So a question bands and artists ask time and time again is 'what goes into a great press kit?'
And if you've been following my blog, Machiavelli's Guide to the Music Industry over on Supajam, you'll know by now that I'm not just going to feed you the answer. Instead I want you to put yourself into the shoes of the person who will receive it. But just for once, whichever audience you are shooting at, they will pretty much want the same from you. And that is true whether it's the music writers at the Daily Mail and Loaded Magazine, a festival booker or a record label (though the emphasis might be a little different in each case). But remember, these people all do this for a living. If your press kit is is amateurish, childish or otherwise not up to snuff, it will very likely go straight in the dustbin (or in the case of a digital EPK, straight to magnetic heaven). So do yourself a favour and make sure every item in it is as professional looking (and sounding) as you can possibly make it).
So what will each of those potential audiences want from you?
*First they want to hear about you. Because that gives them some idea of what they are about to listen to. Essentially you need to give a bit of a back story (an interesting story might catch their imagination, and if a stringer can cut and paste it into an article, then you've made their job easy - and they like easy), a bit about your music (depending on the audience they may want to hear about the release you are promoting or about your music more widely), a bit about the highlights of your career so far and any key press quotes. BUT keep it short and punchy. No more than one page. And definitely no waffling!
*Then they will want to hear what you sound like. Because of course that is what defines you as a band. So it follows that your recording must be the best quality you can possibly deliver. Let's face it, if any of them hear your music and is blown away by it, then suddenly you are facing off with the big boys for that all important exposure. And if any of these 'tastemakers' take up your cause, it can carry you a very long way indeed. And While you are at it, make sure it looks good too. Because people still judge books by their cover. A felt pen scribbled CD disk probably isn't going to make the best impression. But what of your vast repertoire to send? Again, it depends on your audience: if you are promoting your new record, it's probably an advance copy of that. If you are trying to blag a festival slot, it's probably your best three tracks.
*You should send them all potential recipients high-res photos (and a link to a site they can download them from). The press might use the photos in a release. The label might want to see how good you look. A lack of good photos may result in your press kit meeting the trash can.
*Press clippings. If you've got any, include them. Trim them so it's just the story on you that they see, mount them on a white background.
*And last but not least, your contact details! Now be aware that a physical press kit could easily get separated. So make sure your contact details are on every item.
*Anything else is optional really. I'd tend to err on the side of less is more. If I was going to give anything it might be tour dates if you have a good one lined up or a DVD of a show if it has been professionally done and looks/sounds good.
So that's a press kit.
Now since we're all digital nowadays, you've probably heard of the EPK or electronic press kit...? So what's the difference? Well, er... not a fat lot really. Except one is digital (online) and the other is analogue (paper photographs, etc.) though if you are sending an EPK and you have a great video, I might err on the side of sending a link to that too. So which one to send? Physical or digital? Well, strangely, there are still some out there who prefer the physical version so if in doubt... ASK.
Anything to watch out for?
Well, yes. Indeed. There are a bunch of no-no's:
1. If you don't send your press kit to the right person, chances are it won't go beyond the person you do send it to. Therefore it's fundamental that you do your research and, preferably, make contact with the person in advance of sending it. It may just make that little bit of difference between them opening it and it going straight to the trash;
2. Don't send a crap kit. Follow the suggestions I set out above. Do spellcheck and grammar check everything you send. Don't waffle. Do include everything I said you should include. Don't send a load of extraneous bollox. Do send the best quality recording you can. Did I say don't waffle? Definitely don't forget your contact details. If any part of your press kit let's you down, well... you've failed. Don't spend the next 6 months wondering 'if I'd just used a clean envelope instead of re-cycling an old one..."
3. Remember that the recipient is a person. A real human being. Put yourself in their shoes and work out what might turn them off. Because a bad attitude or a scruffy EPK that looks like you don't care, will be pretty unlikely to turn them on!
So now that's all done, you can get back to the loooooooooong list of other stuff you are supposed to be doing. You know: booking gigs, writing music, building your fanbase, gigging, staying ahead on social media, recording, playing your guitar/bass/drums/keys/peruvian nose-harp etc.