For many aspiring musicians, the greatest challenge of forming a band and rolling into the scene doesn't involve writing, rehearsal, or collaboration. Putting a song list together with the right combination of players, coming up with a decent band name, tightening up, or polishing a solo set comes easy to most musicians. The hard part has little to do with the tunes or the performance style. It's the promotional work — dealing with the movers and shakers at the venues, on the radio, and in the media — that truly can test one's patience and commitment.
In promoting one's musical endeavors, polite assertiveness goes a long way. A solid, concise, low-bullshit, general-purpose press kit does, too.
Although industry experts in "artist development" might argue otherwise, the latest professional model press kit doesn't necessarily guarantee instant success. The City Paper would rather receive a hand-labeled demo disc, a Polaroid snapshot, and a bar napkin with the band lineup, web address, and a pithy quote scribbled on it than an ornate, boastful, over-the-top package.
Oftentimes, all an agent or media person wants from an act is a website address — a page with virtually everything that comprises the basic press kit — the basic information about the band and the music, including recordings of songs, band bios, performance schedules, promo photos, tour dates, album details, and current contact info.
Not too long ago, professional band press kits were sent by mail in a package that included a two-pocket folder, a cover letter and bio, various press clippings and fact sheets, discography, a glossy color or black and white photograph, tour dates, contacts, and a demo disc. Mass-mailing these things wasn't cheap to do.
In recent years, the electronic press kit (or "EPK") became the media kit of choice within the industry. The best EPKs provided the same essentials, with additional high resolution press photos, videos, and links to articles and websites. Online, the free web space available at MySpace.com and Facecebook.com quickly became the standard web headquarters for numerous underground acts. Others are useful in this respect.
While some musical acts take full advantage of these sites, others veer too far away from the basics. If an agent, journalist, or label exec clicks on a band's page for hard info and promotional items, they're rarely impressed by the exotic decor that pops up. They're most likely searching for the same straight-ahead band information, music, and publicity photos in those basic paper press kits from way back, so the pop, whistles, and fireworks can actually backfire and deter a music writer.
Random snapshots and pics from live shows posted on a social networking sites don't necessarily count as usable images for print media. Usually, they're way too small and at a low resolution. After nailing down the who, when, and where, the publicity photo is the next most-important piece of the puzzle for music journalists willing to cover a band's big gig. Easy access to a high-resolution (300 dpi) image is vital (one with unlimited reproduction rights from the actual photographer).
There's no shortage of veteran players in town who have, at one time or another during their earliest days, begged for opening slots at the local clubs, perspired and shivered in the harsh conditions of dingy practice paces, weathered awkward confrontations with club owners, cracked a smile upon hearing their songs on local radio, and read with anticipation as a local paper published a bit of praise or criticism. The players who ascend from these early experiences to great success usually make good use of informative, assertive, accessible press kits — whether digital or hand-made.