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How To Make A Winning Press Kit
By Tim Towner
Before I start talking about what to include in a press kit, I want you to stop and think about something. I want you to put yourself into the shoes of an A&R scout or any other industry person. Just for a moment, try to imagine how many press kits these people receive. Just keep that in your mind.
Ė This should go out with every press kit. You should address the letter to the person youíre sending it to. It should contain no more than 2 paragraphs, explaining why you are sending the press kit. Is it to get signed, get a review, get a booking agent or get radio play? Let the person know your intent and give a few reasons why you think they would want to work with you. Again, keep it short and to the point.
Now, letís pretend you are that A&R scout. Imagine yourself standing over your desk with stacks of press kits. You finally have 10 minutes to grab a press kit, look through it and listen to a song or two. Are you still imagining this? Ok, select a press kit. Go ahead and envision yourself doing this. Which press kit did you grab? Was it the one with the big, obnoxious writing? Or was it the one with the cool band name? Wait, was it that envelope with all those stickers on it is screaming to be opened. Which press kit do you think that A&R scout wouldíve grabbed?
Always remember how many press kits these industry people receive. When you put yours together, think of ways that yours will stand out. It needs to draw attention to itself. It can stand out because of its professional appearance, its off-the-wall presentation, well organized appearance or from the envelope it came in. Itís up to you to come up with a press kit that gets chosen.
But before you get too wacky, remember that you are trying to work with the label, booking agent or manager. Be eye-catching but you also have to be professional. These people need to make you money, but they also need to make themselves money. Make sure they see personality, professionalism and marketability.
Ok, letís go over what you need in your press kit.
1. Cover Letter
Also, if you have a manger, he/she should be the one who writes the cover letter. They should date and sign the letter, as well. Make sure it contains their contact information.
The letter should be attached to the outside of your kit with a paper clip. It should be on the front of the folder that contains the items of your press kit.
2. Bio Ė This is one of the most important parts of your press kit. The bio (biography) needs to contain information that makes someone interested in listening to your music and interested in working with your band.
To me, the first paragraph is the most important part of the bio. It needs to intrigue the reader. It needs to capture the readerís interest. Make them want to read more.
Make sure the person reading the bio knows what your band sounds like. I always find it helpful to include well-known bands that you sound similar too. This usually will help label the genre of music you play. There are a million genres of music out there so listing a few bands that you sound like helps the reader.
List the band members, their ages and what they do in the band. Briefly explain how the band came together. If the members were in more popular bands, list those.
Try to express the bandís uniqueness. That can be in the form of your live show, lyrical content, look, sound, online marketing or whatever else. There are a million bands that sound like this or that but what makes your band different?
Tell the reader what projects are coming up and what youíve done in the past. Briefly talk about your bands accomplishments.
A rule of thumb that I always believed in was that you always want to make your band seem bigger than they are without lying. Most of the claims you make in your press kit can easily be looked up. If you claim youíve sold 5,000 CDs but you have no tour history and youíve only sold 20 CDs online (SmartPunk, InterPunk, iTunes), then something doesnít add up. Hype up your band but make sure you have the facts to back it up.
Include quotes from industry people. That includes your manager, booking agent or producer. Incorporate the quotes with the topic of the paragraph. Donít get carried away but a few quotes from the people that work with you will show you have contacts and that people want to work with you.
3. Photo Ė Always include an 8X10 photo of your band. You can use a color or black & white picture. If you are sending it to a newspaper, always include a black & white picture, just in case they want to print the picture.
Also, make sure the picture represents your band. If you are an indie rock band, you donít want to be wearing all black. If youíre a metal band, you donít want to be holding flowers, wearing polo shirts. This is your first (and sometimes, last) impression to make on the person looking at your press kit. First impressions mean a lot.
4. The Demo Ė Most sources tell you to include a demo with no more than three songs on it. Well, if you have a pressed CD, go ahead and send it. But most people reading your press kit wonít have time to listen to the full CD or search for your best songs.
I would also include a three song CD-R of your most marketable songs. This is a quick reference CD. If they like what they hear, they can easily access the pressed CD to hear more. If youíre low on CDs or your budget, you can just send the three-song demo. But, I recommend sending the pressed CD.
If you have an EP, there is no need to include a CD-R. Just use a white label and stick it to the CD itself. And then list your three suggested songs. Again, most industry people are short on time. This is your chance to tell them what songs are your most marketable. But make sure that first song is your most marketable song.
