One of the key elements of a musician’s success is their promo kit, also known as a press package or press kit. It contains whatever promotional materials a band has and is used in every facet of a musician’s career, most notably in getting gigs or interest from a record company. Many people, musicians included, have no comprehension of exactly what a crush of mail promoters and A and R reps receive from bands.
From beginners to established professionals all musicians need to make money and persons in these two positions are the key to economic success. Postcards, unmarked tapes, letters typed or handwritten, top-of-the-line CDs, boasts, and boring facts, all pour in from music makers nationwide and abroad. This often results in a literal heap in a closet or separate room. Obviously, that means many people are being overlooked. To keep your material from falling into this category it is imperative that your package immediately distinguishes you as both professional and worth a listen.
One of the most basic ways to distance yourself from the ambiguous masses is to generate a concept for your overall approach. Most often musicians haphazardly throw together whatever is at hand and even if they have all the proper components the package comes off as confusing or lackluster. The solution to this is to develop a theme in a presentation that will make any single page recognizable as being from your promo kit. This often involves a particular layout style of the color scheme but can also be tied into the band or musicians’ names. A play on your name may seem cutesy or unnecessary but you must do everything within your power to stand out and have something that will catch in people’s memory. Regardless, an organized approach shows a level of seriousness and forethought that will separate you from the amateur submissions.
Perhaps the key component in establishing a professional image is what materials are used in the packaging. Be realistic about what you can afford but remember that in the music industry the first impression can mean life or death. Photocopies should be as clear as possible and be sure that all pages are free of smudges or dirt. It is generally advisable to have your materials organized in a folder or binder. This helps prevent the separation of various promotional items, an act which the recipient will look favorably on. Try to make sure it is not a flimsy binder that damages easily as it contains the culmination of your efforts and may be kept on record for any amount of time in any imaginable work environment. The use of specialty materials that incorporate your concept may garner more recognition but can be expensive and time-consuming for you.
Also on your checklist should be the band logo. Logos are easy to spot from a distance and take almost no time to evaluate; people will think of you on sight. It is advisable to have a logo that fits with your overall concept or to base the concept around an existing logo if you have one. However, changing your logo after publicizing it tends to confuse things and should be avoided. In terms of design, you may want to take a look at the logos of the bands you listen to. Is there anything that catches your eye? Also, take a look at the bands you don’t listen to or even dislike. What elements intrigue you or turn you off? Whatever you don’t settle for something you are not satisfied with because it will be representing you as well as your music.
It is likely that someone in your band or circle of friends and family has the talent necessary to execute the logo but more sophisticated concepts may require a pro. It all depends on your financial situation but even on a modest budget, you should be able to find an artist to put your ideas on paper. Keep in mind that art students may work for less in exchange for an opportunity to bulk up their portfolios. After it is done you can use it on your letterhead, on your demo, under your photo, the list goes on and on. A logo is something that has limitless uses and will certainly pay more than pay off in the long run.
Likewise, a good publicity photo will get a lot of mileage. And similar to the logo it pays to research publicity photographs of other musicians. Check the advertisements in any music magazine or look at the ads for upcoming performances in your area. Whatever creative notions come to mind you will have to seriously consider your budget. Getting your photo taken is an area where you can’t afford to skimp and let a family member take the photo unless they happen to be a professional photographer. Otherwise, you will need to shop around and once again keep the photography students in mind. When it comes to getting the prints made, glossy black and whites are required for reproduction in newspapers. Inexpensive bulk-duplicated prints are suitable for distribution to other industry contacts.
Now that the flashy stuff is out of the way the most commonly abused element needs to be tackled: the write-up. The first portion of this is the bio which is a short biography of the musicians involved in the project. Like anything else in your promo kit it pays to keep this short and to the point with a goal of one page or under. All pertinent information regarding your musical history should be included. This is your chance to play up personal strengths but it does not help to be untruthful. One gimmick that some people have used effectively is to expand on your concept and use pseudonyms and obviously fictional histories that read more like a story. That is a fine line to walk as doing so may confuse readers or rub them the wrong way although well-crafted bios of this type have proven highly marketable. In any event, it may be advisable to pay someone else to handle the writing as misspelling and grammatical errors will make you look unprofessional.
Separate from the bio is the fact sheet and quote sheet. If you are just starting out you may not have enough of either to make separate sheets and that is okay. After all, shorter is better because people don’t want to spend a lot of time reading it. In the event that you do have enough history for separate sheets the one-page rule also applies here. The fact sheet should deal with any favorable sales figures, big shows played such as festivals, airplay, big bands you’ve opened for, past tours, and so on. Being the fact sheet it should also stick to the facts. Again, it does not pay to lie. If someone does their homework you will lose a potential business deal because of your deception. The quote sheet should deal with reviews for your past releases or shows and any positive quotes from persons within the music industry.
Of course, there is the focal point of your entire presentation, the music, but if you don’t have that together yet you certainly are not ready to be thinking about sending out press kits. Suffice it to say that a professionally recorded demo is necessary and can be on either cassette or CD. Remember that brevity is a plus in this area like all other aspects of the promotional package so limit yourself to a maximum of three songs.
Now that the package is complete the next step is putting it to use. Radio stations, agents, clubs/promoters, managers, record companies, and newspapers are all possible destinations. But before you put your promotional materials in the mail be sure to at least consider a few facts. As mentioned earlier those who receive promotional material get it by the ton. They won’t be pleased if you waste their time with something that they are already known to be uninterested in.
The recipient of your package should also be clearly indicated on the outside as well as the letter within. If not it will get thrown in with all of the other unsolicited material, even if it was requested by a contact at the company. This is something that only takes seconds but if you don’t address someone in particular then no one, in particular, will bother to look at it. You may find out who to address your material through industry publications, company websites, or by contacting the company by phone. If you contact the company directly this is a chance to make a first impression before even making your real first impression. Always remember to conduct yourself with the utmost courtesy when dealing with anyone employed at companies you hope to deal with, no matter what level they are at.
Once you have established what companies are interested in your style and who the proper contact person in the organization is you are ready to mail your promo package. Before you take this final step it is advisable to review the promotional materials one last time for any errors or necessary updates. Another thing to consider when looking things over is whether or not your contact information is included on each individual item. If not this needs to be corrected because no matter how much they like you they can’t do anything about it if the one-sheet with your name, e-mail, etc., is lost. Again, anything can happen once the package is out of your hands so be sure your contact info is complete, legible, and plastered on every item you send off.
Is the package complete? Look over the promo kit checklist:
- A short recording
- Your bio
- Fact sheet
- Contact info on every item
- Logo in as many places as possible
- There are no errors
In the long run, it pays to take your time, be thorough, and hire professionals whenever possible to avoid any mistakes that give an amateurish impression. Whoever receives your package, no matter how overloaded with promo material they are, cannot be given an excuse to blow you off.long run