How To Build A Virtual Press Kit
So, I've had a lot of people ask me, or seem ignorant of, the way that a music professional should promote themselves online. Because of this, I have decided to give those just starting out or with less experience some pointers on how to do this.
Firstly, let me let you know a little bit about myself. My name is April and I have been a musician, and more importantly, music industry professional for the vast majority of my lifetime. At this point that amounts to more than 20 years of experience in the field. I have been doing the "music thing" for a long while.
In the past four years alone I have composed well over 200 unique songs, been scouted by labels, and have started working on building up my own label.
Okay, so enough tooting my own horn. Now you know a little bit about why I'm qualified to give this advice and you know that more than likely it will be helpful rather than it coming from someone that is just starting out themselves.
The first thing I have noticed that other musicians seem to do a lot, especially when first starting out, is they tend to fail to research how to actually market themselves to labels, venues, radio stations, news agencies, and the list goes on.
In the mid 2000's there were several email based viruses that sorta made everyone wary of opening email attachments. Many, many businesses prone to infection were affected and because of this many companies that formerly allowed emails with attachments, stopped using attachments as a form of sharing common information such as pictures and other files.
As a side effect of this, the music industry had a problem.
How do we send information that was usually contained in those attachments with little to no risk of infection by malware?
The answer to this question is: You send a link via a trusted platform or website.
The better answer is you start to use something called a Virtual Press Kit.
So what is a Virtual Press Kit?
What do you include in one?
A Virtual Press Kit or VPK is essentially a musician's online portfolio. In it are all of the things a record company representative, radio station, booking representative, or other music industry professional would need in order to scope you out as an artist. In the past ten years it has become what is now the industry standard in effectively providing all necessary information to those professionals. Many, many people use them. Some websites, such as ReverbNation, charge a premium to equip you with them using all of the content you have uploaded to their website. I will show you how it is much cheaper to make one yourself.
It is a difference between paying $45 a month and paying $10 once and then $7 a month.
The answer to this is actually simpler than you'd think and in an age where technology reigns supreme building one yourself is often times more inexpensive than having someone else do the work for you.
To build a Virtual Press Kit or VPK you will need:
-A domain (GoDaddy and Wix are some of the better places I've found for this, $10 is a typical price per year)
-A set of website publishing tools (again, GoDaddy and Wix are good places, $7-10 is a typical price per month)
-A short biography, between 500 and 1000 characters.
-A few professional photos of yourself and/or if you have a logo, include that as well
-Links to the main place you keep your music. (SoundCloud works amazing.)
-Links to your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube)
-Your personal contact information (or potentially even better) a contact form so they can get a hold of you.
I'll go into more detail in regards to what each of these sections should contain but firstly, I think it is important to point out two important things:
1) These things should be on ONE page.
2) That page should be as bland as possible.
The reason for #1 is that booking representatives don't want to have to constantly click back and forth between pages in order to get all of the information they need when they need it.
The reason for #2 is because this is essentially an online portfolio which outlines yourself, and more importantly, your music as an artist. It's like putting glitter on a resume; it's considered unprofessional however creative you might happen to think it is. You are, essentially, trying to market yourself as a brand to a prospective boss or client. You want your music to stand out, not the page it happens to be on.
Now, let's break down what each of those core sections should have in it, okay? Once we have covered that, we will go into how it should be arranged which is kind of important.
Your biography, like I stated above, should be between 500 and 1000 characters.
I know, that doesn't seem like a lot, but in actuality the numbers are kind of flexible. Ideally you would make it concise and to the point, share as much detail about experience as possible, what kind of music you make, and outline what it is you essentially do/what services you do and don't offer. In my time as a music industry professional, I have seen biographies anywhere from 500 characters (sometimes less) all the way to 2000+ characters. Mainly, it depends on how much information you need to convey. Again, you should be concise.
For example my biography details that I am a multi-instrumentalist, I'm a DJ, and I am a producer as well as detailing how long I have been doing those things, individually.
It also includes what equipment I expect to bring, and what equipment I do not provide.
This allows them to have all the information they absolutely need to figure out whether they should book me or utilise my services. If they need any more information they are free to contact me with questions.
I don't actually get enough questions about photos. They are important. VERY important.
Your photos will set the tone of yourself as an artist. It is considered most professional to have a professional photographer take your headshots and artist photos or to use a logo instead or in addition to. They will have the experience needed to know what kind of shots will look the best for the particular genre you are representing. Remember, you are the product you are trying to sell.
If you cannot afford a professional photographer for a one time shoot of maybe 10 photos (it is nice to have a selection) you can always draw a rough design and have someone on a graphics design forum or even a professional graphic designer on Fiverr design you a professional looking logo. The most important thing to remember is that you need it to be high quality. If you try to enlarge a low quality image from 500 pixels by 500 pixels to 5000 pixels by 5000 pixels, your image
will appear grainy and unprofessional. Quality is key and appearances are everything.
