Beef Up Your Music Press Kit

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen made by bands and artists today is to under-estimate the importance of a professional promotional kit. Your promo kit, also known as a press kit or media kit is probably one of the single most important elements in an artist’s initial presentation to venues, promoters and most importantly record companies. First-impression is so important in the music business. Some artists just don’t get it! With the major influx of CDs and packages that record companies receive on a daily basis… with most realizing the inside of the trash can at the receptionist’s desk, its vital that your package stands out from the crowd and distinguishes you from the rest as a true professional who’s package is worth reviewing and CD worth listening too.

In preparing your press kit you need to find every element possible that will distinguish you from the masses. Throwing together a bunch of poor quality copies, unprofessional photos and poorly written copy and bio all stuffed in a flimsy folder just isn’t going to cut it. The press kit is a representation and extension of you. If it’s a sloppy heap of papers, that’s exactly how you come off. On the other hand, if it’s a well-organized presentation, you come off as a pro.

Some of the elements that need to be taken into consideration when putting your kit together are things such as theme, concept, and layout. You should come up with a concept and theme for the kit, one that is memorable and basically ties every page together in some form of continuity. A theme could be based on the artists or bands name. For example, if the band’s name is “Orange Freedom” The color scheme could have orange in it, either the paper or text or icons could be oranges. I’m aware this particular example may seem a bit infantile but I think you get the basic idea. Remember you want the band name to be memorable. Just to give you another example, recently we were showcasing one of our acts named “Uncle Plum” in New York City in front of 4 major record labels. The day of the showcase, we had one of our interns travel via cab around the city and deliver a reminder to each A&R and record executive invited to the showcase. Along with the cleverly written reminder invitation to the showcase, she promptly dropped off a basket of plums to each record executive. May sound silly… but it works.

Part of your concept should also be a professionally designed logo. A logo is very important and must be something easily remembered and contain the elements of your overall concept.

Utilization of professional packaging for your media kit is also vitally important. The binder must be strong, and not easily damageable. It wouldn’t hurt to use a binder the same color as the band’s logo once again for continuity. Although these types of portfolios can be expensive… sometimes a few bucks each, it’s definitely money well spent.

A professional photo is definitely a necessity in your kit, maybe even a few photos. If you’re a band, you will need the 8* x 10* B&W glossy of the band and also individual photos of each band member included in the bio section which we’ll discuss later. A high-quality professional photo is a must. Having friends or relatives take a snap -hot won’t cut it either. The photo is an area where you can’t afford to try a save a few bucks. You need to shop around for a professional photographer to do this. I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough. If you have the budget, hiring a professional music industry stylish to touch up your image may not be a bad idea either. Although I realize for most bands this may be cost-prohibitive.

The write-up section should contain two elements; your bio or the band member’s bio; these should be short and to the point. Don’t go nuts with a long detailed biography. Labels and others just don’t have time to read it so they’ll just skip it. There you will possibly lose out on providing information to the kit recipient which may be advantageous to you. Include things like your influences and other experience in the industry. They really don’t care much about your baby picture or what you did when you were six years old unless, of course, you were a child sensation at the time. Your fact sheet; This should contain any favorable press or write-ups you’ve received such as tours, radio airplay, reviews, good sales figures on an independent release, etc. You can also include GOOD COPIES of any articles, interviews or reviews from newspapers or trade magazines. Every page of your press kit should include you or your manager’s contact information and your website URL. Be truthful and keep it all as short and sweet as possible.

Now for the most important element of your kit… Your Music. Include a professionally recorded demo of your absolute best 3 songs. No more than three. The format should be on CD only. Encase your disk in a professionally labeled jewel case which includes your theme, contact information, and logo. It’s important for your CD presentation to be as professional as possible. It’s nice to have a separate pocket in your portfolio to house the CD so there is no chance for it to fall out or get lost. It’s better contained that way. Or as we’ve done on occasion with some of our kits, use Velcro to hold the jewel case on the rear inside portion of the portfolio.

Now in summary, here are the elements to include:

* Create a theme and concept

* Design a professional logo

* Use professional packaging

* 8″ x 10″ Black & White glossy promo photo

* Individual band member photos if applicable

* Artist or band bio

* Fact Sheet… favorable write-ups and quotes

* Additional press… reviews, interviews, articles

* 3 Song CD Demo

Your press kit is your representation of you when you are not there. Don’t take it lightly. Check it thoroughly for errors and content and be diligent. If your kit is special it will stand out and labels, venues, and the music media will take notice. GOOG LUCK!

Is Roc Nation Building the Next Music Empire?

