by Kari Estrin
Having an effective Press kit or Electronic Press Kit [EPK ] will not only increase your chances of getting gigs, but will ensure you receive better publicity for the ones you get. Also, that more strategic publicity you’ll receive usually results in attracting more audience members, with the chance for better pay scales and more CD’s/merchandise sold. However, you would be surprised at how often press kits don’t give the important information and delivery that venues, festivals and publicists need. Unfortunately, when your kit is not only ineffective in providing info to entice a venue to consider your booking request, another artist that may not be as accomplished as yourself, but with a well thought out and professional kit, might be the one who snags the gig instead!
Here are six elements of a good EPK which I’ll also explain below. I recommend hosting your EPK on your own web site, as either a separate tab or a link solely for booking, as with your own site you can control the format and the data while sending the venue to one source for everything. You can still keep an alternate kit set up on other digital sites, but I would encourage artists at every turn to ultimately drive the traffic to their own website. It is not uncommon when a platform other than your site is the host, entire kits can be wiped away if you don’t keep up with communications from them.
What Makes an Effective EPK
1) an informative bio
2) a quote page and/or review shorts
3) various publicity shots
4) music to stream
6) downloadable posters
7) stage plot, sound requirements in your basic contract rider
Explanation of Each:
1) An informative Biography
This is perhaps the most misunderstood component of a press kit by artists – as to what makes a good bio and what you should include about yourself. I highly recommend hiring a writer for this, as they will know how to look at your life, musical achievements and make it an interesting and effective read. But if you’re writing it yourself, here are a few tips. First, A bio should captivate the reader with a strong first sentence – perhaps to pique interest or to give an intriguing summation of the artist and what s/he does, filled out in the first paragraph’s subsequent lines. The second and third paragraphs might delve more into specifics about the artist’s current sound, musical life and past achievements. If you’ve received lots of songwriting finalist awards, no need to list them all in a sentence. You can summarize your achievements. Then usually, the last paragraphs might talk about where the artist was born and grew up with some more historical information. Be prudent here, giving homage to your 5th grade teacher or that role in the school play is not usually interesting to others. That said, in general, when writing your bio, when looking at our own lives, we often leave out some of the most fascinating things about ourselves that may stimulate human interest in your story. It’s that memorable content that helps you stand out from a crowd. The trick is in how to incorporate it. Again, If you are unsure of how to write about yourself, talk with friends who may be accomplished writers or hire someone who professionally writes bios. It will be worth it!
2) A Quote page and/or Review Shorts
If you have received some reviews and/or quotes, it’s quite illustrative and impressive to include these in your press kit. The key to selecting quotes when they are three to four sentences long is to create a shortened version of the quote for quick reading. You want the reader to be able to skim over the quotes, not to be weighed down in them. It’s ok to edit out some of what is said – to make the quote have more punch! But, this is also an art, you can’t put words into their mouth, and your edits must keep their intention the same. However, taking out extraneous words or even thoughts focuses the reader to know what the most important take away is. As to reviews, it’s fine to print them in their entirety if they are well written and informative, but many times there will be a lot of filler information found elsewhere in your press kit, so feel free to reproduce a paragraph or two from a longer press clip. If you have a particularly strong and brief quote that sums up the essence of what you do, that may also be included on the front of your website; the top of your bio, placed under your name; on a business card; etc. Do not include fan quotes; try to get quotes from reviewers, people in the business who run/book venues, other well-known musicians, etc. One last caveat – you can use a quote if it is published or asked for, but if someone says something or writes to you personally, it’s best to write back and ask for permission before using – and at that time, they can even clarify what they said once they know you’re looking for a quote.
3) Various Publicity Shots
It’s important to have a good publicity shot – one that is something a newspaper or venue can use to generate interest and attract attention. Depending on your image and branding – having a shot that also can reflect your music is a plus. Clothing, settings and good lighting and camera work are important in getting your shot chosen over others for print. Sometimes a photo editor picks the pictures for previews and it is not uncommon for an unknown artist with a better photo to have it printed larger than someone famous! Therefore I advise hiring a photographer, since if you find one whose work you like, you will usually get a picture that will be more professional which will garner attention. Whether you are looking at the camera, looking away or are relaxing, the shot should convey something about you and your music, albeit in abstract terms. A professional photographer can help you find your best and most interesting camera angles, encourage you to relax and give your shot the polish and nuance it needs. Please avoid taking your pictures in front of barns and brick walls – these backgrounds are overdone. You can scout out interesting backdrops for your photo, or your photographer will have some in mind. If shooting indoors without natural light, your photographer will have the proper lighting with them. You can have a variety of types – head shot, full body shot, horizontal and vertical. The final shots should be available and downloadable in both hi resolution pictures (300 & 600 dpi)and low res (72) for computer screens and should be indicated as such on your site.
