit that I found out about late in the process that ended up being the stuff nightmares are made of.

For one thing, until this very post, everyone has always tried to make it seem like an EPK was not only all you needed, but is essential and that physical press kits are going the way of the CD (which, by the way, doesn't seem to be going anywhere, either). But I have had to spend literally thousands of hours trying to assemble the resources to get this done. So, with this comment, I want to share with the world some very important information:

#1 - be prepared to spend almost $1,000 getting this done; professional photography is not cheap, and neither is graphics design. Those two elements alone will run you $600 before you get to prints, folders, demo CDs, etc.

#2 - be prepared to spend three months getting this done. The ONLY group I have managed to find that specializes in artist press kits for less than $500 takes at least six weeks, mainly because it takes them 1-2 weeks to reply to your e-mail.

All that said, here were the resources I used to get this done:
Duff Ferguson - Los Angeles-based Photography
Cheap, good CD-R duplication (opt for JUST discs, no paper/paperboard sleeves, no jewel cases, or mini-jewels)
Don't have press reviews yet? Order at least FIVE reviews of your album so you can get at least 3 usable reviews for your press clippings.
Exothermic Design press kits (don't bother with the stick-ums for the CDs, just get the design and hi-res PDFs, do the prints through www.LosAngelesPrintingService.com - they are cheap, fast, and good).
AMP3633007 - Ampad Twin-pocket portfolio folders to hold BOTH the demo CD and a business card. These are insanely rare to find.

Also, since you'll probably want to include a mailing address and phone number in additional to e-mail and a website, I recommend ordering voicemail from Yahoo!

And get a US Post Office box from the US Postal service. This protects your privacy. You should also pre-order flat-rate Priority Mail envelopes from usps.com along with Ink Jet printer-friendly click-n-ship labels so you can use usps.com's Address Book to make labels for everyone that will get your press kit from the comfort of your own home. No standing in line, long waits, and the prices are even lower. Using FedEx to send your press kits will seem tempting until you find out that it will cost you three times as much.

As for a website and domain e-mail, start with GoDaddy to register a domain and get webhosting from HostBaby. These guys have a GREAT website builder and customer support to match. If you don't want to fork over 3-5 grand on a custom-made website, their system will make it look like that's what you spent on your site.

I hope that these links the information I've provided will save the average musician the migraine headaches I've had to suffer trying to figure all this out for myself. I am not kidding when I say that I have spent literally hundreds of hours on Google trying to assemble all of this information.

@Dairenn Wow thanks for the incredibly detailed input!

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

As a professional music critic, I respectfully disagree with the thrust of this article. My inbox and mailbox carry literally dozens of new bands to check out daily. If each one presented a physical press kit, I would run out of office space in a day.

I believe it is more important for a band to maintain good online resources - MySpace, Bandcamp, etc. Any music journalist worth his or her salt can look them up and use Google to access the information that a physical press kit contains. This saves all parties involved time and money.

Whenever I receive a physical press kit from an artist, I immediately downgrade them mentally as a product of the last century. There is no need to use paper and plastic resources when online ones will suffice at a fraction of the cost.

@ Brian Mitchell

Thanks for the heads up, good advice from the inside.

@ Dairenn Lombard

Good advice but I reckon you'd be able to get some cheaper work done by somebody on elance. Could be worth a look.

@ Invisible Oranges

I've been asked to send a physical press kit to the most well known UK extreme metal mag so I think you're a little further ahead than some in the industry and I remember you requested digital over physical submission when I contacted you last year.

For us in the bands, we have to cater for all the preferences of those in the industry. Some are still very old school.

June 26 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

From the comments it is apparent that artists need to have a press kit online and also in paper/plastic (just like the article says). Choosing which is more appropriate to use seems to depend entirely on the recipient. If you find out what they really want and need before sending them your stuff, you'll have a lot better shot at being taken seriously. (I'm still working on ours- thanks for all the excellent advice.)

June 27 | Unregistered CommenterJ.C. McCall

Great post & advice. Something all artists should read. I would like to make a suggestion however that a CD Demo by default means it could be better and improved so I wouldn't include a CD Demo I would include a Cd.

