Wednesday, October 3, 2012

5 Tips To A Compelling Press Kit

Entertainment law firms receive dozens of press kits on a daily basis from groups scattered throughout the world. Our firm is no exception, as I feel the press kit wagon has a scheduled unloading every morning outside my office door. Because it’s impossible to review every single one due to sheer volume, entertainment attorneys issue little tricks that help us assess EPK’s quickly. Maybe we’re lazy or maybe we’re freakishly efficient with time, but when groups send information we expect a level of professionalism to come with it. I’m looking for a product gift-wrapped for my weekend review. When digesting the information, a first look is nothing more than a quick glance analysis. If I like it or feel the impending client has some potential, I’ll review it further. If I see something I don’t like, the EPK goes straight to the trash. The obvious question – “What gets you trashed?” Before getting to the music, I skim for five things. Reject my opinion or implement these strategies as you may, I can assure you relevant management firms, labels, PR companies, distributors, and booking agents use similar tools. I’ll shoot you straight, sometimes a few press kits kick the door down because something in it will peak my interest. So if you’re not implementing the following strategies don’t be discouraged. However moving forward, try to be effective with solicitation and use time wisely. Never toss the dice to see what sticks when your career is at stake.
*“Press kit” has different meaning to different people. This article is basically referring to: one sheets, EPK’s, press folders, promotional folders, and other material used in a promotional form used to advance musical groups into the upper echelons of the music industry.
1. Write To Your Audience
Too many bands develop EPK’s geared to fans. Don’t. Use press kits for business development purposes. Essentially you should have three press kit specifically structured to reach three different audiences. First, a press kit that is relevant to booking agents, venues, and festivals. Enclosed information should obviously focus upon past, present, and future gigs because you want to communicate to the reader that the band is actively performing. All of these parties will measure a group based upon how many people they can draw to a gig. It is important to mention the capacity and sales numbers of previously venues performed. Secondly, have a press kit geared to managers that focuses upon income stream topics. Hint around to your income stream channels but don’t flaunt specific numbers (this is a second conversation and a different blog post all together). Managers care about marketability, creative income, and upcoming gigs. Because managers take a percentage of creative income they essentially want to see a group who is already developed not a band they’ll have to sink energy into nurturing. Last, you should have a press kit geared towards labels and attorneys. What to include in this press kit will be addressed in the following sections.
2. Rethink Your Band Bio
A band bio should be quick and to the point. If you’ve got material addressing “at the age of three John always knew he wanted to be a musician” or “the band was formed in John’s basement during a fateful moment in 1997”, or anything about winning battle of the bands in junior high – START OVER. Keep everything one page in length (max), and lose all the descriptive adjectives about “melodic guitar riffs, driving sounds or thrashing vocals.” Let me place my own description to the music as opposed to cramming the bio down my throat. Lastly, it’s understandable band member’s wear many hats these days. It’s fairly common to see songwriter/producer/lead vocals when describing individual members. Stop doing it. The perceived triple threat only screams you’re doing to much or there isn’t enough to write about concerning the band as a whole.
3. Think About The Gigs
Press kits are traditionally laced with dates/touring/gig information tabs. These sections can indirectly cut a band’s throat. If I read an EPK and review the gig section and it reads, “coming soon” I equate this to unemployment. If I review tour dates and see three performances listed, I associate this as an ineffective touring group. If I review the information and see nine performances all at the same bar, I don’t think you’re in high demand I link your too local. If a gig directory isn’t an impressive laundry list, don’t provide in an EPK. Sure, I can do additional research and find out how many gigs your performing if it’s not included in your EPK, but at that point I may have formed a favorable impression based upon music, marketability, or background and could care less if the group gigs only at local bars. Keep in mind however that you do need to inform fans to any upcoming shows. This information should be provided on the artist website, not the EPK.
4. Contact Information Speaks Volumes
Contact information and e-mail addresses speak volumes. For instance, if I review a press kit and the band lists their relevant PR contacts, manager, agents, etc., immediately I form a positive impression. To me the inclusion proves the group (a) works well within a team, and (b) is serious about progressing in the industry. It also provides further insight as to the bands success. If management is a reputable company or the agent works with a successful agency I’ll know the band has a legitimate business foundation. Secondly, know that an e-mail address tells a detailed story. Should I receive e-mail from a person directly (e.g. there is something genuine in the delivery. I like it. To the contrary, should I receive e-mail from an alleged legit business who uses a service address (e.g – they’ve just told me everything I need to know. The later reveals the sender hasn’t invested money into a website, business perception, and probably isn’t with a legitimate organization. Why would anyone receiving the e-mail make a time or financial investment if the sender’s not willing to make a financial investment in them self. Let me give a few examples: = Amateur / Don’t send me material = Acceptable = Acceptable = Your company is run out of Mom’s basement = Unacceptable OR = Look, I know it’s a member of the group using the account but nonetheless it beats the alternative. Acceptable.
5. Show Ownership
This last point only applies if sending a press kit to either an entertainment attorney or a record label. When bands venture into that ambiguous “next level,” two mandatory pillars help establish a solid foundation – band agreements and properly filing intellectual property. Both have business implications, which done improperly, can hang around like a tight noose for the duration of a career. Bands must have a band agreement in place. Why? First, in order to protect the interest of all band members in a group there must be a legal agreement in place, which identifies what happens if a band member leaves. Believe it or not, most bands split after a few short years. What happens to the equipment? What about prior investments? Who pays them? Is the departing member still on the hook? If the band doesn’t break up, GREAT, but how do you vote on particular internal issues? How will development topics be addressed? How will assets be divided, etc? Band agreements, in their basic form, provide the rulebook or the internal boundaries specific to creative organizations. No tricks and no surprise cat fights, band agreements allow the entire group to have all cards on the table and know how all conflicting issues will be dealt. Secondly, legitimate labels will likely not touch a group who doesn’t have a band agreement in place. Because a new signing can be a substantial investment for a label they want to have piece of mind as to what happens if a band splits (i.e. their investment). Should you have aspirations of signing to a label, best get the band agreement in place far in advance. When bands have taken the time to invest in proper business development (i.e. band agreements), it reflects they’re taking the craft and business seriously rather than treating it as a hobby. This speaks well to people in the business world who are looking to sign bands, make financial investments, or partner for endorsement deals. Because many bands typically don’t know the appropriate time to bring in an entertainment attorney, and at a basic level, structuring band agreements can be the best time to do so. Never structure a band agreement yourself, never use form contracts, and never allow a manager (if you have one) to do it for the group. Band agreements have long lasting implications so a legal eye is needed to identify all the legal elements at play. Another logical time to partner with an entertainment attorney is with intellectual property. Assuming everyone knows the necessity in filing copyrights for music, many forget the power of the trademark. When legally filed and used properly, a trademark can become a group’s most lucrative income stream component. Using it properly, how to license the mark, and how to use it as leverage in negotiations can all be handled by your attorney. Labels find trademark ownership relevant because it’s one less thing they have to invest in. Groups who legally own their mark have a substantial leg up on the competition. Highlight ownership in an EPK by listing (a) the year of filing, (b) the attorney who filed the mark, and (c) and the year of clearance.

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