Press Kits For Music Artists: The Number One Rule

The PK is an important tool for any artist or band aspiring to make inroads in this business. Thus, knowing what it should contain and paying serious attention to each element are key to giving yourself or your group the best chance of getting the interest of industry members.

In the music business, the terms “press kit”, “promo kit”, “promo pack” and “PK” are all terms for the same thing. They refer to an act’s information package that also includes one or more samples serving to demonstrate the act’s artistry. Normally, it is intended for entertainment industry members or the media.

An “EPK” (“electronic press kit”) describes a PK that is digitalized, whether presented for review on a website or made up of electronic files contained in an electronic file folder that is available to be downloaded online or provided to the recipient via email or on a disk or memory stick. This is in contrast to the “hard copy” PK that traditionally comes in a physical folder containing sheets of paper and one or more discs of music and, nowadays, commonly a video. I’m going to talk here about the hard copy PK, but much of what I’m about to relate applies equally to the EPK.

When it comes to PKs, probably the most important general rule of thumb to remember is this: less is more. Let’s start of with the folder it’s presented in.

A super-fancy five-dollars-a-pop presentation folder is unnecessary. In fact, it’s over-the-top. It doesn’t give industry people any sense of how good you are. The same can be said of expensive specialty stationery paper. Truth be told, many of us industry veterans are pretty jaded, too often having been thoroughly underwhelmed by the talent presented in such immodest packages. The only thing this kind of extravagance really tells us for sure about such acts, other than that they aren’t very prudent with their money, is that they think mighty highly of themselves.

When I receive a PK that appears ostentatious, my initial reaction isn’t eager anticipation, it’s dread. Even when the talent’s there, more often than not I’ve found the artist to be a little too full of him/herself and a pain to deal with.

When it comes to the contents, personally I respond well to straight goods delivered in a well-thought-out manner. This means keeping the hyperbole to a minimum. Most of the best acts and writers I’ve encountered are relatively humble people who don’t go overboard trying to convince me of their merit.

Be aware, too, that industry people don’t need more than one or two photos of you or your band to see what you look like, or an album-length demo of songs to get a sense of the level of musical talent or song craft. As well, dispense with lyric sheets, unless you are a songwriter targeting a publisher or the party you are submitting to specifically asks for them. And lose the testimonials from the likes of ‘anonymous’ or fan Jane Doe of Little Rock, Arkansas. You want meaningful statements from people who matter to the industry; i.e., those who you’ve worked with or for.

Reviews are a plus, but choose only the most power-packed excerpt from each and put them all on one sheet, limiting the number to around a half dozen. Industry people are simply not inclined to read entire reviews, which translate into pages of unnecessary clutter.

Radio play will impress, so list the stations that are giving you some rotation. But, if you’ve been aired on your local commercial station’s 1:00 AM “new music” hour or occasionally by a public broadcaster like NPR in the U.S. or CBC in Canada, don’t make a big deal of it. In most people’s books such kinds of placements are not milestone achievements.

Limit any category of item to one sheet and, where possible, consider including more than one type of item on a single page. For example, a list of important gigs you’ve played could be on the same page as a handful of your best testimonials, or a photo can be incorporated into the bio. In fact, for certain purposes you can fit all of the material germane to certain recipients on a single 8.5 x 11 sheet, often called a “one-sheet”. But, that’s a topic for another blog.

All this is especially pertinent to new acts, who should always lean toward sticking to the essentials, meaning the who, what, where, when and why. Once you’ve grown in stature you can add other relevant items of interest, such as a noteworthy anecdote or two.

This blog is one of a number I’ll be writing on the subject of what it takes to get the attention and serious interest of industry players. If the topic of PKs is of particular interest to you, keep an eye out for an upcoming post in which I’ll relate some additional important principles that should be followed for your PK submissions.

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