Your photos or logo are just as important to a music artist as a set of headshots and proofs are to an actor or model. Work it.
Ahhhhhhh. Finally. We come to the most important part of your press kit. As a budding or aspiring music industry professional, the music you share can make or break your chances with a wide range of potential contacts. You are, after all, a musician. This is what you do.
When choosing which songs to feature, the best policy is to feature songs that meet three basic criteria:
1) Quality. High quality mastered music is the best way to showcase your talents to a venue, radio station, or label.
2) Playability. A song that has received a lot of plays and is continuing to gain plays is far better than a song that receives very little plays unless it is new (less than 6 months to a year old)
3) Variety. This is especially important for someone like myself who happens to be a DJ. If your songs all sound the same then you might have some problems. If you are an EDM artist, putting together a decent range of songs of your own (or remixes/remakes) of different genres like, dubstep, bounce, drum and bass, and house showcase your versatility the best. If you are only trying to play one genre of music, for example dubstep, then having more dubstep in your portfolio is a good thing. It says to the prospective client, "This is what I do, this is the crowd who knows me or will know me, this is what I have the most of.".
When it comes to how many songs you should have in your press kit, my favorite motto is, "Quality over quantity.". Typically, artists will put between three and five unique songs into their press kit, enough to establish a reputation for having good skill and not so many that your potential clients get sick of hearing them.
Let's be honest, here. If someone says, "I don't have any social media.", these days you're probably going to stare at them shocked for a second or two because in this day and age who doesn't! The same is true of music industry professionals, except even more so.
Social media can be used for a vast multitude of things; from analytics to figuring out popularity. Why else would it be a huge scandal that some big name bought their followers on Twitter?
Music industry professionals look at how many followers you have across platforms when deciding whether to hire, book, or sign someone. If an artist does not have many followers, this may actually not be a dealbreaker. Promoting an event, for example, is a good way around this. What is the most important thing is that you have some form of account on the major sites. These sites are:
Those are the big four, and those are the ones that representatives will be looking at the most. Make sure your social media is updated regularly, as in daily. how regularly it needs to be updated will be covered in another how to on marketing.
Different social media outlets have different recommended daily post numbers as well as having different recommended times during the day to post; too much to cover here.
Now for the easy part. Contact information hardly needs to be explained.
It is information necessary for someone to know in order to contact you.
This can be:
Remember to include your artist name or real name in the contact form so that people know with whom to speak to.
As I said, this section is fairly simple.
Now, there is an alternative or "in addition to" to using contact information.
Most website building tools on a semi-professional or professional non-IT level will have an ingenious little tool called a "contact form widget". If your website building tools (wix, godaddy, or similar) doesn't have these, then you can find them easily enough on the internet, though, you may have to pay a little bit of money.
The contact form is a wonderful way to allow those representatives to contact you. Some artists, instead, use "contact us" sections to make this even simpler. This actually allows not only representatives to contact them, but the general public as well, allowing for private bookings. Whichever method or methods you choose, make absolutely sure that you have some way for the people looking at your press kit to contact you.
So, we have covered what kinds of things to put into your press kit, we have covered exactly why they need to be put there, and now we are going to go over exactly how they should be put together to be the most effective and where they should be put together.
Your press kit should have a definite flow. It should be easy to access the information we have gone over as easily as possible.
The easiest way to do this is to separate the different sections out as you go down the page. A resume has several sections and is the easiest way to think of this.
You could also compare a press kit to an essay; it has an introduction, an argument, support for that argument, and possibly more support, followed by a conclusion or summation.
Firstly, as in an essay, you want to introduce yourself to the person reading it. Therefore, your biography section should be first.
Secondly, as in an essay, you want to present your argument, which in the case of a musician is their music.
Thirdly, you will want to provide that argument with some support, which you can do by putting your photos in next unless you have a fairly large fan base.
You want whichever is better immediately after your music.
Fourthly, you will want your least convincing argument to be the last section.
For most beginning artists, this will likely be your fan base or social media.
Lastly, as a conclusion, you will want to include your contact information and/or your contact form.
As to the where you will need to put this information, as I said eariler, the best way to go about this is by getting a website to turn into your own private space. Most domain hosts will sell you a domain for about $10 per year, and some website building tools like Wix will allow you to connect that domain for fairly cheap, around $7 a month. It isn't absolutely necessary for you to pay money for it, but it certainly adds to the professional vibe to have your own stage name as your domain, not to mention it is often easier to remember.
Well, that is pretty much it. Like I said, it is fairly simple and easy to do.
If you have any questions about this or have suggestions for more how to's on music industry topics like this one, shoot me a message in the Contact Us section.
Thank you for your time and I hope this helps you be the best artists you can be!