Musicians are forever harassing journalists, for the obvious reason that most of them are broke (the musicians, not the journalists) and getting column inches in a national newspaper or magazine is infinitely cheaper than paying for an advert the same size – even when you take a PR company’s fees into consideration. Thus long-suffering music journalists get vast quantities of approaches every day from music PRs, the musicians themselves and perhaps even the musicians’ mothers (if we’re talking James Blunt). Journalists are important gatekeepers to the elusive kingdom of rock success, and the competition for their attention is intense.
Given this fierce war for press coverage, and being a music PR agency, we get asked the following question time and time again: “what can I do to get more press for my act”? This begs some witty replies of “hire us”, “take a big ad out in whatever magazine you want a review in” or “shag Ashley Cole”. But there is actually something simple you can do (other than Ashley) that will help either you or your publicist generate more PR for your band. It doesn’t involve any stunts, celebrity affairs or a huge outlay. We’re just talking about putting a decent online press kit together.
You may think that a flash website, a digi-pack, a slick video, an iPhone app and 100,000 Myspace followers are the ingredients required to get a review in Q Magazine or Mojo. And you’d be wrong. This is because loads of independent and unsigned bands probably have these assets anyway (thanks to free online tools, cheap freelance designers and dodgy Myspace adders) - and established artists certainly do, thanks to their major labels’ in-house, fast-talking, big-spending, cocaine-snorting marketing gurus. High-quality promo materials are always helpful, but they are not really going to make you stand out from the crowd; at best they will make you look professional or competent.
Far more important is a serious attempt on your behalf to make it very easy for a journalist to write about your band, and this is where your online press kit comes in. We’ll come to what it should contain shortly, but first let’s really try to understand why having one is an absolute must for your act. To do this, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of one of those harassed journalists we discussed above (probably a pair of Converse, or some sort of tasteful brogues).
You get up to start your music-journalist day. After a strong coffee or a stiff drink, you check your email; it’s only 9am but you’ve got already got about twenty emails sitting in your inbox from desperate musicians and pushy PRs begging you to review an album that is clearly the greatest thing since sliced bread. By 10am, this number has risen to 40. By lunchtime, it’s up to 80 (we’re not exaggerating here – rock journalists can get hundreds of approaches a day). Now, being a fair-minded sort of a chap – or chappess – you don’t ignore all these emails from bands; you are, at the end of the day, in the business of discovering great new music and writing about it, so you do your best to check each and every email out.
The first email you open is from an independent singer-songwriter who has sent you his album. Not a link to it, mind, but 14 individual MP3 attachments. As you try to read the email you realise that this sensitive indie minstrel who has written an album about his traumatic break-up with a girl who was fundamentally out his league anyway has just crashed your copy of Outlook, because the 45MB or so worth of attachments were too bloody big for Microsoft’s clunky attempt at an email program to cope with. This makes you think two things: firstly, it may be time to switch to a Mac, and secondly, there’s no way I’m going to bother reviewing that idiot’s music – he crashed my computer and I can’t open the email anyway. Delete.
When you’ve finally got your computer working again, you move onto the next email. It’s from a really hip skinny-jeans wearing band who have sent you a Soundcloud link to their new opus. You check it out and discover it’s actually pretty damn good. However, there’s no press release included with the email, and nothing on Soundcloud to tell you anything at all about the band. You’re a busy guy, with 73 other review requests currently sitting in your inbox, so you don’t really have time to email the band back asking for a press release and whatever other background info you need. Despite quite liking their music, you consign this band to the dustbin of rock history too (or your recycle bin of rock history, as we are talking about emails here).
The next email you receive is from an unsigned band that has taken the time to furnish you with a press release. Their description of their music as ‘prog-rock-for-a-grime-dubstep-shoegazing-nu-metal generation’ does tickle your fancy, and they’ve had some good reviews in the past from your favourite prog-rock-grime-dubstep-shoegazing-nu-metal blog… but there’s no link to their music anywhere on the press release. You’ve got a copy deadline approaching, and 72 other emails to get through, so you don’t bother googling the act. You just move on.
