A&R Tips: The Art Of The Press Kit [GUEST POST]

press kit

Jon Ostrow is the co-founder of MicControl, a music blogging network based on a music social networking platform. This post originally appeared on the MicControl blog on June 24, 2010. Jon can be found on Twitter (@MicControl) and Facebook.

If every artist, band or group represents it’s own brand, and must be sold as such to the public and to the music industry, then every brand needs to be packaged in a way that will effectively showcase it’s strengths and marketability. By now, most musicians understand the importance of a press kit- it is your brand, your image, it is you in a package, and is the key to selling venues and A&R reps from both major and indie labels on the fact that you WILL make them money. But just making a press kit isn’t enough. In an industry with such a low barrier of entry, anyone can make and submit a press kit, decreasing your chance of actually getting recognized by those who matter. So what will you do to make your press kit more remarkable than the rest?


There are right ways of making a press kit, and of course there are also wrong ways- but with every artist out there making one, you need more than just a ‘proper’ press kit. There are many different things that can be added in and certain techniques that can be used, that will make your press kit shine much brighter than the rest of the pile.


Basic Types Of Press Kits

  • Traditional, physical press kit
  • Electronic press kit (EPK)

While you may be tempted to just use one or the other, it is very important that you always create a physical press kit. Not only are these more likely to be received by booking agents and A&R reps from record labels, but they can be customized in a way that the EPK’s cannot, which is essential to making your press kit as attractive as possible. Not to say that EPK’s are bad, because they are still a very helpful tool for promoting your music to bloggers and other online publications. But if you do decide to make one, make sure that it does not completely replace your use of physical press kits.

Currently, the most popular EPK service is SonicBids.

Gathering The Essentials

Besides being a sales pitch for booking agents and A&R reps, a press kit also needs to contain enough factual information about the artist/band/group to be able to base an article or review on.

Biography: Although a bio is just that, a biography of the band (or artist), it is still a place to get creative. An interesting back story, if you have one, is a very marketable thing. All the same though, make it short and sweet- no one wants to read 5 pages of your musical history. If you have nothing special to say, get the bio over as quickly as possible.

CD demo: Bands should include their most recent music, or music that may be recognizable or has become a fan favorite. MAKE SURE IT IS A HIGH QUALITY RECORDING. No one wants to hear a low-fi demo made in a basement. Just remember, you get 30 seconds to make your case. If the person listening doesn’t find what they are looking for in your music after 30 seconds, they will most likely pass.

High resolution photo of the band: An obvious must for every press kit. Not only is it very important to give press a high quality image to be reproduced in magazines, newspapers, blogs etc. but it is also a good way to showcase the look and feel of your band. Remember that no matter what you wear when you are in ‘artist’ mode, whether it’s for a photo shoot or on stage, you are making a statement.

steve miller band

Tour dates (when applicable): Obviously, the more dates you have, the better it looks. By showing that others find you marketable, and are willing to book you, you will become instantly more appealing to the reps of bigger and better venues- to these people ticket sales are everything.

Past shows (when applicable): Do yourself a favor, and leave this off the list if all you can say is ‘I played a backyard BBQ for my friends’. This is a good place to show off previous shows of importance, whether it be venues with a large capacity or sold out gigs.

Press reviews/ interviews (when applicable): Again, the more high-profile reviews and/or interviews you can include in your press kit, the better off you will be. This is physical proof to booking agents and A&R reps that your brand is worth something, and there is more money to be made by marketing it on a larger scale.

Contact info: VERY IMPORTANT! Make sure you have multiple ways to be reached by those who are looking to get in touch with you. Give what ever info you would like, but make sure you leave the phone number, address and email address of the one person who represents the band, even if it is a band member. Also, to show that you are serious, create an email that is professional (i.e. my.band@yahoo.com).

Whether you use a physical press kit or an electronic press kit, the information used should remain fairly similar. However, an electronic press kit does give you some additional options such as videos and website links that may be difficult (though not impossible) to include in a physical press kit. Here is the basic info that is typically seen within an electronic press kit (EPK):

  • Biography
  • Music clips (with accompanying lyrics)
  • High resolution press photos
  • Tour dates
  • Promotional videos
  • Website or website links
  • Press reviews and interviews, etc.
  • “RIYL” or “Recommended If You Like” list: a listing of artists of similar styles or genres
  • High resolution photos or images of the band logo, products, etc.
  • Contact information

The Competitive Advantage

Once you have all of these elements ready to go, there are some techniques that can and should be employed in order to make your press kit more appealing then all the others:

Take off the shrink wrap from the CD: This may seem insignificant, but you must look at it through the eyes of those who do look at press kit after press kit. By removing the shrink wrap, you are saving all of those looking at the press kit the headache of having to remove it themselves, keeping them in a good mindset as they listen to the first few seconds of your CD. Do you really think you will stand a chance if the person puts the disk into the player after struggling with the shrink wrapping? No… you won’t.

Cover letter: Just like with a resume, there should be a cover letter in your press kit. A cover letter is a formal and personal introduction to the band and the music. Click here if you don’t know how to create a cover letter.

NOTE: THERE IS A CORRECT WAY TO MAKE A COVER LETTER. A POORLY DONE COVER LETTER CAN HURT YOU MORE THAN NOT INCLUDING ONE!

Put your contact info on anything and everything: Just remember, your press kit will most likely be one of many in a pile. Just as school teachers give constant reminders to put your name on all of your work, make sure you put your contact info on everything you can. Pictures get separated, CDs get removed and misplaced from their cases, cover letters get separated from the rest of the press kit, you get my drift? PUT IT ON EVERYTHING!

Proper Packaging

All of the contents of your press kit needs to be put together into one clean and professional package, as it not only reflects how serious you are about the opportunity at hand, but is a sign of respect to those receiving it. A manila folder is most likely the best option, but no matter what kind of folder you do use, make sure you get the band name printed on to it, not drawn, but printed. Again, professionalism is important and will go along way when trying to make a first impression. Also, make sure that everything stays nicely inside the folder- your press kit will be in a pile with others, if something important from your press kit falls out, such as your demo CD, you can kiss that opportunity good-bye.

At this point you have everything you need for creating an effective press kit. Just keep in mind that you represent a brand, and an overall image, and you are attempting to convince a professional that your music is marketable and WILL be profitable if given the opportunity.


What steps have YOU taken to give your press kit the competitive edge? Please answer in the form of a comment below.

  • Jon Ostrow

    Thanks Chris for posting this up! I encourage anyone and everyone reading to feel free to reach out to me on twitter and facebook through the links above! All feedback is appreciated.

    Thanks
    Jon

  • http://tightmixblog.com Chris B.

    Anytime, Jon.