Press Kits (With Guest Commentary From Ahearne, Crothers, Fairbrother, Topper and Schnee)
For this edition of "The Biz" I asked some people to help contribute. I get a lot of questions about press kits What to put in them? Is live music ok? What should I put in the bio, etc? They're not easy to put together so that they actually work for you. When I first started I had no idea what to put into one and I know plenty of people who tossed mine once they received it. Since many of you are putting yours together or trying to update the one you have I thought it would be helpful to get some insight from some experts who have rifled through tons of them over the years. I want to thank Alex Crothers Owner and Talent Buyer for the Higher Ground; Howie Schnee Partner in Creative Entertainment Group (Lion's Den, Fan Exchange, Livemusicaddicts.com); Jim Ahearne former VP of Talent for Tea Party Concerts; Jon Topper – Owner of Top Artist Productions (moe.); and Brett Fairbrother – manager of RAQ, for taking time to answer some questions and provide us with their thoughts on press kits.
I also am posting some feedback. Please keep it coming and thanks for participating in this forum.
Send me your questions to email@example.com.
- What do you look for in a press kit when an act sends you one? or What are you sure to include in your press kit?*
Ahearne: EPK’s are best. Looking for: b&w photo color photo mp3 link bio bullet points on significant news or developments w/the band/artist…ie Signed to x record label, sold 35,000 units of independent release, most requested on Pure Volume, plays over 200 dates a year, etc… quotes from other press/bands/media about artist/band band contact information: manager, agent, publicist, record label, website
Topper: I do not like press kits. I just want to look at a website and check out photos and music.
Crothers: Fewer and fewer acts actually send press kits anymore. We tend to look at how they’re doing on myspace or purevolume or the equivalent. A press kit these days is almost irrelevant since all that info could/should be on the band’s website. Sending along a physical CD is always good though. Having a photo of the band somewhere on the package is always a good idea too.
Schnee: A majority of press kits look the same unfortunately. Individuality goes a very long way. I immediately look for contact info, a bio and a photo. If a bio is extremely generic, which many are, I won’t read on. If I look at the photo and they appear to be 14 years old, and they’re looking for a gig at the Lion’s Den, I won’t waste my time with the rest of it, b/c they wouldn’t even meet our age requirements. By the way, you’d be shocked at how many bands send a press kit with no contact information. One out of a thousand people may actually spend the time to track this information down.
Fairbrother: A bio, one or two great articles, a one-sheet on the latest album, a good photo, and some good sounding music.
- What information should a band bio include? What shouldn’t it include?*
Ahearne: Bio should be reasonably short, one page. Up-to-date.
Topper: Who? When, Where, contact Info. I do not care about old press.
Crothers: A band bio should be short and to the point. Describe the music, list the players, list any past bands or influences, list any accomplishments, list the markets and venues you play and how well you do. DO NOT OVERINFLATE YOUR NUMBERS. Nothing makes us dismiss a band faster than when someone tells us they’re worth a bucket of tickets and they’re not. Make sure to include your contact info in everything you send out (including emails).
Schnee: It should get right to the point and let you know what type of band you’re about to hear. I really like to know where a band is from and what markets they’re consistently visiting. If I see death metal’, country and western’ or influenced by Cher and Celine Dion’ I will not read on. I think a lot of acts make the mistake of including their 50 influences. Just a few major influences would be much more effective.
*Fairbrother:*Creative and/or interesting way of describing the band’s sound without trying to be too clever. A list of past accomplishments, if any. There’s nothing worse than reading about each individual players passed life, i.e. where they went to school and what they listened to growing up. The exception being if the school is part of the lore of the band.
- Describe the perfect press photo.*
Topper: I Never have seen one.
Crothers: The perfect press photo is digital and in color and high res. You should have it in a variety of formats, but most notably tiff or jpg. The background shouldn’t be busy, the lighting should be good, the band should be bunched together (not spread apart).
Schnee: There is no perfect press photo but one that shows originality, individuality and also conveys the act’s image would be great. If the act even has their own image’ that’s very rare at the club level and a big advantage.
Fairbrother: Probably the most difficult part of the kit. Getting the band together where you can see what they look like and has the name below their picture so someone can read the bio and put the face with the accomplishments.
