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  •  The EvO:R-Pedia Musicians Tips Section


    Welcome to the EvO:R Tips Section. We call this section EvO:R-Pedia because it is like a complete reference library for Indie musicians...Just about every tip has been used so you won't find false promises and a series of books to buy after reading each tip. This section was put here by musicians so that people that followed can take this knowledge and use it's power.



    Is A Press Kit Only As Good As The Press?
    John Foxworthy, Garage Radio, (Associate Writer)

    As publicity goes, you're probably going to spend lots of time at the post office. I know it sounds like a lot more work than it's worth, but it really isn't if you're serious. Much of your success and exposure will hinge on your media kit ... what it contains, how it's presented and to whom you send it. Believe me when I say that I've seen thousands and I'm unimpressed for the most part ... to say nothing of the ones I receive sans-permission. Hopefully, I'll be able to teach the press kit proper in this installment and save you from a world of wasted money and publicity suicide.

    Let's break down what a media kit (or press kit) actually is ... it's a collection of reviews, testimonials and your product. Essentially, it's your résumé and it's important to know when, where, why, how and to whom a kit should be sent. Press kits are also costly in their physical form and shouldn't be flung around like business cards at a sales convention. So, what should be in your press kit? This is always open for debate, but there is a minimum standard that publications, radio, venues and labels like to see:

    · Band bio - try to keep it to one page (two max.)
    · PR contact - name, phone and email of person to contact, web site, etc.
    · Your best press - printed on quality paper with a laser printer
    · Band photo - professional 8x10 black and white glossy (5x7 is ok)
    · Your CD - final retail version (unless all you have is a demo)
    · Brief cover letter - to introduce yourself and the band and to say "Thank you"

    As you can see, the material and postage expenses per kit will add up. At $9 to $12 each, sending 100 of these could run you more than the first printing of your CD. If you're new on the scene and don't have most of this, there's no need to fear. You still have some ammo you can use to hype your act, but I'll come back to that later.

    Electronic Press Kits

    A great semi-alternative to physical press kits is the www.sonicbids.com SonicBids EPK. I actually prefer these in many cases, as my office is full of packages I haven't even opened yet. EPKs (Electronic Press Kits) have become increasingly popular over the past couple of years and they come with a lot of advantages over physical kits, the first being cost effectiveness at around $5 a month.

    Let me start out by emphasizing that an EPK is not a viable substitution for the real thing. In fact, there are those who won't even look at them. But SonicBids does offer a submission area that lists thousands of entities referred to as "buyers." These folks all have inboxes where your submissions go and they've signed up with SonicBids specifically to receive EPKs. If your targets are interested, they'll get in touch with you.

    At this point you may be asking, "If an EPK isn't a substitution for a physical kit, why should I bother?"

    For any number of reasons, like your first contact, for example. When you initially contact someone regarding press, radio play, a possible gig or whatever, you don't want to fall prey to “TMIS” (Too Much Information Syndrome). Your first contact should be to lobby for interest by introducing the act in as few words as possible. It's natural to drop in a link to your web site and that's cool; however, many of the sites I've visited are either too content heavy or conversely very sparse.

    EPKs are clean and well organized. They contain all the elements of a good press kit and expand nicely on your introduction. Additionally, they give your target contacts an idea of what you're about in a format they can access at their leisure. This is also a good segway into asking if your target wants to receive a press kit.

    One of the nicest things about EPKs is that they're electronic. They can be edited and updated on the fly. They can also be used as a model for your physical kit as well as your web site. Again, EPKs should not be used in lieu of a press kit and you should never insist that they be used as such. That kind of self-destructive behavior will lose you valuable outlets.

    Many publications, labels, venues, radio shows, etc., post explicit instructions for submissions and some even state that they do not accept EPKs. Always follow these instructions to the letter and remember ... chances are you need them more than they need you.

    Physical Press Kits

    When it comes to your physical press kit, it's also essential to understand that it's not just what you send, but how you present it. If you want to make a good impression, you're going to spend some money, there's no getting around it. The question is: how much? There is no easy answer and there are various ways to get around some of the costs. If your funds are limited you may want to tailor the quality to your target. It's not unacceptable to fire off a lesser quality kit based on projected exposure, but with even a mediocre creative flare it can appear professional without maxing your credit card.

    If you were paying attention, you noticed my minimum list of press kit components, so let's look at what it actually entails and why. The "ideal" press kit would have all the contents packed into a really nice pocket folder, just the right size to fit into a file cabinet. This will help it stand out among the many that cross the desks of the recipients. It's a major pain in the ass when the papers, photos and CDs get mixed up. However, unless you find a great deal on folders somewhere, this will be relatively expensive. You have to weigh how important it is to make that initial impression while keeping all your materials together!

