In today's ever-changing world of technology, has the traditional press kit (bio, 8x10 black and white glossy, photocopied press clippings, and CD) become a thing of the past?
Almost. Aside from the few festivals and music conferences that still require a press kit of yesteryear, artists today can - and should - build press packages into their website.
For the most part, the components remain the same. Each section should have its own "menu" heading for ease of navigation: news, bio, photo gallery, gigs, songs or song samples, media/press, and contact information. Of course, added features such as a "store" that sell merchandise, video, message board, blog, favourite links, etc., all fall into the 'bonus' category.
The news category should speak for itself. Ironically, the biggest problem artists have is letting their site get stale - fast. If you have a news section, be sure to freshen it three or four times a month. New dates, releases, tours, projects, even support for fellow bands, will keep fans coming back.
Your biography should be around 500 words - the equivalent to one printed page. Very few artists, even those who have won numerous Junos or Grammys, require much more than that. Typically, your bio will reflect the flavour of your latest recording, give basic background information on the members, and some quotes from the artist. It's a good idea to have a bio that reads like a newspaper or magazine article. First of all, it's more interesting than the news-weather-sports approach some take. Your bio isn't a resume. It should give the reader a feel for your music and personality. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the bio you provide may be used verbatim in a publication or broadcast. So make sure it's exactly what you want people to read or hear. Create a PDF of the text so it can easily be downloaded in an attractive, formatted version consistent with your web and CD graphics. Don't forget to include a last-updated' date and contact information, and add a link for free downloads of Adobe Acrobat.
The photo gallery is one of the most important aspects of your online press kit. Not only will you save money printing 8x10 glossies, but print media will be able to download your image instantaneously for use in their paper or magazine. It would be wonderful if we all had an unlimited budget for promotional materials, but the fact is there is never enough money to throw at marketing once you've paid for studio time, manufacturing and the rest of it. The best way to stretch your dollar in this category is to shoot your pictures digitally to save on developing and printing. Despite the proliferation of point-and-shoot digi-cameras, I still recommend getting a good photographer with the proper gear, which will provide you with a CD of your photos. At the very least, you require two high-resolution (hi-res), downloadable colour photos - one vertical and one horizontal - on your site. The vertical is perhaps the most important as it could end up being that magazine or urban weekly cover you've been coveting so much - and don't forget to leave room for the masthead! The minimum size requirement for this is approximately 8x10 and 300 dpi (dots per inch). The format should be JPEG, with a small, easy-to-view preview of the image available. In this day and age, unless you have a small art project in mind you should never take black and white photos to be used for promo. All media can convert to greyscale if needed. Entertainment weeklies like the Georgia Straight, Calgary's FFWD, Winnipeg's Uptown, Edmonton's See and The Prairie Dog/Planet S require their covers to be colour, you won't even be considered for one in good old-fashioned black and white.
A page with your recent dates should be separated into those upcoming, and those past. Talent buyers like to see what you've been up to and where you've been gigging. It's also good to keep an updated list handy for those grant applications.
It's up to you whether to put a full or partial song on your website, but either way, make sure you do it in an accessible and frequently-used format like MP3. It's always considerate to include links to pages where listening programs can be downloaded for free.
The "media/press" section should include any favourable media attention. Print reviews (of recordings or live performances) and feature articles should be posted with proper headlines, dates and credit given to both the media outlet and writer. If you have the technology and room on your server, it's great to include audio of radio interviews, or video of television interviews or performance.
Your contact page should be as thorough as possible. List your entire team: management, agent, label, etc., and how to get a hold of them: phone, email, fax, mailing address. If you are all of those things, make sure people know how to get a hold of you. If you want to include a mailing address but don't want to publish your home address, consider a post office box.
Bear in mind that Canada has one of the highest percentages of high-speed Internet users in the world. Fans or buyers accessing your website from other countries are more often than not on dial-up, and may become frustrated by excessive flash or download times.
Last but not least, remember K-I-S-S. Keep it simple...well, you know the rest! A website that is attractive, uncluttered and easy to navigate is best.
By Kirsten Andrews, Kir Media Inc.
© 2003 All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
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