- Should the band include studio, live music, or both in their pack?*
Ahearne: I just need an mp3.
Topper: I like to hear studio but live is fine.
Crothers: Either or is fine. Limit the amount of music you include to just the 3-4 best tracks, don’t send everything you’ve ever recorded.
Schnee: Both would be ideal in my opinion. If it’s one or the other, for the act’s sake it should be wherever they shine on stage or in the studio. I like live b/c it’s harder to fake it.
Fairbrother: Whichever represents the band the best – first impressions are everything!
- What, if anything, makes you just toss the press kit away?*
Ahearne: Lame photo. Bad music. Store bought glossy folder. Keep it simple. A one page letter w/hightlights, a 4×6 b&w photo (w/band name and all contacts on the border) and a cd (w/band name and contact info on the disc itselft) is worth more. Think about it…pretend I’m super busy and ADD type overloaded and behind. I get two packages. One is a big fat envelope loaded w/trinkets, bios, press clippings, etc…and the other is a small envolope w/a letter, photo, cd and maybe a matchbook or cd opener or something else small and reasonable useful inscribed w/the band’s name. the big fat envelop takes up too much bandwidth…i throw it in a pile to "listen to later." the small envelope….I rip it open, pop in the cd, keep the photo paperclipped to the bio and toss them on top of my cds, through the match book in the desk drawer and press play.
Topper: If they take up a lot of space everything but the music will get tossed.
Crothers: Something that is totally homemade, or a band with a horrible name.
Schnee: Referring back to #2 — If I see death metal’, country and western’ or influenced by Cher and Celine Dion’ I will not read on. If the band’s name has the word "Brother" or "Groove" or even worse "Brother Groove" I feel a strong impulse to file it in the trash can. With that being said, I like the bands Brother’s Past and Groovehouse.
Fairbrother: A bio that says their favorite food is pizza and says who their favorite bass player is. No one cares about that stuff and if the bio has that in it I don’t go much further.
- What advice about a press kit do you have for a new band putting one together for the first time? Now after two years of having one?*
Ahearne: Keep it reasonably simple. But if you have the resources, create a custom piece (have you ever seen STS9’s mailer? Or the earlier DMB mailer?). Put the band’s name and contact info on everything…photo, the cd, all pieces of paper, the matchbook, etc… Make the CD useful…not just music, but include a video/dvd clips, bios, artwork/band logos or type, poster templates, ad templates, appropriate fonts, ecard template, etc…
Crothers: KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) and follow up follow up follow up. Sending just a CD with a note is generally fine. But if you want to save costs you can email the URL that has music online.
Schnee: Make it stand out however you can without overdoing it. Do not look at other press kits as a template. Just put yourself in the shoes of the person who will receive the press kit, understanding they most likely receive hundreds each year, and think about what would make them want to review it. While it should be fun and creative, it should also be professional and organized. A one sheet’ with bullet points listing accomplishments is always a great idea. Just assume that everyone is busy…so get right to the point.
Fairbrother: For a band just starting out you have to have the bio make the music sound incredible or keep it short and sweet with a little bit of smoke and mirrors. But if you do this you need to understand that once you get your foot in the door with this method then you have to back it up. Update and keep your kit current. Also localize your kit for which markets you’re using them for. For example if you’re trying to get into the Iron Horse then you’ll want to include a UMass article if you have one and if you’re trying to get into the Stone Church then include a UNH article.
I had some ideas that might apply to both Dave’s (5/7) and Jeremy’s (5/28) questions in your "The Biz" column on Jambands.com.
I work for a company called Etix that does online and box office ticketing for live music venues, festivals and other events. We setup the venue with online ticketing for free and encourage ticket purchasers to use our Print@home tickets. These tickets give promoters, managers, and the venues an opportunity to sell advertising space and promote upcoming events. This is a great way for someone starting out to generate instant revenues. With a couple hundred bucks from ads sales, more involved promotions are tangible.
Secondly, since we get the venues started for free, online ticket information placed on the flyer can be invaluable. It gives the patrons directions to purchase a ticket with minimal information and sometimes just a logo. This gets tickets sold before the event occurs regardless of whether the ticket purchaser actually attends the event.
That’s all, just wanted to help with some ideas from my perspective. I love to see live music prosper.