    Your Bio is a key piece of information in your press kit. People want to know more about whom they're listening to, but they don't need your life story! Your bio should remain on one piece of paper, using both sides. The header info should include the band/artist name and a list of the members and their positions. After that you briefly tell your story: how you got together, previous experience (if relevant and recognizable) or influences if you're a new band. Talk about your music, your philosophy, your lyrics, who writes what, etc., and how you play off each other to make you a successful group. Include two or three partial quotes from good reviews you've received and make them short. Above all, make it interesting ... you're telling your story here. The last part should be your contact information (who to call, phone number, web address, etc.) so people can get in touch with you. This NEEDS to be on your bio.

    If you've already received some good press, copy two or three full articles, staple them together and put them behind your bio. Let the people that get your kit know that there's already a buzz going about you. Make sure the publication is mentioned on these articles somewhere, no matter where they came from. It's important that someone legitimate is talking about you! Just be sure not to add ALL of your press to your kit. I've received 70 page media kits , and I have no time to look at them. Besides, it annoys the hell out of me!

    Band Photos are becoming a thing of the past, but again, if it's possible to have photos done you should include one. This isn't a live photo of you playing a gig. It's a posed photo done in black and white by a professional. Go somewhere cheap, like K-Mart or Wal-Mart, to get photos done if you don't have a friend that can do one for you, and pose with an attitude that represents your band.

    If at all possible you should include a final version of your CD. If you're sending a demo and a final version is in the works, you should send the graphics that will be used for the front and back covers, at least to publications and others who will be talking about or reviewing your album. It's not taboo to include these on a separate CD, but make sure your demo is clearly labeled "DEMO."

    Make your cover letter brief and to the point. If you have an address to send your press kit to, then the person wants to see the kit, not your re-hash of it in a cover letter. It should be more of a "Per your request, here's our Press Kit" and "Thanks in advance for your time" type of letter. If you have a logo, make sure it's on ALL of your materials and DO NOT forget the © and date on every single thing you send out!

    In summary, make sure you have a really good bio that is absolutely no typos or poor grammar. Include all your contact info and a slammin' album to send out. Get creative to find a way to keep your materials together, even if it's a plastic sleeve or something. You don't want your stuff to get lost or misplaced. Additionally, this shows your targets that you're paying attention and trying to make things easy on them! Lastly, be sure to include your contact info on every page. You never know if this stuff will get separated.

    The Target

    Now that you know what you're sending, it's pivotal to get behind media kit manners. The biggest no-no is sending unsolicited kits, for a number of reasons. I get press kits regularly, about 30 per week. I'm expecting about 65 percent of these, but there is still that other 35 percent. How these people get my mailing address is unbeknownst to me because I don't make it public. They may have gotten it from a friend of a friend of a friend, and that's fine. I get to them when I can get to them. What I don't like is the assumption that I owe a debt of gratitude for these kits ... any of them!

    Let me turn you on to a nickel's worth of free advice: YOU are not the only band on the planet. You're also not the only band I receive material from, and I have a lot of priorities that go beyond listening to your music. I'm not alone in this either. Many reviewers, publications, labels, radio shows, etc., get tons of submissions from hopeful acts and most of the time these kits pile up, even when we know they're coming. DO NOT pester your targets about your kit. One or two follow-up emails within a couple of weeks after sending it is acceptable, but automatically assuming you have a friend in the media is presumptuous and foolhardy.

    A good rule to follow is to ask before you send a press kit to someone. There may be submission instructions online, but it's good to make yourself known in the meantime. I'm personally more likely to prioritize a kit I'm expecting than one I get without permission. I also don't like to get a barrage of emails asking if I've listened to the music yet, much less a daily email regarding the act's journal.

    For The Newbies

    You're a new act with no press at all. You've been playing shows for a few months and have just recorded a demo, or even a full CD. This pretty much gives you nothing to make a press kit out of, but all is not lost. If you believe you have a great sound and the feedback is pretty good around town, your options aren't limited, by any means.

    First of all, a press kit should be your last priority when just starting out, unless you've recorded a CD and are looking to market it beyond your local area. Your kit should only include a photo, a CD and a bio. Your first priority should be getting music reviewers on your side. Good quotes will get more interest from larger media. Start local and work your way out. After five good reviews, you have a press kit more worthy of the local rag ... and let's stop there. Who is your local rag? Get hold of someone there to see if they're willing to attend your show. A good show review is a huge credit to you and nice padding for your press kit.

    I can't help you with radio play. College stations are the second best approach, Internet radio being the first. They all have submission rules that pretty much stray from anything that can be called "standard." ANY radio play you get is considered play, so include it.

    As my final thought on press kits - don't rush through them. You won't get famous in a month and over-expenditure on these things won't change that. If your kit is creative and well placed, your chances of media preference will rein supreme, not to mention getting your potential contacts to like you personally!


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