One of the key elements to any musician’s success is their promo pack, also known as a press package, press pack or press kit. It contains whatever promotional materials a band has and is used in every facet of a musician’s career, important for getting gigs or record company interest. Many people, musicians included, have no idea of how much stuff promoters and A&R reps receive from bands. From beginners to established professionals, all musicians need to make money and promoters and A&R reps are the key to economic success. Postcards, letters typed or handwritten, CDs, boasts and boring facts, all pour in from musicians nation-wide and abroad, and most of them end up in a drawer, and eventually get binned. Obviously that means many talented artists are being overlooked.
To keep your material from falling into this category it is important that your press pack immediately distinguishes you as both professional and worth a listen. Whist it’s vital to know how other people perceive your band and music, your image is really crucial. The old saying of ‘judging a book by it’s cover’ will always be true. You may have the greatest song in the world (to quote Tenacious D), yet your image (your style and look) may not work with the song you’ve written.
So lets deal with image and song writing leading to a demo and a great promo pack.
One of the most basic ways to distance yourself from the hundreds of other bands is to have a concept for your overall approach. Most often musicians carelessly throw together whatever they have, and even if they have all the proper components the package comes off as confusing or hurried. The solution to this is to develop a theme in presentation that will make any single part easily noticed as being from your promo kit. This is often a well created design and colour scheme, but can also be tied into the band or musician’s name. 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 stay in people’s memory and catch their interest. Regardless, an organized approach shows a level of thought and creativeness that will separate you from the amateurs.
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. It is generally advisable to have your materials organized in a folder. This helps prevent the separation of various promotional items. First impressions really do count. Try to make sure it is not a flimsy binder that damages easily as it contains all 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 get recognition but can be expensive.
At surroundedby.co.uk, we have a number of different promo pack ideas to suit all budgets. Our press pack folders are normally formatted as A4 folded to A5, with a pocket to hold all your materials, and a cd holder for your demo. They are always full colour and can be printed, or digitally printed for short runs. There is also a choice of the cover being gloss or matt laminated. Click here for examples.
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 ones dislike. What elements intrigue you or turn you off? Whatever you do 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 design 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. After it is done you can use it on your letter head, on your demo, under your photo, the list goes on and on. A logo is something that has limitless uses and will certainly more than pay off in the long run.
Remember we can design it for you. We listen to your music and your thoughts and create a logo specifically for you. A totally bespoke service deigned to your brief. You will get a few logo options and be able to comment until we get the one you’re happy with, creating an affordable and unique design just for you. Click here for examples.
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. 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.
Remember we have specialist photographers who will come to your gig and take some great action shots, or you may prefer studio shots when you’re rehearsing or even out and about in the street. As we’ve mentioned before, you need to stamp your personality on your promotional material and what could be better than good quality professional photographs. Plus we get to see you play/rehearse and find out exactly what you need. Click here for examples.
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 up the wrong way although well-crafted bios of this type have proven highly marketable. Also there’s a fine line between selling yourself and appearing arrogant. Get a few opinions before you send it out. 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 are 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, air play, 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.
SPELLCHECK – Spelling and grammar do matter. It’s all about creating the right impression. It helps if you have something in particular to say: new CD, special gig, etc
Do say: What you sound like (nobody likes to be put in a box but this is helpful), where you’re from, any big gigs or support, that you’re very good.
Don’t say: That you have a totally original sound (you probably don’t), that you’re the best band ever (you’re probably not).
There’s no perfect press release, but being aware of these points can help you avoid common pitfalls.
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 CD USB Drive or link to soundclould. 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.
Your CD may be the best recording ever made, the ultimate outpouring of your soul into musical excellence.. But there are still a few things you can do to help.
If your send it to a radio station, do a radio edit. If your music contains swearing, or the tracks are very long, creating a radio friendly version is worthwhile. If this isn’t an option, at least flag up which tracks contain potentially offensive lyrics.
Make sure there’s a clear track listing on the CD, and on the case.
If tracks don’t fade out make sure the track ends when the music ands. If this is sent to radio stations, the CD players count down so the presenter knows when the track will end. It’s a cruel trick for a song to end when the track has a few seconds to go.
If your CD is professionally mastered this should be done at this stage.
Finally, contact details:
Make sure you include comprehensive contact details for the band. Don’t say “reach us through our website”. Give an e-mail address, phone number and even postal address. Don’t make it difficult for people to reach you.
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 it to someone in particular then no one in particular will bother to look at it. You may find out who to address your material to through industry publications, company web sites, 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 which 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.