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Splatcat Records

Proper Promotional Material
by Bobby Borg

Promotional materials, such as demo tapes, photographs, biographies and press clipping, help people to get to know you. When these materials are assembled in one package or folder, they are most commonly known as a press kit.

Press kits are most useful when trying to get exposure in newspapers, magazines, and websites. They are also helpful when trying to get booked in clubs and in other live performance venues. A press kit may even entice an attorney or personal manager into representing you.

PRESS KITS, ON THE OTHER HAND ARE NOT VERY HELPFUL IN GETTING YOUR BAND SIGNED TO A RECORDING CONTRACT! The reality is that out of thousands of tapes record companies receive in the mail per year, maybe one group gets discovered, if that. The odds are tremendously against you. In fact, your package will likely end up in the waste basket without ever being listened to. This is the harsh reality! Though there are exceptions to every rule, record companies typically do not accept unsolicited mail.

Another misconception about the press kit is that it will lead you to a great audition and gig. More musicians waste their time, energy, and money sending packages in the mail rather than just getting out there, being heard, and making friends. Keep in mind that the majority of all the work you get will be based on personal relationships that you form and nurture over the years. If anything, building a website and then personally handing out cards that include your URL (uniform resource locator) is by far a more useful way to promote yourself than the press kit.

Now that some of the misconceptions about press kits are out of the way, letís discuss what your press kit should include.

1. Demo CD, or Cassette Tape

Your press kit should include a demo highlighting three of your best songs, with your best song first. If you include too many songs or if you include songs that are too diverse in style, you may send the message that you're not sure what it is you do.

The production of your demo should also be as high in quality as you can afford. The key is not to leave anything to the imagination of your intended audience. Fortunately, digital equipment has enabled musicians to cut quality demos right out of their own home. If you don't own your own recording gear, chances are that you have a friend who has home equipment and will be willing to help.

2. Photograph

Also included in the press kit should be your photograph. People will not only want to hear what you sound like, but what you look like. Keep in mind that photographs are also used for reprinting in newspapers and magazines, so make sure your prints arenít too dark. Give your image and style some serious consideration as well. Your picture must be consistent with your music. If youíre a hard rock band, then you must look hard rock. If youíre not sure what image you want to portray, review magazines like Rolling Stone and Details to see what other bands are doing. The print size of your photo should be 8x10 inches and should include your band name and contact information at the bottom (phone number, mailing address, e-mail address and website URL).

3. Biography

A biography (or bio) should be as short as possible (typically 500 words) and written without a lot of flowery adjectives and big words. If there's a unique story about how your band formed or about the various members in your group, include it. This gives writers at newspapers and magazines a special twist or hook when writing about your band. If you have any flattering quotes or reviews, include them here as well; but donít over do it. Including 15 quotes from people no one knows is pointless. Check out other bands' bios on the web and see what their approach is.

4. Tear Sheets

A press kit should also include clippings, known as tear sheets, from newspapers and magazines you've collected over the months and years. Clippings help prove youíre established and not just another fly-by-night operation. Again, don't over-use them.

5. Cover Letter

Lastly, when mailing out your press kit, include a cover letter that clearly addresses who you are, what you do, and what you want. Be sure to include all of your contact information here as well. It also helps to call the person you're soliciting to inform them that your package is on the way. Follow up in a few weeks with another call to see if they liked what you've sent. Keep in mind that editors at magazines, just like people at record companies, receive hundreds of packages per week. Chances are that if they havenít asked you to mail a press kit or they havenít heard of your band, your package will be left unopened in a pile or tossed in the garbage can.

Bobby Borg is the author of The Musicianís Handbook : A Practical Guide To Understanding The Music Business, which is available now by Billboard Books at or in a store near you. For more information: ,

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