Thursday, September 19, 2013

Press Kits: What's In Them and Why Do They Matter?

During my Entertainment Media Publishing and Distribution class this month, we have had some discussion about press kits and how important it is to have an effective press kit to be taken seriously as an artist. There are two types of press kits. One is the actual tangible, physical press kit complete with a folder of information on the artist such as bios & press clippings, likely a demo CD, maybe a demo video DVD, and any other items that an artist may feel will get him or her noticed. Then there’s the Electronic Press Kit, or EPK, where everything that would be in a physical press kit is displayed on a website. This option, along with other electronic options, can really save an up-and-coming artist a lot of money. And when an artist is young in the business, unsigned, and just trying to get themselves out there, often the one major obstacle that an artist has is a lack of money! So EPKs can be a great way to have a professional press kit for very little investment.

Before discussing EPKs at length, just to give you an idea of how much money a good, quality, professional-looking physical press kit will cost, here’s a quick breakdown of what should be included. So let’s discuss the elements of a press kit. It all starts with a great biography of the artist or band. It should be professionally written with no grammar mistakes. Some artists actually hire professional writers to write their bios. No matter who writes it, it must be professional. Amateur grammar and spelling mistakes make the artist look like an amateur in the music industry and will likely be discarded. There is a great blog article that talks more about writing a professional bio here. And don’t forget a cover letter that is personally tailored to whoever is receiving the press kit. Being personal is very important. It shows that an artist took the time to find out the decision-maker of the company to which they are sending their press kit. That speaks volumes as to how serious they are in their career.

After the great bio is written, the next piece will be a media and press section. Choose media clips that highlight you as an artist. If you have little to no press coverage to include in your kit, here’s a great article on how to triple your odds of getting music media coverage from Along with press coverage, it is helpful to include reviews of the artist's albums or singles.

The heart of the press kit is the artist’s music itself. This should be either a full-length album or professionally recorded demo. A burnt CD from a recording off of an iPhone or a basement lab is not acceptable. Those receiving the press kit will expect that an artist takes his or her craft seriously, and a professional recording is a must. An artist shouldn't skimp on mastering their recording either. To see why, read my previous blog post here. If the kit includes an album that has been released commercially, then also include a One-Sheet. Think of a One-Sheet as a press release for an album. It should contain as much information about the album as possible, including the style of the music, any pertinent information about the recording process, a track listing, and anything else that will make the album stand out. If an artist is sending a press kit to a potential distributor of their music, a One-Sheet is an absolute must. An equipment list is also important so that venues will know what an artist will need for a performance.

Artists will also want to include some professional photos. An artist should include at least one head shot, one full body shot, and possibly a few performance photos. Don’t overload the press kit with photos, however. The music should be the star of the kit. Just make sure, as with everything else in the kit, that the photos are professionally done.

Finally, the artist and booking contact information should be included on every piece in the kit along with a professional business card from the artist or their representative. The packaging can truly make or break an artist, as unprofessional packaging will likely never get opened. Now here’s where we get into the cost of the press kit. To have a professional-looking package, it is best to use a printing company. One such company,, creates beautiful packaging, but at the best pricing, an artist can get 1,000 kits for $999.00 (including shipping & handling). That works out to about $1 per kit, which isn't bad when you see what you get (see price breakdown & samples here), but then again, it’s still a dollar shy of a Grand. That can be tough to fit in the budget for a struggling artist. Thus, using the EPK format can mean a professional kit at a huge savings.

An EPK will have the same elements, but those elements will be hosted by a website. The cover letter portion will simply be the email that is sent with the link to the EPK attached. One great website we got to use in our class was Power Press Kits. An artist can create an account and try their service for free for 15 days, and then if they want to continue to use Power Press Kits, the cost of hosting the site starts at $7.99 per month if one pays for an entire year in advance at the cost of $95.88. This may seem expensive, but when compared to the cost of making 1,000 physical kits, it’s a tenth of the price. This fee allows an artist to send an unlimited number of press kits to any number of potential interested parties. Or artists can create their own websites on many of the free blog sites. But the advantage of using a site that is specifically set up to handle EPKs is just that…they are SPECIFICALLY set up to show an artist’s EPK in the best possible way. They have the capacity to handle all the high amounts of data that an artist will want to include, and Power Press Kits comes with a media player that can play music as the reader flips through the different photos, press clippings, and other information.

No matter how an artist decides to create his or her press kit, one thing is certain. It must be created. The music industry will not take an artist seriously without one. For the artist without a press kit, music is only a hobby. It’s worth it to put some time and research into creating a press kit that shows how serious the artist is about their craft. The time and money invested will pay off in spades down the road.

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