Your publicity materials are the most important tools you have, besides your music, for getting gigs. Interestingly, though, if your promo materials fall short, gig promoters are likely to ignore the quality of your music. Many musicians say, “My music speaks for itself,” but in the real world, it might not. Just as people develop most of their impression of others in the first five seconds of meeting them (and that impression is hard to break if it’s not good), your publicity materials are your “first five seconds” for those whose introduction to you is not in person.
Although you can get some gigs by doing open mics, sessions, and auditions, those are not usually effective career-makers. As you read in my two previous posts on career development and maintenance, actively pursuing gigs by the cold-calling-and-packet-sending method is what produces real results.
Assuming that your music really is all it should be, let’s look at the elements of good promotion: a bio packet, a website, a CD, and business cards.
The Bio Packet contains:
- Folder: an attractive two-pocket 8.5×11” folder with a label on the front (name, website, e-mail address, and maybe an eye-catching graphic or photo)
- Cover Page: an attractive, attention-catching page with your photo, a catch-phrase (i.e. “Fabulous Fiddle” or “Harp Music for All Seasons” or “The Guitar that Ate Chicago”, or whatever; just be sure it’s original); a short description of what you do, and a repeat of the info that’s on your business card (see below)
- Business card: should be tucked into the slots on the pocket of the folder; it should have a picture or logo that makes it obvious what you do, and contain your e-mail address and phone number, and a postal address if you have a post office box (If your postal address is also your home address, you might or might not wish to have just anyone knowing where you live.)
- Resume Page: a list of all the places you’ve played, most impressive ones first.
- Bio Page: your musical life story in one concise paragraph, written in the third person, most impressive accomplishments first
- Discography Page: A list of your recordings, perhaps with the CD covers pictured
- Glossy Photo: A professional color photo of you and your instrument, in 8.5 x 11” format
- CD: an unopened full-length CD of your music (See below for more detail.)
The pages that you want people to see first (cover page and resume) should go on top. The CD should be on top of those (some people won’t read anything until they’ve heard the first track of the CD).
The Website is an “online bio packet”, enhanced thusly:
1. Colorful Home Page: Your name and catchphrase, your photo (same as the glossy in your bio packet), a description of what you do, your contact info, and links to the rest of the pages. Use attractive background colors, and an easily readable font with text large enough to read easily (12 point is too small and usually looks unprofessional).
2. Bio/resume page: same as in your bio packet
3. Discography: photos of your CD covers, and sound bytes of the best tunes on each CD.
4. Video: If you have live videos from successful performances, those are best. If not, at least do a good quality studio video of a few of your best tunes (rather than a living-room thing).
5. Contact Page: this should have a direct link to your e-mail, and a phone number.
Your CD should be full-length, rather than just a demo. In the days before independent recordings were commonplace, 4-tune demos were acceptable. Now any musician can have a CD, and a demo only indicates you haven’t bothered to make a full length album. Besides, doing concerts without a saleable recording isn’t a good idea, first because concerts don’t pay enough and you’ll need the income from CD sales, and secondly because if you play well, people will want to buy CD’s and will be very disappointed if you don’t have any. A full-length CD contains 45 to 50 minutes of music. A promoter might only listen to a few of the tracks, but they shouldn’t be limited to only a few should they want to hear more. There are a few more comments on CDs in my blog post from 2 weeks ago.
For info on what to do with your promo materials, see my previous posts on developing and maintaining a professional career.