Warm Regards,
Zaque Eyn

June 27 | Unregistered CommenterZauque Eyn

@ Chris West & Invisible Oranges

I've had a lot of folks switch over to digital only, but here's where I get weird & have a question. I feel totally comfortable doing significant follow-up when I send someone a physical disc (usually an email a week after sending & an email every eight days (so it's received on a different day of the week) for six-ten weeks with that altered according to their response to me about what they think of the disc & whatnot); but on the digital download front, what's the appropriate amount of follow-up? The way I've generally been running it is I send out links around when I send out the first promo batch & then I send out links six weeks later with my last batch of promo follow-up (the second one has some press quotes that have been acquired during the period). Is that about right? Or should there be a third email somewhere?

@Jon Ostrow
Sorry I was MIA for a while. A pdf would be be great

@Universal Indie Records cool, no problem. Im working on getting one together from my last article as well - just waiting on getting back a high-res copy of my logo. Please reach out to me on FB at facebook.com/jon.ostrow so we can remain in contact.

Thanks!
Jon

June 28 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

I agree with @Brian Mitchell and @ invisible oranges--the amount of time and energy it takes to produce a real press kit is taxing on the artist and hardly ever recognized by the business.

I think the professional press kit comes in when an artist is at a place in their career where they have a solid revenue stream that warrants the justification of the costs. It doesn't have to be a lot of revenue, just something that says, "look, it's working, maybe we should take it to the next level!"

By that I mean--an artist must be at a place in their career where there is a solid 'demand' for a press kit of the type mentioned in this post. At this point an artist would do well secure a manager with some business experience. Then, a press kit would fall into the job description of management.

Maybe this career level is assumed already to be reached in the writing of the article? If so, just underlining it with this comment.

If the artist is not there yet, then I believe it would be better for them to hit the streets and perform in their local scene, use online social networks to leverage a fanbase, and create their 'brand' that way. Then move on from there.

This is a great topic and discussion. I really enjoy Music Think Tank.

Jason

June 28 | Unregistered CommenterJason Brock

I agree that as much effort should go into the production and packaging, as one puts into the songwriting and arranging. Furthermore, it really helps to have a well-put together package when you're promoting your band or yourself (I'm a singer-songwriter). But -- despite Dairenn's comments -- it doesn't have to cost you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars for artwork and such. If you're at all artistically inclined, you might be able to create a professional package by yourself. I did, and was told by someone at a performing rights society (whose job was to log-in all members new CD's, so he saw and heard thousands of CD's per year) that I had one of the best packaged (and best-produced) CD's he'd ever seen or heard from an independent artist. The key here is that it must really look professional -- if you can do that, you might save a lot on your CD cover & interior art, and on your website. (On the other hand, being a complete techno-nerd, I couldn't engineer or produce my own CD, so all the thousands I saved on artwork had already been spent in hiring a world-class producer and paying musicians. Oh, well -- win a few, lose a few....)
Leigh Harrison
SongCrew Music
Rego Park, NY

@sowait and @Jon Ostrow,

I feel a little sheepish responding to your question about other EPK's on the market (since my company makes one), but I'm going to assume that everyone subscribes to the 'competition is good for the market' axiom here.

Basically, we began a nearly 2-year odyssey of making our digital press kits by asking one simple question:

"What do the people who consume these digital press kits want out of them?"

Turns out they want DATA about the Artist alongside EXTREMELY RELEVANT CONTENT about the Artist. And so we built out the Reverb Press Kit (RPK).

Our press kits pull in content and data (fan demographics, fan growth, heatmaps, attendance at shows, etc) from our website (artist input), the social nets, email lists, etc, and give control to the Artist about which parts they want to share, allowing them to create multiple versions of the RPK to send to different audiences depending on what they wanted to share, with whom they want to share it, and what they want it to look like. We made it printable and exportable for the recipient, and made it easy to navigate. We made it handle as much content as the Artist wants (including videos and photos). And we charge $5.95/month for it (unlimited versions). We track who opens it, who interacts with is, and report it back to the Artist.

Here is the overview: http://www.reverbnation.com/main/overview_artist?feature=rpk

Again, sorry for the total sales pitch, but it seemed like a relevant question that someone had to answer. :)

June 29 | Registered CommenterJed Carlson

Its like God divinely placed this article in my inbox this morning. WOW!

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Lee

When a person asks me for a physical press kit my eyes roll up inside my head and I start into a fit. If you want to book CrowfeatheR why the hell do you need a press kit? You know who I am, right?

My 2nd point I'd like to add is that although a physical press kit may be necessary for a mid level band, every garage band and basement project shouldn't waste their time, energy or money on one, mostly because it takes alot of the former to do it. They should instead spend their time on things that are free. A physical press kit 9 times out of 10 will just end up really expensive trash if used in the wrong way. It would be better off to blow the money on t-shirts and give them away, at least your $10 will end up on someones back not in the trash.

