1. When a reporter or editor asks for an image or a bio, don’t just send them to your website. Reporters are almost always working on a deadline. So make a point of having your biography and a current photo on your computer ready to go. You can always say, “I have additional information and images on the website, so feel free to download whatever you need.” If you have someone handling your PR, by all means give the reporter their contact info, but take the initiative here, too: “John Smith handles all that for me, but I’ll call him and tell him to email you what you need right away.” This is sometimes the difference between getting a story about you published and not.
Think about it from the reporter’s point of view: if one guitarist answers his email promptly and sends you a photo and a quote, while another takes his time getting back to you and then tells you to go somewhere else for the pic, which, by the way, he doesn’t know if it’s high resolution or not, and your deadline gets closer every minute … which story are you going to write?
2. Don’t lie to reporters or mislead them. I understand that this can be tricky if you’re not ready to talk about something yet. Working sometimes on the marketing side and other times in editorial, I’m well aware that we often have different priorities. But you put the media in a bad situation if you allow them to go public with facts that you know aren’t true. It can come back to bite you.
I was interviewing a bandleader once and asked him about an upcoming change to the band. He looked me in the eye and told me nothing was changing. No one was leaving.
Well I already knew it for a fact. But if I hadn’t heard it firsthand from one of the departing musicians, I might have accepted the bandleader’s word and “put the rumors to rest.” Of course, I would have looked pretty foolish a short time later when the move was announced.
End result? I didn’t run the interview at all. He lost out on free publicity for his band. And now I take anything this guy tells me with a grain of salt.
3. If you tell a writer you’re going to do something, don’t forget about it. Make sure you do it. This is tough because a musician’s job is not just playing music. Often, you’re booking your own gigs and then loading in and tearing down, too. On top of that, you’ve got fans that want your attention; rehearsals, songwriting and maybe you want to see your family sometime.
Somehow though, you’ve got to come to terms with this. So if you say you’re going to send a CD, send it. If you commit to a telephone call, make the call. If you plan a lunch date, follow through with it. Media people play an important part in your success; and if you’ve found a reporter whose work you respect and who gets your music, this is a relationship you want to nurture.
4. Don’t assume a music editor knows about or remembers every show. I’m not suggesting that you inundate the media with reminders about every gig. But, once you’ve met an editor (or reporter or deejay), in particular one with whom you feel a connection, it’s a good idea to send a quick personal email inviting them to the show. If press passes won’t suffice (and they don’t always for bloggers and other Web-based media outlets), leave tickets or names at the door so there’s no charge for admission.
5. Don’t be shy. If you have something newsworthy, don’t hesitate to contact the writer and talk about it. It could be a change to your band; you’re in the studio working on a new CD; you’re writing a song with a new partner; you’re opening for a well known band; or you’d like the music writer to cover your just released CD … Your call might come at just the right moment for a writer who hasn’t figured out his next column yet or a local TV reporter who’s been thinking about highlighting the local music industry or a deejay who’s happy to do an on-air interview with you. If it doesn’t work out this time, your call may have paved the way for something else in the future.
6. Don’t assume that a reporter has kept your information on file unless he or she tells you so. It’s not always a perfect world, and just because you were on the afternoon news once or a music columnist interviewed you during a local festival, your bio and other data may have been deleted. So if you’re fortunate enough to have another story planned about you, just update and resend your information. In fact, even if there isn’t a story about you in the works, send another press kit after a few months. Sometimes it’s enough to jumpstart another interview.
7. Don’t get snarky because an editor hasn’t made time for your interview yet. Just because an editor has agreed to do a story about your music, you can’t always assume it’s going to happen on your schedule. Other time-sensitive stories and last minute assignments can move your story to the back burner. Your interview won’t always be top of mind. Here’s where you need to perfect the art of staying in touch without browbeating them. If you haven’t given them a press kit yet, email your EPK (Electronic Press Kit), send it in the mail or use the excuse to drop it by the office. If you’ve just gotten a new photo, email it with a short note. Remain patient and pleasant and resist the urge to send off a curt email about it.
8. Don’t misrepresent yourself when answering questions or making statements to the media via email. Without tone of voice and facial expression, it’s easy to sound glib or uninterested or even rude . Always include a greeting and sign-off. It’s important that you sound friendly, cooperative and interested in the exchange. Before you hit the send button, reread your email. Is it sarcastic? Could it be interpreted as uninterested or impolite? Consider rewording or adding emoticons. ☺ (Wow, MS Word just made that a smiley face. Okay, you’ll have to decide how you feel about emoticons.)
