The Basics of Press Kits for Musicians

Effective Press Kits Must Have a Specific and Effective Underlying Strategy.

Music fans enjoying the music
Concert fans enjoying the music. Getty Images/PeopleImages

A traditional music press kit was a tool used successfully for many years by musicians, labels, agents, and managers to promote a group, a new release or a tour. Some of these music press kits were very simple, while others, particularly for groups signed to a label or management that provided funds for press kits, contained a lot of bells and whistles. Essential elements of basic physical press kits often included:

  • Promo CD, either a hit or two in a special release or, more often, the latest album
  • Press Release (see Press Releases 101 for more info.)
  • Bio
  • Press Clippings

Most press kits came in folders that contained all of the appropriate information. In some cases, press kits were bound in a notebook. Kits usually featured the album cover art and photos of the artists.

Limitations and Advantages of Physical Press Kits

Many of the more elaborate physical press kits have been collected by different musicians' most loyal fans. The Rolling Stones, in particular, have come up with some of the most memorable of these kits, most of them selling in collectors' marketplace for well over $100.00.

The Rolling Stones reference also points to a problematic aspect of these physical PR kits for most working musicians: the design and production of these kits were expensive for everyone. Only the most successful groups in the world could pay the many tens of thousands of dollars needed to prepare an elaborate, no-holds-barred physical press kit.

Despite the cost disadvantage, some groups, even those with smaller budgets, still put out physical press kits in the 21st C. The known advantage is that once the kit is delivered, it provides a physical reminder of the band until, possibly months or years later, it's thrown away or—for the exceptional few—becomes a collectors' item.

For this and other reasons, many sites designed to help aspiring musicians (and to sell them something) still recommend putting out a physical press kit as well as what has largely replaced it, the Electronic Press Kit, so ubiquitous now that it has its own acronym, the EPK.

Known Advantages of EPKs

EPKS have two significant advantages over traditional press kits: distribution efficiency and cost. The third, expansion of the impact of EPKs on recipients by means of video, virtual reality productions, games and other involving media remains something waiting to be fully explored.

Overview of an Effective EPK strategy

Detailing an effective EPK strategy is a book, not an article, but the basic and critical elements are these:

  1. A home page. Yes, that's right—the core strategy of all 21st-century music strategy is the creation of an emotionally effective home page. Without that, your EPK isn't going anywhere—or, rather, you haven't given the EPK recipients anyplace to go to. So: first things first. If you have a budget for the creation of a band website, that's great. If you don't, there are plenty of do-it-yourself EPK online sites that will get you started and guide you through the creation of a home page. If your EPK doesn't prompt the receiver to go to that website (and then to be delighted when they get there) you've failed. That's unnecessary: it's not difficult to succeed.
  1. Purpose. Sending out an EPK without a specific purpose well beyond mere information—"Hey, here's our great band and we're playing this coming Wednesday"—is just a waste of time and effort. High on the list effective purpose strategies is to convert a journalist into a participant and then into a fan. Think of the EPK as the lure and the website as the trap. You're out to capture people you don't even know and to convert them into fans.
  2. Electronic elements that make the purpose emotionally explicit. These can be almost anything, but they need to be specifically something. When you think about developing your EPK, what do you want the recipient to know, to understand and to feel? What's the connection between journalist and band? How can you strengthen that connection? In case you're feeling lost right about now, let me give you an example of a single press kit element (and then an album cover) from many years ago, the Rolling Stones famous tongue-and-lips image. When young designer John Pasche came up with the idea in 1970, he developed it from two simple, but brilliant associations. The lips, of course, were designed explicitly to evoke the viewers' thoughts about Jagger's lips, as well as to evoke sexual associations with the band's music. The second insight Pasche had was that young persons in increasing numbers were feeling anti-establishment and ready to rebel, so he ensured that the lips and logo image were provocative and countercultural. If the aggressive sexuality was a little off-putting to an older generation? Well, that was the point. The effective result was "We're all in this together"—in favor of a vivid, sexy existence driven by the Stones' music and "We're united against them.

    Now it's your turn. Above are the absolutely necessary bare bones of an EPK strategy. The beauty is that you can produce an EPK for virtually nothing (or you can spend a lot of money, as you choose). These essential elements cost nothing. All they really need to come to life in your band's EPK is your imagination.