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Marketing for Musicians 101

Aug 17, 2007
I get asked a lot about press kits. People want to know how to present them, what's in them, etc. I have been asked over and over again to write articles on the subject, so here you are: a brief crash course on press kits.

Your press kit is your calling card. It will introduce you and your band to the people you need to help move your career forward before they meet you or hear your music. Make it interesting, exciting and entertaining. Make it attractive (and interactive if it's a digital press kit). Capture their attention and make them want to see, read and listen to what you've sent.

Your press kit should include reviews you have received for shows, information on current venues, and any reviews from your new CD when they are available. Include a head or group shot (black and white is the least expensive, but color really catches the eye and many people require it), a bio (if you don't have a bio, create one, or get someone to create one for you), a cover letter, a CD, and a business card.

Your cover letter, should be limited to one page and should be packed full of concise well formatted information - much like a one sheet. Try to limit your press kit to 7 or 8 pieces of information. You don't want to overload them and you want to save some excitement for later! Keep them a little curious.

You'll want to compile three types of press kits: one for major labels, one for distributors, and the other for Radio PD/MD's. (In my book, "The Indie Guide to Music, Marketing and Money," I go into much greater how to present the different press kits to each one.) The most economic form of sending a press kit is the digital press kit, however, many people still do not accept this form, so please ask them before randomly sending out information about your electronic press kit. The other form of course is the old fashioned press kit. The order you place the information in your folders is equally as important to the reader as the content is to you. They know what they're looking for. Your enclosures should go in the following order starting on top:

Press Kit for Major Labels: On the right side of the folder put CD, business card (attached to the folder) cover letter (include in the letter a small list of any upcoming gigs and invite them to attend, kind of like showcase, only this one is free) and head shot/group shot. On the left side of the folder put bio, reviews (most current on top) and any press and lyric sheets. Lyric sheets are very important to many A&R personnel. If you already have them in your CD jacket don't repeat them with another enclosure unless they specifically request separate lyric sheets. Save on postage. The reason you are going to put the heavier items on the right side of the folder is due to the fact that most folders people open from right to left. This helps insure your press kit doesn't end up sprawled across their lap.

Press Kit for Radio PD/MD's: d t CD (possibly two, depending on the type of station - more on this in my book.) business card (attached to the folder) and the head shot / group shot. On the left side of the folder put bio, reviews (most current on top), any press, cover letter / one sheet depending on whether you are sending directly to a person at their request or a dept at their request. Again include a list on the one sheet of any gigs that are coming up.

A word of advice: Certain labels will not accept unsolicited material no matter what you do. Generally, you'll need an entertainment lawyer or manager to submit to them on your behalf. Other times major labels have an established relationship with a verifiable industry contact that must represent you. Warner Brothers is one of those. Before you send any press kit, you need to get permission first. If you don't get permission, your product has a very low probability rate of ever getting to its destination and even less of a chance of getting read and listened to.

There are musicians who think that their music is the only thing that will speak for them. They believe that their music alone will open the doors to major labels, radio airplay, etc. It won't. You must have a proven track record as well as a "certain" style and look. It is after all the first thing they see before they ever listen to your music.

This is a money making business. If you desire a major label contract you must remember that. The majors are in business. They may think you're the nicest person in the world, but they still want to make money off of you. You are a commodity. They aren't really interested in taking a risk on what you think is the best music. Your CD and ticket sales will inspire them.

So make sure that you do your work! Get listed with Soundscan. Keep a record of all the airplay you receive (which stations are playing you), and sell, sell, sell before you submit to labels. Your statistics are equal to you being a low-risk prospect for a major label. You'll have already proven yourself! And, more importantly, you'll have a much better shot at opening the doors.

After you have sent your press kit, make sure to follow up with a phone call to make sure your press kit has arrived safely. Then wait three weeks before you begin follow-up calls. Don't just send the package and expect them to call. Remember, they get hundreds of packages from musicians just like you every single week.

With all of that said, going the major label route or trying to garner radio airplay in today's market, while not impossible, may be pointless. You can do it yourself, start your own label, distribute the product yourself and make quite a bit of money. That's the beauty of the Internet.

Follow up and get noticed - but don't become a pest or they will ignore you. It's a fine line and you will know it when you speak with them. Once you get a response, whether you like the answer or not, politely thank them and send them a thank you card for their time. They will remember you and you may have perhaps gained an ally for the future! Jaci Rae - "The Rae of Hope TM" Copyright 2006
About the Author
Jaci Rae is a #1 Best Selling author of The Indie Guide to Music, Marketing and Money and Winning Points with the Woman in Your Life One Touchdown at a Time. Tune in for "The Jaci Rae Show" heard live around the world every Thursday: Click on the weekly show link
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