9. Don’t read a writer’s blog or watch a show only when it’s about you. If you respect the person’s work, make it a point to follow his or her work. You’ll get a big return for a small investment of time.
10. Don’t put media people on your catchall email blast list. Think about it. Do you really think it’s helpful for a writer or broadcast reporter to receive an email that says Thanks to our fans who came out Saturday in Raleigh. We had a blast. And happy day to the Parkers, who just had their 18th anniversary. Kudos, you two! Now multiply that by 25 bands and you know what a music reporter’s inbox looks like on any afternoon. I guarantee emails with messages of substance will be much appreciated!
Why Musicians Should Send Out Press Releases
1. A press release helps to remind the local media that you exist. (Media: newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazine, radio, Internet radio, television and cable)
2. A press release tells the media AND their listeners/readers/viewers what you want them to know about your band or your music.
3. If you can interest an editor in your story, he or she is more apt to not only run the release but also maybe assign a writer and photographer to your story.
4. Sending out press releases can help you develop relationships with the media.
5. Editors and writers are almost always on deadline. When you provide them with a well-written press release about your gig, you’re making their job easier. They appreciate that, and if they don’t pick up your release this time, they may next time.
6. By promoting your public gigs, you show the club owners and media that you’re professionals. It also helps to fill the house.
How to write an informative press release:
First paragraph. This is your basic information: Who is your band and what is the event? Is it concert, a club date, a festival, a street fair? If it’s a charity event, who or what group does it benefit? When is it? Time, date, how long it lasts; where is the venue? Include an address (and a city). Not all readers know the local landmarks and intersections. Note: remember to write this in the third person, as though you were writing a news story. Try to avoid words that exaggerate. Don’t say you’re the premier blues band or the hottest dance band. Don’t say you’re the best, the strongest, the most talented … let other people come to that conclusion and say it for you.
Middle paragraph/s. Here’s where you give us the details about your band. Who are you? What sort of music do you play? If you’ve received awards or other honors, this is a good place to talk about them. If you have a single that’s climbing the charts or a CD being touted on Internet radio, talk about that here as well.
You might want to say something about the venue here: the ambience, the food, the acoustics, and the sound system. If you’re playing an event, this is where you describe it.
Closing paragraph. Is there a cover charge? How can people pay for/obtain tickets? At a box office? Advance sales? Telephone sales? Through TicketMaster? If there’s a number or website for folks to contact for more information, add that here as well. Don’t forget the area code. With cell phones and more area codes being added in many cities, you shouldn’t assume everyone knows this one.
Some final suggestions.
•Although good manners are to be admired, the word PLEASE does not belong within your press release. It should read like a news story, not a personal note.
•Unless an editor requests that you write a commentary or personal experience story, do not write in the first person; use the third person. Do not use I, WE and OUR in your release. Remember it’s a news story.
•Don’t forget to run Spell Check before you submit your release. Editors hate typos in press releases.
• At the end of your release, indicate the end with three number signs (###) and below that, tell the editor how to contact you if he or she has any questions about your release. Include your name, phone number and email address. Remember, you need to be accessible, so if you list your cell number, don’t leave your cell phone on the bus.
• Regarding photos: Don’t overload the editors with pics, but it’s a good idea to email an image of your band or band leader along with the release. They’ll contact you if they want more or if the resolution isn’t high enough.
• If you have a press kit, try calling individual editors, news department or radio personalities to see if you can drop off your Electronic Press Kit (EPK). If you’re out of town, obviously you’ll need to mail it, but you still might benefit from a phone call, too.
In a word, yes.
If you want paying gigs, if you want radio play if you want to get noticed by industry players, if you want to generate word of mouth, if you want to play local or regional festivals, club dates, concerts, special events, parties, weddings, chamber of commerce events, corporate sales meetings or in-home concerts, you need a press kit.
Okay what’s a press kit?
A press kit is the packet or electronic folder of information you give to media people and promoters to help them “sell” you. You’ll also want to give it directly to club owners and anyone else who may hire you.
EPK stands for Electronic Press Kit. This is what you’ll use most often, although publicists still use printed versions, often including the printed information when they send out a CD for review.
Press kit components.
