The following was excerpted from Kenny Kerner’s book, “Going Pro,” published by Hal Leonard.
In the music business, the folder that contains your photo, bio, press clippings and demo tape/CD, is called your press kit or press package. The same package goes to record companies, agents, attorneys and the media. So it better look good and contain everything you need others to know–without giving them a week’s worth of reading materials.
When putting together this important package, less is more. Too much to read will make someone impatient. And realistically, what can you say about a brand new act that has no real career? Your press kit should contain the following materials only:
A clear, crisp 8×10 photo with artist/band name and contact info.
One or two short, positive reviews or press clips.
Lyrics to the songs on your tape/CD (stapled together in sequence).
A band/artist ID sheet identifying each member, writer and instrument played by each. No need to mention where the band is from or how long they’ve been floundering around together doing nothing–unless there’s a unique angle or story.
If you have three or four direct quotes from some very reputable people in the business–managers, producers, artists–include them on a separate quote sheet, but be sure to attribute them correctly.
Include a professional looking business card from your manager or representative.
Don’t forget to include your demo tape/CD, Einstein!
Always include a cover letter with every package explaining why you’re sending it.
We need to spend a few minutes talking about the photos you’re putting in your press packages. Do they really represent you? Do they somehow depict the kind of music you play? Do they look pro?
I have yet to find a single artist who was incapable of somehow finding a photographer to take a few pictures. Everyone has a relative or friend with a camera. It’s up to the artist to be creative. You don’t need a thousand-dollar photo session–merely one that looks like it cost a thousand dollars. In other words, make it look good for a few bucks.
Do not, for example, stand in front of a forest so we can’t distinguish you from the trees. Do not wear a watch or be photographed in front of a calendar so the photo is dated a week later. Do not stand in front of a black curtain or backdrop wearing all black; you’ll come out with a head and no body. Keep it simple.
Try to look like the music you’re playing. Don’t wear rainbow-colored clothes if you’re in a metal band–look dark and dirty, like the music. Ozzy Osbourne always looks like his music! The Rolling Stones always look like trouble-making rock & rollers! The Grateful Dead always looked and dressed like hippies on pot! And so did their enormous audience. Remember that you want to help the consumers in identifying you and your music, not confuse them.
As I mentioned earlier, every single press package that goes out must be accompanied by a cover letter explaining why it was sent. Usually, this letter is written by the artist’s manager, attorney, or, in some cases, by the leader of the band himself.
Like everything else in your press package, this letter should also be short, to the point, and very pro. It should explain, in a few paragraphs, who you are, why you sent the package and what you expect. Below you’ll see a sample letter.
Six short sentences say it all. Again, you want this person playing the tape and not making paper airplanes out of your press materials.
Sometimes it will take months to hear from these people–even with follow-up calls. Don’t give up. Don’t get frustrated. Remember that they’re getting the same kinds of packages from hundreds of other people around the world, and you’re probably not at the top of their list.
Try to make connections at as many labels as possible so you can submit enough packages and get a fair appraisal of your material. At the very least, you’ll be able to reach and speak with an assistant or secretary who’ll be able to tell you if your package was received. Almost all labels now log in packages on their computers with a date and the name of the artist.
These press packages are your calling cards for your career in the music business. They can be used to solicit a personal manager, agent, publisher, club gig, record label or just about anyone in the industry. So as long as you’re taking the time to put one together, do yourself a favor and do it pro!