Make sure you put your contact information on the demo! I canít tell you how many bands forget that. You have to realize that your CD will end up on a desk, mixed with other demos. Label everything.
Make sure your songs are professionally recorded. If they are just garage demos, then your band isnít ready to send out press kits.
You want to have your three most marketable songs on your demo. One big tip for selecting your three best songs is to have your friends/fans give you a list of their favorite three songs. Bands are HORRIBLE at selecting their most marketable songs. The fans are the ones that will buy your material, anyway, not you. Fans are usually the best A&R scouts. They know what they want. After all, they are your fans because of your music.
Make sure that first song grabs the listenerís attention within seconds. No one has time to listen to a 30-second intro. So many bands make that mistake.
Another thing that helps with saving time is to take the plastic off your CD. The people that review press kits have limited time. Save them time by having your CD open and ready to go. I LOVE that.
5. Fact Sheet - This is a new addition to the modern press kits. The fact sheet gives the reader a quick reference to your bands accomplishments. It includes tours, album sales, big shows, festivals and radio play (internet, college, FM). Bullet points should be used. Donít lie about your information. Also, laminate the fact sheet to make it stand out.
The fact sheet is optional and should only be used if youíre an experienced band. Otherwise, the empty space will make your band look green.
6. Press Ė Include any press (newspaper, magazine, internet) that your band has received. But include no more than 3 press clippings. Always include the whole article. Also, make sure the articles are copied with high resolution so they are easy to read. If you have more than three press clippings, include the ones from the biggest publications and the most recent. If it takes more than one piece of paper, staple the press sheets together.
If you have limited press coverage, include CD reviews in your press kit. Any press is good press.
7. Organization Ė You donít want the person that opens your press kit to see a jumbled mess of papers and pictures. You donít want them to wrinkled, either. You want everything to look professional.
The easiest way to do that is presenting your press kit in glossy pocket folders. Donít buy the cheap, flimsy ones. I think the price difference is about .30 cents for the cheap to more sturdy ones. Itís worth it.
8. Presentation Ė If you have a band color scheme (such as your album cover), try to make your press kit go with that. Itís easy to buy a folder that matches your album artwork. You can even create a header for the pages of your press kit that matches.
Be creative. Make your press kit stick out. First impressions can help (or kill) your band.
Keep everything organized, as well. If you have to staple pages with the same theme, do it. For example, the copies of your press clippings should be stapled together.
9. Proofread Ė Make sure you re-read your press kit several times. Have your friends and other band members re-read your press kit. Look for grammatical errors. No, this isnít an English test but you do want to look professional.
10. Label Everything Ė Believe me when I say that once your press kit is opened, itíll never be put back together again. You may have your CD in the personís CD player with the bio on the floor and the press photo on the desk. Put your bandís name, contact info (email, phone number) and website on everything. I canít tell you how many blank CD-Rís that I have on my desk, right now. I have no clue what band they came from.
11. Envelope Ė This could be the single most important thing about your press kit. Do you know why? Itís the first thing the potential industry person will see. Go back to the first few paragraphs. Do you think the A&R guy will pick a manila envelope when there are a hundred on his desk? Or will he pick that one envelope that sticks out amongst the rest? I think you know the answer.
Just use a little creativity. Donít go overboard but be creative. I know a band that spray painted their press kit, hot pink. Now, that did cause the paint to rub off when you touched it but it did make the press kit stand out.
You can use stickers, markers, colors or whatever else you can think of to stand out.
12. General Information Ė Sending your press kit out without contacting the label/person is usually a waste of money.
Now, Iím not saying that the person wonít eventually get to your press kit. But I would estimate that about 85% of all
press kits never get opened.
Make sure you follow each labelís press kit submission policies. Most indie labels have their submission policies on
their website. You can go to our links section to get a link to the major indie labels.
I understand that itís hard to get an email contact with A&R scouts. A simple google search can reveal several of
them. Donít hesitate to email the label and ask for an A&R contact and/or permission to send your press kit. Once
you establish contact with someone at the label (or magazine, newspaper, etc.), the person will most likely look
for your press kit. Also, most major labels donít even accept unsolicited press kits.
After about 2 to 3 weeks of sending out your press kit, do a follow-up call/email. Be patient and courteous. Take any constructive criticisms you get in stride and use it to improve your band. But donít take anything personal. There have been many, many huge bands that were passed up by several A&R scouts. Itís just one persons marketing opinion. Just because I donít see potential in a band doesnít mean there is someone higher up in the chain that does. Donít give up!
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