• Band biography/history. Keep this to one or two pages (approx 400-750 words). Write in the third person (he, she, they). Treat it like a news story. If you do a good job, you may find a publication or blog will pick it up almost verbatim. Be sure to include band members /instruments played, particular strengths, awards and high-profile gigs and the type of music you play. If you have limited experience, stress your strengths and add a human interest angle, if you can. i.e. your band recently worked at a Habitat For Humanity build or performed for a local charity.
• Band leader bio. Again, write in third person. Share your musical background, talents. You can include where you studied, where you grew up, family mentions, musical and personal influences. Try to keep it to a singe page (approx. 400 – 500 words).
• Band members bio sheet. One or two pages total (approx. 50 – 300 words for each player, depending on the experience of your band members). If you’ve got a ten-piece band, don’t worry if it’s longer! Some bands use a pool of backup musicians. You may choose to include these, or not.
• Press clippings. If you’ve had press coverage, chances are the editor or writer can supply you with an electronic file of the article. Ask for a .pdf file. Or, if the publication archives its articles, online, you can copy it yourself and save it as a .pdf.
Another option is to scan the printed article and save it as a .pdf file.
• Fact sheet. This is something not often included in musicians’ press kits, but it’s a great opportunity to add something that didn’t fit easily into your bio. Do it with bullet points. Make it simple. It’s a good place to list home towns and pertinent family information; tidbits about the band, i.e. Together the five-piece band plays 27 instruments or The lead guitarist often has as many as six guitars on stage at once or John Doe’s mother taught him to play slide guitar with a butter knife. A musician I know once taught Brandon Lee to play guitar – for his final film as it turned out. This is the sort of item you want to include here.
• Discography. Use your judgment. If you’re at the beginning of your career and have just produced your first homemade CD, include it in your band bio instead. Once you have a few recordings, you may want to include a discography sheet with title, year and label, maybe an image of the cover. If you have a long list, the image may not be practical.
• Technical requirements/capabilities. Depending on where you are in your career, most of you will bring your own equipment. It’s a good idea to have a sheet that lists your equipment along with your technical requirements. Club owners will appreciate the heads up.
• Professional band photo. This is something that bands seem to resist, but you need a current, professional-quality photograph of your band. Bite the bullet and do it. Have the photographer give you color, black & white, high resolution ( 8 x 10, 300 dpi, .tif) and low resolution (5 x7, 72 dpi, .tif). If you find yourself emailing a photo to an editor, you’ll probably have to adjust the size and format, but these sizes are fine for download from your site and for a CD. If your photographer wants a photo credit, be sure to include it with the photo. The photographer may embed it in the corner of the image so editors are sure to see it. NOTE: If your photo includes a band member who’s no longer with the group, it’s not current anymore. You need a new one!
• Band leader photo. Same as above. (If your group doesn’t have a specific leader, you’re off the hook for this one and the band leader bio!)
• Performance photo/s. This/These can be color, both high and low resolution. This image should be dramatic, can be one or more players. Use just one or two shots in your press kit.
• Band logo file. High and low resolution. .tif or .jpg.
• MP3. A representative tune or two, so they can hear how you sound. Choose this carefully. If you play mostly originals, but your press kit tune is a cover, that’s what folks will expect. Maybe you should have one of each.
Note that these written items are all separate documents, not one long piece. Be consistent with your headline fonts and type sizes. They should be the same for each one. Don’t make the type smaller just because the document is longer. You want them the same from one to the next.
Another tip, the paragraph is your friend. Don’t write one long block of copy. It’s too hard to read like that!
And finally, be sure you have included your contact information: contact person; phone number; email address; website, if you have one; MySpace address (you should be on MySpace); Twitter (you should be on Twitter, too!)
Now you have a press kit. What do you do with it?
• Burn it to a CD. Keep a couple safe and marked Master Copy/EPK with the date. Then burn ten or 20 more so you have them ready. Create labels for them There are templates at avery.com. You just fill in the copy (i.e. Press Kit, band name, contact name, telephone number and email address), upload a photo or logo if you want and choose a background color or design.
• Have your Webmaster put it in a downloadable zip file on your website in a section marked Media or Press or News. You or your Webmaster may have to adjust the sizes of your images.
If you don’t have a website, consider setting up a blog. Look into WordPress.com or Blogger.com. You may have to post your press kit items as separate elements. In that case, you could name a category Press Kit and post the components as individual blog posts within your Press Kit category. You would post the photos in an application such as Flickr (Some WordPress themes offer Flickr as a plugin) and your tunes in a music player. A drawback to using a blog is that your photos will not be large high resolution images. You’ll wind up emailing them (which, you’ll do when you send out press releases and notices about your gig. But that’s a blog post for another day!)
