Making your own EPK should be viewed as a necessity for any artist or band that is serious about becoming successful in presenting themselves professionally.
Since the days of Elvis and the Beatles, every band looking for exposure has known of the necessity for a press kit. Some of these press kits, at least the physical-printed-on-paper variety, have become heirloom items – old press kits for The Rolling Stones to sell for a good chunk of change on eBay.
In the modern music promotion era, press kits have been downplayed – the major labels say they’ll take care of it, and the smaller bands trying to get into the act are too busy working on their act, or touring, to put a lot of thought into it, but time needs to be set aside for making your own EPK. The thought of designing, particularly when layout, and printing and distribution come into it, setting up a press kit can seem like one of those daunting tasks that falls into the “When we have more time… bucket.”
Fortunately, the Internet makes it easier for bands to promote themselves by distributing press kits electronically. The objective in making your own EPK, is in getting linked to by music fans and by blogs – and can literally be as simple as a FaceBook page or a MySpace page for your band.
It can also become much more than that… At a bare minimum, your press kit needs to focus on the recipient – it’s there to save you time from answering the same old questions at every stop on the tour, and it’s there to generate buzz about your act. So, take a moment to think about what needs to go into making your own EPK from the time saving angle and from the “everyone asks that question” angle.
Time saving questions – make sure that your press kit has biographical information about your band mates. Pay particular attention to when each performer started making music, and when they picked up their signature instrument.
Talk about when the band was founded, and what caused your band to unite. Most bands formed around two buddies who jammed together from an early age. Include information about influences. Every band pulls influences from other music they’ve heard, from the Ramones to Johann Sebastian Bach. Acknowledge where your influences come from – they cause the press agents who read your press kit to ask smarter, more intelligent questions, which help tell your potential audience what it is about your band they’ll like. (For example, the band that manages to turbocharge Bach’s fugue structures with the Ramones manic energy will hit a different demographic than the people who want the next boy band pop sensation.)
Talk about interesting experiences you’ve had on the road or at specific venues; this is in the category of “keeping it real”, and those anecdotes are one of the things that help build a sense of humanity around your act and can give making your own EPK that personal touch others can relate to.
Now, in terms of building buzz, making your own EPK should cover the three or four “top tracks” of the current album. What inspired those songs, what makes those songs riff, and why will the radio station doing the interview off the press kit want to pull you in over another act? Showcase the benefit you bring to them when you write your press kit.
If you’ve got a bunch of gigs coming up, your press kit should cover when, where and how to buy tickets. If you’ve got testimonials about the act, clippings from reviews of past shows, this is also the place for them. Lastly, include both photos of all band members, and a group shot of the band performing, and MP3 clips of at least two of your songs.
Your press kit is different from your band’s homepage, because the home page is aimed at your fans. The press kit is aimed at media outlets, and they have different needs. It’s not that the stuff for your fans won’t be useful to the media outlet, but the media outlet has to connect to their customer base and subscriber base. They know what their listeners and readers want; it’s in your best interest to make their jobs as easy as possible.
So, look at a few press kits from bands you already like, and learn from them. They’ll always provide contact information, the biographical information mentioned above, musical influences (which serves as an “If you like X, you’ll like our act” litmus test), and when you’re playing in their area. “Sonicbids” is a great place to start!
Because you can make your own EPK electronically and distribute them over the net, you have a lot of advantages that didn’t exist even a decade ago. Much of the stranglehold of the big music labels is being eroded by the change in electronic music and media distribution. You can do things with an electronic press kit that you can’t do with a dead tree edition, like the MP3 clips mentioned above. You can also post YouTube clips of your band in action (and this is a good way to get concert footage out there, as well as music videos, if you can get a few of them made).
Remember that making your own EPK is your passport to publicity and opportunity – it’s a vehicle for you to show the professional world of music what you and your music are all about. Don’t continue to put it off another day. It’s time to realize all the benefits that an electronic press kit can offer you!
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