My 3rd point I'd like to add is that your press kits shouldn't be wasted on anything that doesn't return a direct financial gain, like sending it to a blogger or web reviewer, send them a myspace link and follow up with a physical CD if requested. Reserve them for the huge festival entry or in case of a label inquiry. Never send a press kit unsolicited like I said 9 times out of 10 it is just very very expensive garbage if you do this.

ok kids play smart.

http://www.myspace.com/crowfeatherproject

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterCrowfeatheR

It would be nice to get some advice on an epk for a composer-songwriter who does not perform live, but has material for artists.

June 29 | Unregistered Commenterbjk

I think the original point of John Ostrow's post remains a sound one. The reality is, the vast majority of places expect Either a) a MySpace page with your music on it or b) physical press kits with your music in it.; this is according to my own experience. I also stand by my dollar figure in my previous comment. Unless you're good with Photoshop and know that you produce the kind of artwork that you could charge someone else $100/hr. to make for them, I don't recommend people D-I-Y graphics design. In my "day job," I've watched people do that with their websites over the last 15 years, and the results were not pretty. If the point of the press kit is to come off like a pro, the artwork needs to look like a pro did it.

It's possible that a press kit might be a waste of time for the garage band, the experimental solo artist, etc. But I'm under the impression that this article was primarily aimed toward recording artists such as myself who have "finished product" ready to market, right now. For such artists, recommending that they make sure they have a professional press kit to present, to me, is sound advice.

Gotta say I really disagree with this article. I'm sure there's people who might want a physical press kit, but I think those numbers are dwindling. Where I sit daily (in a major label A&R and Marketing department here in Canada), we definitely rather digital. And if the artist DOES send in a physical package, the professionalism of the letter, and printed folder don't mean anything to us. The music comes first, then a great photo of a band that has put some thought into their appearance, and then a well written bio. And by that I mean proper grammar... not flowery language full of hyperbole and whatnot.

And while we're at it, I'd avoid any "recipe" analogies to describe your sound, and avoid photos taken at the train tracks. ;)

Here's my blog post on the subject, from 2009: http://intrsctn.com/2009/05/press-kits-demo-packages-and-how-you-can-help-save-the-planet/

December 17 | Unregistered CommenterIan Heath

we need an example of a great physical press kit that would definetly help. http/itskrucial.com or http://facebook.com/krucial.soundmob

October 8 | Unregistered Commenterkrucial

Great post! You guys clearly outlined the essentials. The only thing I would add for the traditional press kit is a USB flash drive. It's nice to give A & R reps and music journalists a digital copy of all of the essential elements of your press kit. That way they get the best of both worlds. Great post though, you got it covered!

October 27 | Unregistered CommenterRob Peoni

In your first paragraph, you should've used its instead of it's.

November 30 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

woooow I truly needed this info. Now I am about to fly like an eagle at ease but with a serious purpose. World all I can say is the sleeping giant has awoken and he is about to assist in introducing K. Levy from Vacherie,La. To all of you. A 17 year old breath of fresh air that seems to have been here before.

February 21 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Johnson

I am planning on creating one of these and didnt have the slightest idea where to start. I am glad that i took the time and read this and i have learned alot today. Thanks a lot. Kolumbo

September 14 | Unregistered CommenterKolumbo

Just wondering, does the cover letter change with each recipient or is there a general, standard cover letter that should always be included?

November 21 | Unregistered CommenterSMN

I am just wondering if I am missing something here? I am a member of a band and what we use for a "press kit" is our website. We do send out an introduction letter with a link to our website. The Website has all the categories mentioned. "About Us, Bio, Video, Audio, High Resolution Photo's of the band, Upcoming Shows, Links, and of course our Contact Information.
After the first contact Email, there is a follow up call to make sure the Venue received the Introduction and what they thought of the band.
We also use a follow up letter, just because a Venue can't use us now... doesn't mean they won't later. Keeping our name out in front of them, seems to work.
My question is this. If you have a well maintained, professional website, why do you need an Electronic Press Kit? Seems like to me the Website will do it all!
Thanks for your time and looking forward to the answer!

February 3 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Ourstompingrounds.com is a good website. It's new, but they have a bunch of good tools to use and it's all free.

June 26 | Unregistered CommenterBeck

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>