Band press kits—do’s and don’ts, part one

Musicians and entertainers can choose from thousands of different styles of press kits when promoting their project. Some have glitzy, shiny covers with 20 pages of reviews, bios, descriptions and tour dates. Others send one-page outlines on computer paper with a home made CD taped to the front. Somewhere between the former and the latter, there exists the ideal kit that neither of those describe.

To start, we’ll cover media packets for local bands who are just starting out and have had little or no coverage. These are the most important for an emerging artist or group, because talent alone will not necessarily get you where you want to be on the top of the music chain these days. Three points cannotbe emphasized enough to help get your name noticed, no matter what genre of music you play.

Point 1: Keep it simple, guys. Don’t overstep the reality of the fact that nobody knows who you are. Depending on how many people are in your group, the kit should be between three to five pages, tops. What should be included in these pages are the name of the group, the members and instruments, the style of music that is played, the venues the group has played (if any), a basic mission statement for the music, one-paragraph biographies of each member, photos and contact information. This, of course, includes the demo tape or CD.

Point 2: For the mission statement, or self-description, the worst thing to do is waste paper and time writing a long-winded self-promotional tirade with superlatives and drastic slang.

I’ve seen too many media packets come through with numerous bands describing themselves as “the best rock band in the (insert town name)” or “the most bombastic, kick-a–, boot-stomping’ punk posse in the Midwest!” These empty descriptions will mean nothing to the prospective reviewer or booking agent other than you are over-eager and under experienced. Leave it up to the listener to decide whether you are the best at what you do.

Instead, write clear, unembellished descriptions, as in “So-and-so blends the styles of punk, pop, …etc., to make a sound best heard in an outdoor concert setting, or large nightclub. The members each have varying musical backgrounds, from classical education to independent blues/rock studies, creating a tightly-practiced and well-knit band…” You get the idea.

Point 3: Don’t get too cute. Bands need to brand themselves in a certain way to better market their product, but one of the biggest killers is assuming that the public won’t like you unless your fliers are deliberately ill-made collages of goofy innuendo, naked women, and corny catch phrases. This smacks of amateur, and as a beginning public performer, that’s the last thing you want.

This goes for press kit photos, too. Although it’s important to recognize the image the group wants to set and then design the backdrop or scenery behind you to fit this, avoid overt cliches like having action shots of jumping, or settings of graffitoed walls while members look “hardcore.”

Instead, dress as you would during a performance (whether in glam gear or your everyday jeans and T-shirt) and make sure the camera gets a direct, frontal view of every member’s face. Once you’ve signed a record deal, go crazy with your fliers and photos—at that point, it won’t matter.

Point 4: Bios are extremely important, especially when distributing your media packet to newspapers and radio stations. From bios, the reader/listener can put a face to a name to a sound or solo, and in them lies most of the factual information in a band review. Don’t go overboard with these; include only relevant information: who you are, where you’re from, what you play, what bands have “inspired” you, and one short quote of yourself on how you feel about your band. Don’t include your nickname, or what size shoe you wear in a desperate effort to ingratiate yourself amiably with the reviewer. Just the simple facts will suffice.

Next week, we’ll finish up with the beginner bands and then move on to what an ideal press kit looks like when you update it after you’ve had more than 15 public gigs.

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