By Bobby Borg

Promotional materials, such as CDs, photographs, biographies and press clipping, help people to get to know you. When these materials are assembled in one package or folder, they are most commonly known as a physical press kit.

Press kits are most useful when trying to get exposure in newspapers, magazines, and websites. They are also helpful when trying to get booked in clubs and in other live performance venues. A press kit may even entice an attorney or personal manager into representing you.

PRESS KITS, ON THE OTHER HAND ARE NOT VERY HELPFUL IN GETTING YOUR BAND SIGNED TO A RECORDING CONTRACT! The reality is that out of thousands of packages record companies receive in the mail per year, maybe one group gets discovered, if that. The odds are tremendously against you. In fact, without it ever being listened to, your package will likely end up in the wastebasket. This is the harsh reality! Though there are exceptions to every rule, record companies typically do not accept unsolicited mail.

Another misconception about the press kit is that it will lead you to a great audition and gig. More musicians waste their time, energy, and money sending packages in the mail rather than just getting out there, being heard, and making friends. Keep in mind that the majority of all the work you get will be based on personal relationships that you form and nurture over the years. If anything, building a personal website or destination on a community site like Myspace (www.myspace.com) and then personally handing out cards that include your URL, is by far a more useful way to promote yourself (More on online press in a minute).

Now that some of the misconceptions about the physical press kits are out of the way, let's discuss what a press kit should include.

CD

Your press kit should include a demo highlighting three of your best songs, with your best song first. If you include too many songs or if you include songs that are too diverse in style, you may send the message that you're not sure what it is you do.

The production of your demo should also be as high in quality as you can afford. The key is not to leave anything to the imagination of your intended audience. Fortunately, digital equipment has enabled musicians to cut quality demos right out of their own home. If you don't own your own recording gear, chances are that you have a friend who has home equipment and will be willing to help.

Photograph

Also included in the press kit should be your photograph. People will not only want to hear what you sound like, but what you look like. Keep in mind that photographs are also used for reprinting in newspapers and magazines, so make sure your prints aren't too dark.

Give your image and style some serious consideration as well. Your picture must be consistent with your music—if you're a hard rock band, then you must look hard rock. If you're not sure what image you want to portray, see what other bands are doing by reviewing magazines like Rolling Stone and Details.

The print size of your photo should be 8x10 inches and should include your band name and contact information at the bottom (phone number, mailing address, e-mail address and website URL).

Biography

A biography (or bio) should be as short as possible (typically 500 words) and written without a lot of flowery adjectives and big words. If there's a unique story about how your band formed or about the various members in your group, include it. This gives writers at newspapers and magazines a special twist or hook when writing about your band. If you have any flattering quotes or reviews, include them here as well; but don't over do it. Including 15 quotes from people no one knows is pointless. Check out other bands bios on the web and see what their approach is.

Accomplishments are also important to list in your bio. The number of CDs that you've sold, the college radio play you receive, or the average number of people you play before can all be impressive information and show that you have the pro-activity and desire to succeed.

Tear Sheets

A press kit should also include clippings, known as tear sheets; from newspapers and magazines you've collected over the months and years. Clippings help prove you're established and not just another fly-by-night operation. Again, don't over-use them.

Cover Letter

Lastly, when mailing out your press kit, include a cover letter that clearly addresses who you are, what you do, and what you want. Be sure to include all of your contact information here as well. It also helps to call the person you're soliciting to inform them that your package is on the way. Chances are that if they haven't asked you to mail a press kit or they haven't heard of your band, your package will be left unopened in a pile or tossed in the garbage can.

Follow up in a few weeks with another call to see if they liked what you've sent. Keep in mind that editors at magazines, just like people at record companies, receive hundreds of packages per week. So be patient and always be polite. If they don't return your call after four of five messages, perhaps you should consider the answer to be NO and move-on.

Final Thoughts: Online Vs Physical Materials

In the digital age that we live in today, the press kit still has its place; however, it is important to have an online presence as well. Many publicists and bookers prefer to going to your website where they can listen to MP3s and view your pictures within minutes—it beats receiving a package they have to store somewhere—or throw out. And if a publicist needs your picture, she often asks for it to be sent electronically.

There are a number of free community sites like Myspace (www.myspace.com and Tagworld (www.tagworld.com where you can create a profile for viewing and even upload a music video. Also check out a company called Sonic Bids (www.sonicbids.com); a company that specializes in building electronic press kits, and in providing gigging and other opportunities.

The idea really is to be prepared for whatever someone asks of you. Having both physical and online materials ready to be viewed will serve in your best interest. But remember, no matter how sharp your promotional materials look, it means nothing unless you have the talent to back it up. So get your priorities straight. Write great songs, develop your performing skills and visual presentation, and excel!



SPECIAL OFFER TO TAXI MEMBERS: Liked what you read? Get $7.00 off Bobby Borg's best selling "The Musician's Handbook: A Practical Guide To Understanding The Music Business" (Published by Billboard Books). Go to www.bobbyborg.com/promotion.Or get it full price in a store near you.

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