Well, I am writing this based on various "music business" articles that I have read mixed with my own experiences on the matter. My experiences reach from a being in the position where I receive press kits from bands often, to being a member of a band who must send out countless press kits as well.
What Is a Press Kit?
A press kit is a small packet of information that bands/musicians will send out to all walks of music business related folk (big and small).ï¿½ Most (good) press kits may include some of the following items:
- Photo of the band
- Brief biography of the band
- Press/Review clippings
- Notable shows/venues played
- Samples of your work
I am going to run down that list and try to lend some insight into what your recipients are going to want to see in your kit.
I say "photo" and not "photos" because one photo is really all that is necessary. You may include multiple photos, but that leaves too much room for you to bombard your recipient with too much information (which for purposes of this article, I will refer to as SPAM).
What should your photo be? Well, it should be a good band photo or good live photo. I say "good" and not "professional" because the quality of the composition is not as important of the content.
For band photos: This should quite simply be a shot of the band. You don't need frills and thrills. Furthermore, you do not need to be offensive. You may leave some room for subtle things like "wit". By that I mean; using your god given skills of humor to express the fact that you are not completely boring. Just don't go overboard. Lastly, don't do anything that you don't do publically (as a group that is). ï¿½An example would be: Don't wear makeup for your shoot unless you actually wear makeup on stage and it is part of your shtick. Same goes with attire, attitude, and all of the like. However, if you are offensive on stage, please leave that out (this will be a popular theme in the article).
For live photo: Follow some of the same practices that I mention above. Be yourself, don't be offensive, and make sure that the shot is legible. Make sure that this shot captures the show. It is often hard to capture every member of your band during a live show. Because of that issue, you should try to include the members that are the most interesting and important to your band. Most bands have 2 types of musicians, (1) performers (2) players. Performers are the human highlight of the live shows. Yes, they are musicians too and usually great ones at that. They are the "public" image of the band, so get them in the picture. The other guys (and gals) in the group are important too, but they can do their "shining" on the recordings.
This is one of the most abused areas of a press kit. They are VERY important to your press kit. However, there seems to be a misunderstanding about what "important" actually means when it comes to Band's Biographies.
These should be between 1-3 short paragraphs. They should only include what the recipient NEEDS to know. Here are a few things that most recipients DO NOT need to know:
- How you got your band name. Unless it is completely relevant. ( if you think it is, then it probably isn't. Sorry.)
- The history of band members to play with your group. (unless of course, someone famous was in it)
- The history of your band itself (it would have to be very creative and unique, I promise, it isn't)
Here are a few things that you should include:
- How long you have been together.
- What type of music you play. ( actually answer this, don't fumble around with it)
- What have you done that is important? (important only to the recipient)
- What are your plans, goals, and dreams? (as a band of course)
I will dedicate an entire article on this topic later.
Press & Review Clippings
Don't have any? Get some! If you do have some; you should go through them and find ONE good clipping (a sentence or two) that BEST describes your music. Always credit the author and if you can get some noteworthy authors to review you, please do. Do not quote more than one article, and try not to quote more than one author. If you can fill a page with reviews at a standard "12 point type" then you have too many. Condense it. You could also try to place them cleverly throughout the press kit. More on this later as wellï¿½
Notable Shows/Venues Played
This list could vary depending on who you are sending it to. If you are sending this to a national source (like a record label) don't include "Metal Night @ Legends Sports Bar" (no offense Chris and Dan). They are a locally known sports bar and the show was a weekly event. That means squat to a record executive. Although, if a famous touring act was playing at Legends and you got to opportunity to open for them; then yes, add that show.
The only time local venues should be listed in an abundantly general way, should be for local/regional recipients. One example would be other local venues that you may want to play at (where you haven't previously played). Do not list a venue more than once (unless it was an important enough show to mention). This is merely to let the club owner know that you have some stage experience under your belt.
Samples of your Work
This can be a very tricky area. It is also the 2nd most abused area of a press kit. As a fellow musician I know that it is natural to want to show someone everything you have done. It sucks, I wish you could. However, that is not the case.
Your demo should be just that, a demo. In fact I am going to call it a "map to your goods". I say this, because it is VERY (like 1 in a million) rare that someone is going to grab your press kit and open it, let alone spend 60 minutes listening to your album. It just isn't possible, they are busy. So what you do is draw a map to the BEST parts of your songs. Like your "notable shows list", this can vary depending on the recipient. For the goal of not making this article into a book I will just use Record Companies and Radio Stations as examples.
These industry people need to have your "goods" in their face right away, or you will lose them in seconds. Give them the "radio hit ready" hooks, verses, and choruses that are sure to be the next big thing. Do not bore them with 5 minute intros or guitar solos. They want hits. If you have made it to this part of your musical career, you should be finding out that the business is ALL ABOUT MONEY, whether you like it or not. Record companies don't want it if the masses wont but it and likewise; the radio stations won't play it if only 20 people want to hear it.
So in short, either create a demo that has several individually tracked clips of the best parts of your songs or (if you absolutely think you music is top notch) you can risk having all of your demo heard by including 1-3 full tracks. DO NOT send more full tracks than that. If you want to go further into dark territory by having both: clips and full tracks PLEASE put your full tracks at the end of the disc!
Without going on too long I also want to mention that if you are sending something to be reviewed, you CAN and should send the full disc. Don't make a copy either, you should send it with all of your expensive packaging and art too. It is important.
Why Send a Press Kit?
As a person who receives things from local bands on a fairly regular basis I can tell you how import it is to send a press kit.
We are ALL Busy
You must put yourself in the position of the person you are sending things to. In most cases you are sending something to a complete stranger and asking them to do something. Moreover, these individuals are probably busy, no matter who they are and how big or small they may be.
Am I a big fish? By no means, I run a local music website and play in a local band. However, I am a person who is busy with a business, family, and wellï¿½ my own life. It just so happens that the website I run is read by thousands of people and you want your review up there to be seen. So in order for me to go out of my way to help you, I only ask that you give me a hand with by providing me with enough information.
Now, that is just my story. Imagine an A&R rep for a major label; he/she is a big fish, with big fish responsibilities. These people probably have families and lives as well. So you are asking even more of them.
With that said, I will get to the point. These recipients most likely know nothing or very little about you. They do not have time to run Google searches on your band name. So you need to let them know who you are (as a band) without them ever meeting you, seeing your band perform, and/or even hearing of you. You must also do this in a quick method that only tells them what is important (see above).
The other thing I want to stress it professionalism. You may think that being in a band is all about sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Believe me, much of it is, but sometimes you have to play mature in order to get anywhere. Don't be offensive. Don't be immature. Don't WASTE their time!
Save your "live" show for the stage. You may be able to piss on your fans at a concert but I can assure you that most people you are sending your press kit to will not like it. So be brief, cordial, honest, and thorough.
Believe it or not, many bands are reviewed without the author ever meeting the band. Most articles in your favorite magazines were written via press kits. I will go deeper into most of these areas later.