Roc Nation, the record label of hip hop superstar Jay-Z, may indeed be building the next music empire. The label is already home to several of the industry’s up and coming talents, including J. Cole and Willow Smith, with the most recent to the ranks being the budding star Jay Electronica.

The label, formed in April of 2008 through the partnership of Jay-Z and Live Nation, is a music industry original, merging talent and management in a unique and ingenious manner. The company is made up of songwriters, producers, artists and engineers.

An artist like Jay Electronica is bound to bring incredible benefits to the company, not only in terms of music and emcee talent but as a marketing and merchandizing expert as well. The reason for this is that “Jay Electronica download” is one of the most common internet searches performed by hip hop fans every day.

The manner in which the young rapper has reached viral stardom online is certainly a method that will be of benefit to the Roc Nation label. Releasing his first major track on his own MySpace page in 2007, Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge), Jay Electronica managed to rocked himself into the hip hop without a big record label or a huge marketing budget.

The emcee continued to release his work online via sites like MySpace and Twitter, taking advantage of the free publicity such social networking sites provide and marketing on the word-of-mouth activities of fans. The next single released, Jay Electronic Exhibit A was an instant hit among current fans, and managed to win the young artist even greater attention.

Beginning his formal career in Detroit, by making industry contacts that included some of the hip hop world’s best known producers, Jay Electronica managed to go from an internet sensation to an artist with a big name record deal in just three years, signing with Roc Nation in 2010.

So how did he manage such a feat? It was the Jay Electronica Exhibit C that likely secured his place in the hip hop industry, winning an “Instant Classic” award from the Sucker Free Summit Awards on MTV2. This formal recognition introduced even more music fans to the unique sounds of the artist and drove further online investigation of the artist, with internet searches for “Jay Electronica lyrics,” “Jay Electronica music” and “Jay Electronica download increasing exponentially.

It seemed somewhat unlikely during the first few years of his career that he would release a full album, but since signing with Roc Nation it now appears that Jay Electronica will do just that. Tracks from the new multimedia venture began to appear online in 2010, with the official release date planned for 2011.

With a major label now behind him and even more exciting ventures in the future, Jay Electronica moved from obscurity to stardom in a period of just a few years, and made his path through very non-traditional means. Roc Nation’s other artists could certainly benefit from the up and coming star’s marketing playbook.

Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music Review

I just recently finished reading the book, Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music. I’m kind of mad at myself for waiting so long to read it. It’s been in the “to read” pile for a long time and I just got around to reading it. It’s a fantastic look at the evolution of music over the past 20 years or so. From the rise of indie bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Bright Eyes, to Prince’s record label, to mp3’s and the “pay what you want” model introduced by Radiohead and NineInch Nail’s Trent Reznor.

I can’t honestly say that I remember much about my 7th grade history class. I couldn’t even tell you my teacher’s name, let alone what we “learned” that year. The one thing that I do remember is that there was a banner hanging above the chalk board. It read, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

If you are going to be a musician today, then you need to understand how the music industry has changed so that you can try to figure out where it’s headed. Sure it’s great to know about the writers in Tin Pan Alley from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s; it’s important to understand radio’s role in the emergence of popular music and how payola controlled that; it’s important to know that the first video ever aired on MTV was The Buggle’s “Video Killed The Radio Star” (seriously think about that for a minute).

In the last 20 years, the music industry has changed more than it has in nearly its entire existence. Or, certainly in this century. The current music industry that we operate in is still changing at a rapid pace. There’s speculation on the extinction of CD’s within 2-3 years, there’s been a major resurgence in vinyl (who saw that coming?!), the major record labels as we knew them may cease to exist within 5 years, mp3’s and file sharing are now a good thing and a major source of world-wide distribution (what?!).

Greg Kott’s “Ripped” is one of the most fascinating books on current music history I’ve ever read. He jumps right in with the first chapter about the major consolidation that all of the big 5 (at that time there were 5 major record labels, as opposed to the 2 1/2 there are now). This was a huge shift in the record industry at the time. It scared a lot of artists and put a lot of people out of work.

Greg does a great job in detailing the consolidation of the majors, the rise of indie bands, the fight against and for sampling on hip-hip records and new mashup records and artists, Prince’s record label and his do-it-yourself approach, the rise of mp3’s and the fall of Napster and the “pay what you want” model that Radiohead started with “In Rainbows,” that Trent Renzor “improved” upon.

I don’t want to give too much away, because I want you to be able to enjoy this book. It isan enjoyable book. It discusses in detail the many things that have happened over the past two decades that have changed the face of the music industry dramatically.

You can read each chapter as a vignette about each band or person or aspect of the industry. But when taken as a whole, “Ripped” reads more like a cautionary tale with a hopeful ending.

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”