Finally you hit upon an email from a new rap artist that has sent you a record you like, in a format you can stream, with a decent press release, good quotes and all the background info you need to review him. The only thing you need now is the cover art for the album so that you can give the dude a five star review and whack it over to a respected music magazine before their deadline for the current issue passes. But… a hi-res JPG of the album art is nowhere to be seen. However, because you do like this record more than most you’ve received that day, you get your finger out and google the artist. You find his website, which has lots of nice pictures of him wearing a plaster on his face, surrounded by bikini-clad women and dangerous dogs – but no press resources, and certainly no downloadable artwork. You really like this record, so you look at the press release again to see if there’s somebody you can call to procure a JPG. But the artist forgot to include proper contact details on the press release. In the end, you don’t get the information you need for the review and are reduced to reviewing Coldplay and Lady Gaga yet again – and those struggling new artists and indie bands who contacted you that day will remain sidelined on the margins of the music industry for yet another issue of whatever magazine it was you write for. And it was all their own bloody fault.
This sad, cautionary tale has a moral: before going near rock journalists with your album, make it as easy as possible for them to do their job. And to do this you need to put a good online press kit together, containing everything they might possibly need to review/cover you. And as ever, dear reader, we are here to help – read on for our magic (ok, sensible) tips for putting together a great electronic press kit.
Things your online press kit should contain
- A well-written, grammatically-correct press release that references your influences, highlights any interesting ‘angles’ you may have and doesn’t stroke your ego to the point where you just look like a knob.
- Quotes from publications that have reviewed your music, or established artists that rate you highly. Phil Collins doesn't count.
- Clippings of previous coverage.
- High-resolution, print-quality images of your act.
- High-resolution, print quality artwork.
- Key contact details for you or your management / publicist.
- A link where journalists can stream or download your music.
- Any other background information or assets that will help a journalist review or cover your act – music videos, podcasts, TV interviews, links to social media profiles (providing you've got a decent social media following) and so on.
Where should your online press kit go?
If you have the time or resources, it’s great to create a little microsite containing the above press resources, with a URL that is distinct from your regular site. It means you look professional, makes anyone who accesses the area feel a bit special, and allows you to direct journalists to content that you don’t really want to flag up on your main website – for example, complete album streams or downloads. Avoid creating any links to this microsite on any other sites, or it will start to show up in Google and allow your less-trustworthy fans to listen to that album you’ve slaved over for years without paying for it. The bastards!
However, as journalists may just head straight to Google to find out more about you, and ignore any cute microsite links you send over, it’s really important to create a press resource sectionon your main website too - even if this is just a simple one-page affair. When you do this, it’s probably worth avoiding including a whole album stream (you do want people to buy the record after all). Instead, make a publicly available ‘sampler’ available – a podcast containing lots of snippets of music from your album (see http://soundcloud.com/chrissingleton/chris-singleton-lady-gasoline for an example) – and encourage journalists to contact you or your publicist for a link to / password for a whole album download.
Help with creating online press kits
Finally a bit of a plug (sorry, there's no such thing as a free lunch). Prescription PR are now offering a new service to help you build your digital press kit. We’ll help you create all the assets you need for it – including press releases, audio samplers/podcasts and a password-protected download of your album – and our online team will create an excellent microsite to house everything in. Just contact us today to find out more about how we can help you with your online press kit.
A press kit is not just for journalists...
Hope you found the above suggestions useful - not only will they make journalists' lives a lot easier, they'll help your publicist massively too, or indeed anyone you are hiring to promote your music. A lot of PR agencies and pluggers will only work with you if they think you are serious about your music, and having an online press kit will really help convince them of that. And if they do work with you, they've got an excellent set of tools to help them do their job.
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