• Be generous with your EPKs. They won’t do you any good sitting on the dashboard of your car.
After talking, planning and working together for months, Andy Smith, Rick Lee and Jeff Scheible officially formed Green Dot Discs in March of this year.
Andy owns Green Dot Music, which until recently handled Wilmington band Jim Quick & Coastline. Rick Lee is a co-owner/keyboard player of Charlotte, N.C.-based Too Much Sylvia. Jeff Scheible owned Rock Bottom distributing company in Atlanta, Ga. until he closed the business last year.
According to Smith, the fledgling record label is currently focusing on three groups, all which he considers dance bands: Too Much Sylvia, Mark Roberts & Breeze and the Tim Clark Band.
“Our plan is to put out seven products this year,” he told me. “We’ll release a single for each group; a compilation CD that includes probably four tunes from each; and individual CDs for each band.
“The first CD release is Red Sunglasses from Too Much Sylvia during Myrtle Beach’s Sun Fun celebration in early June. The title track is the album’s first single. It’s a lot of fun.”
Mark Roberts & Breeze, formed in late 2007, is already a popular live act throughout the Carolinas. At the 2008 CBMA awards, the band was named New Group of the Year.
Formerly with 80s rock band Sugarcreek,which was owned by Rick Lee, Tim Clark is known throughout the southeast for his strong vocals and showmanship.
“We have three regional bands with marquee appeal … that are ‘in’ with the beach crowd, so we will definitely be catering to the shag market as well as west coast swing, bop in the north,” Smith says.
What about the future, I wanted to know. Will you be actively seeking to add artists and will they be dance bands?
Smith’s carefully worded answer was, “We’re not looking to sign great numbers of artists. We want to be selective and find the right ‘fit.’ Will they be dance bands? I expect so. At this point, I don’t see us venturing too far from our original idea.”
Next I asked about distribution. “We will be selling CDs from the stage, and all three bands are on the same page here. They’ll be promoting each other’s CDs. The music will also be in local stores and available for download from the Internet. And last, Green Dot Discs will be offering digital download cards.”
The website isn’t up yet, but will be shortly, so give them a little time and then log onto http://www.greendotdiscs.com. Look for more information about the new recording company to come out soon.
This will also be published in my Beach Newz column(May 21 – Jun 4, 2009, p. 24) in Coast and Alternatives magazines in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Willie Nelson blew it.
Since I normally direct my marketing tips to musicians and bands who are still on their way up, you may wonder why I’m talking about Willie. The fact is he just missed a great opportunity to connect with his fans. And my point applies to a band or musician at any point in their career – even Willie Nelson.
Willie performed last night at House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. This morning I get on Twitter and I notice a tweet from Willie (I’m following him):
Day off today. Reminds me.. Have you gotten your copy of Naked Willie? #nakedwillie
Instead of thanking his North and South Carolina fans for coming to the show, Willie wants to know if you’ve bought his newest CD. Keep in mind here that his fans shelled out $45 during a difficult economic time to STAND UP all night and listen to him. Folks seated in the pews upstairs ponied up $103.
Here’s what he could have said instead (in under 140 characters each):
• Thanks to all the MB fans who came out to HOB last night. We had a blast!
•Shout-out to Jamey Johnson, who played with us at HOB in North Myrtle Beach last night. Great job, thanks
• To the pretty lady throwing roses on the stage at HOB in Myrtle Bch – HUGE thank you from the band
• Played HOB, North Myrtle Bch last night. Thanks for great response to #nakedwillie (no I didn’t streak, that’s the new album!)
Anyway, you get the idea.
Please, please, please … give your fans the props they deserve. If you’re already a household name and a national star, your fans helped make that happen. If you’re just beginning, there’s no time like the present to develop good habits. And this isn’t just the polite thing to do. It’s a smart business move.
A word of caution here. Be genuine. Don’t say things you don’t mean. If you think your opening act wasn’t up to snuff, don’t lie about it. Choose your words carefully, but don’t lie. Or say something else. If you hated the venue, say something nice about the fans instead.
If you’re going to use a social network like Twitter.com, which I totally recommend (See Ten Reasons Why Musicians Should Be On Twitter, darielb.wordpress.com –Music & Marketing March 12, 2009), don’t leave it for your minions to do. If you just don’t have the energy or time to twitter your own tweets, at least keep tabs on it and make sure they represent you in an acceptable manner.