4) Music to stream/download
Of course, your kit should include your music – this is easy if you have a CD – you can either include a few (5 or so tracks) from your CD – or stream the CD itself. And if making your music downloadable, you can also have a private link on your site for your whole EPK, or just the music in full, so that only venues/festivals can have that access to your press kit and music. If you don’t have a CD, then put together maybe five or so tracks of your music, well recorded. Indicate if you are about to record an album and that these are some of the songs that you will include. If you are a band, whether in a recording, demo or video, record your sound as you usually perform. However, if you are a singer songwriter and usually perform solo, your CD most probably will include other instruments that you don’t take on the road, but that enhance your sound. Venues look for what is somewhat reproducible in your performances, but not literally. Instead, leave off those drum kits and electric guitars if you don’t perform with them, but it is fine to add bass and some additional instrumentation that doesn’t dominate your sound. Read on to the next section as venues not only need to know what you sound like on CD or recorded, but also live.
When booking a gig, it is important for many presenters to know how you are live in performance, not just what you do on your CD. So instead of hiring everyone who played on your CD to record your booking video, when you may only intend to bring two or three or go solo, be sure to include at least one video on your site that represents you in performance. It’s always a plus to have a two or three camera edited shoot, but not necessary if your video, which can even be recorded on an iPhone, is recorded up close enough to see your face, (not from a distance where you are barely visible) that is not shakey (!) and that the sound is not muffled or distorted. That type of video will turn off a promoter. Also, If you’re planning a nationally-released recording, it is always an advantage (but not necessary) to have a story-line type video, in addition to a straight-up performance. Some artists also may include a video of their own story – a bit of a biography – and these can be fun. Just keep them to roughly 3 minutes or so, to hold the attention of the viewer. If you sometimes play solo, but can also bring a trio, record the trio – when you negotiate your contract, then you can see if their offer allows you will bring the trio, come as a duo or perform solo. The booking agent for the venue will have an idea what they are negotiating for either way, you can quote a price for the trio – then if there is not enough money for all three of you, can offer to just bring the duo or come solo.
6) Downloadable Posters – yes, some venues want a poster or two to put up – usually 8.5 by 11 is sufficient, as there is not always space for a larger one. You might even have postcards they can reproduce with your info. But you can have these different sizes on your site, including something larger like 11 x 17 – with the artwork completely done except for the white space where the venue can print their information and reproduce for their own purposes. Your graphic designer can assist you with this. Make sure your design is professional, clean and easy to use – and having it downloadable frees you of the responsibility of having to mail them to the venues, if they can use the downloads.
7) Plot, Sound Requirements and a Basic Rider (optional) – If you can, include this as well on a presenter only link on your EPK, it is helpful to the venue to know where you are standing on stage, where the equipment is placed, who is performing with you and what their sound needs are. There are drawing programs on your computer – where you can create a pro stage plot without much fuss. You can indicate where you are standing, what side the microphone is placed, where the equipment will be, etc. That is referred to the stage plot. You can also include a list of equipment that each person needs, you can suggest brands you prefer and list some alternate brands as well. And all of this can be included into a basic “rider” – a document where you let the venue know not only your sound/light specifics and preferences, but for backstage purposes, what you might appreciate and any other special information in making your performance more comfortable and less confusing. For new performers who are not in demand, you do not want to ask for too much, it is more a guide for your sound and backstage preferences, if the venue can provide them. Just remember, when you send this to a venue, they will read it over, then “mark it up” – deleting provisions they don’t provide – then send it back to you for your signature. But here is a good place to indicate if you have an oversize vehicle to park, if you need a keyboard, etc., so this can all come into your booking negotiations. It just allows the presenter to have the best possible picture before making an offer to you.
Summary:I hope these tips have been helpful as a general guideline. Each of these items has a wealth of information to delve into further, but this post will start you off on knowing what components to consider including. It is always preferable to seek out help in areas where you or those around you don’t have the expertise to create your most professional press kit – in terms of graphic design, photography, writing and video, if you are looking for better gigs and to improve your overall profile. You don’t have to spend lots of money for this or record in and with expensive places/equipment. It just has to look well done and sound clean. If you don’t know anyone in your area, networking with other musicians may be helpful to help you find these resources. And graphic designers and writers can be found at any distance to complete your work. A good press kit will pay itself back over time in better gigs and more of them! www.kariestrin.com
For more information on the IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), please go to: http://inacoustic.com