BTW, I haven’t heard Naked Willie yet, but Willie and the Wheel, featuring Willie Nelson with Western group Asleep At the Wheel (Bixmeaux Productions/ February 3, 2009) is super!
In a cyber nutshell, Twitter is a social networking tool. And, since I know some of you are going to ask me what exactly is social networking, a social network is a broad group of websites that lets you connect with other people over the Internet.
Twitter, when compared to MySpace and Facebook, is still pretty simple. It got its name by “comparing the short spurts of information exchange to the chirping of birds,” according to computer.howstuffworks.com. You simply post a message of 140 characters or less. It’s immediately accessible to the millions of Twitter members. To make it a bit more manageable though, Twitterers, or tweeps, choose to “follow” each other, and those chosen “tweets” are what appear on your home page.
I’m not saying Twitter replaces your blog or your MySpace page, but I think every band, every musician can benefit from joining Twitter. And engaging.
1. Twitter can help you reach new fans. Music lovers are everywhere – working in offices, in college, on vacation, at home, in cities, in small towns, at their in-laws, at the coffee shop, at the dentist or next door. Twitter puts you right in front of them.
2. Twitter can help you develop relationships with your existing fans as well as new ones. Answer a fan question in thirty seconds. Post a thought about a new song you’re writing. Share a video of another artist who inspires you. Make a connection with someone so they care about what you’re doing.
3. Twitter can help put your name out there. Music lovers on Twitter tend to follow other music lovers. It’s a great way to introduce yourself and let people know about your new CD or a great performance review. If you write a blog, tweet your subject matter and include a link. If you’ve come across a list you love of 20 CDs You’d Want On a Desert Island, tweet the link. As more people follow you, your name will be in front of all their followers … and some of them will be curious enough to follow you.
4. Twitter can help you learn something new every day (while you’re making new contacts). Twitter is full of people willing to share information, and you’ll find a lot of it to be really helpful. For instance, another musician may have come across a particularly insightful blog on new ways to market your band. He tweets the link. You then go to the blog and leave a comment, asking the author a question. Then author responds; you thank the other musician. Now you’ve got the start of two new relationships. And you’ve learned some valuable new skills.
5. Twitter can put you in touch with other musicians, producers, labels, venues and other industry folk. Some of these may be names you know. Others will be brand new. All represent the chance to make a connection. Just remember, you shouldn’t just be looking to take away. You want to bring something meaningful to the table.
6. On Twitter, others toot your horn for you. Or tweet it, rather. You’ll find people to be very generous in this respect. Once you’ve connected with people, they’ll retweet your posts, send people to your website and encourage their own followers to follow you. It’s like having a massive street team.
7. With Twitter, you have immediate one-on-one contact with people– important for announcements, feedback AND troubleshooting. This is maybe Twitter’s greatest strength and its largest challenge. I personally LOVE Twitter as a resource for weirdly interesting factoids.It’s like a crazy RSS feed, but I believe its greatest attribute for musicians is this one-on-one connection. Music is such an emotional facet of our lives. If you, as a musician, reach out and touch me … through your music and also through your messages, I develop a vested interest in your music, your career, your success.
8. Being limited to 140 characters means you can tweet without spending too much time. Okay, I have to admit, I DO spend a fair amount of time of Twitter, but when I’m pressed, like when I’m on deadline for this column, I can still check in, tweet something and be finished in a couple minutes. My point is, this is doable. It’s not a huge commitment of time and research. You can make time for this.
9. If you don’t have a computer handy, you can tweet from your mobile phone. So when you’re hanging in the band bus before the show, take a couple minutes to check in with your tweeps. Tell the gig’s about to start. Or let them know about the guitar wizard who stopped by to say hey and is going to sit in for a set.
10. Twitter is free, it’s easy, and it takes about five minutes to set up. Really, five minutes. You choose a user name, a password. Be sure you include a photo, your band website or MySpace page AND don’t leave the bio space blank.Don’t worry, it’s very short. You’d be surprised at how many people read this. Hope to see you on Twitter. I’m @darielb. Follow me!
References for this article include: computer.howstuffworks.com; nealwiser.wordpress.com; millercaton.com;arielpublicity.com.
This piece was published in Beach Newz, a music column in Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue March 12 – March 26, 2009.