The song list is perfect, the band is tight, and you’ve made it through your first set of gigs—now’s the time to start promoting your new project! In this series of articles, I’ll break down the essential components of marketing your band, namely your EPK, website, album design and overall branding. This advice works for songwriters, solo artists, bands, and any artist or entrepreneur looking to promote themselves.
First let’s take a look at building a successful EPK, or Electronic Press Kit. An EPK is a digital, shareable advertisement for your band meant for promoters, clubs, managers, venues, and anyone in the industry you want to advertise yourself to in hopes of landing that next big gig. EPKs are also referred to as a “One Sheet” or “Media Kit”.
The great news is you can do this yourself on the cheap or free. The caveat is that the process takes time and a little computer knowledge. If you don’t have either of these, there are guys like me who can step in and help no matter what stage you are in.
What do I need?
Pay attention to lighting and background when taking promo pictures (photo of Kenny Triche by Rick Moore).
Let’s look at the essential components of an EPK and how to make it as professional as possible, even on a budget. The more professional your presentation, the more seriously a club or promoter will take your band, so take some time to get everything right. It is also important to keep your EPK fresh, and because it is digital, updating on the fly is easy. Your band will evolve—your EPK should evolve with it. Have you upgraded from playing coffeeshops to bigger clubs? Did you add a horn section in the past year? Did you license a song for TV or film? Do you have a new publicity photo or video? Add it in!
1) Pictures – First you need a great publicity photo. If you have the budget, hire a local photographer. If you are working on the cheap, find a photographer who will work for trade or a student looking to build their portfolio. Or go DIY by having a friend take your picture. Modern phones have cameras that work great for band photos. Just pay attention to the light (no shadows across your face or “blown out” areas of harsh lighting), do a little art direction (iron your shirt, don’t wear all black, find a great setting for the photo), and take more than one photo (I typically take over a hundred just to get that one great shot—and it always pays off). If the band is the focus, get one good group photo. If the individual members are important on their own, also include one picture for each member. Make sure you have copies on file to use for print and web (they must be sized differently) and have them ready to email at a moment’s notice.
Keep your bio short.
2) Bio – No one reads that much anymore, so keep your bio short, even shorter than you imagine. 200-300 words are sufficient, and if you need a longer bio save it for your website. To write your bio, start off with a catchy introductory sentence, then talk about the current project. Mention a few past projects if they are relevant, then add in a quote or memorable anecdote.
3) Music – Going into the studio can seem daunting, especially if you are in a band. If you can manage it, record your three best songs then get them professionally mixed and mastered. If this isn’t something you can manage, a well-shot video of one of your performances can take the place of MP3s. For songwriters, cutting three songs in a studio is incredibly affordable. Bring your guitar and voice, and in one day you can have three songs recorded and mixed, and the studio can recommend someone for mastering your songs.
Another idea is to hire a sound professional to record a live show, especially for a band. Since everyone is in the same place and rehearsed with all their gear, this is a great opportunity to record your music.
4) Video – You’ll need a video of a live performance, either at a venue or staged somewhere appropriate. Approach this the way you do pictures—hire a professional if you can, trade if you can’t. Producing a self-shot video is harder than taking your own photos because some video editing is necessary. You could take a video on your phone if the stage lighting is adequate, the band is tight, and the sound is killer, but if you upload that straight to your website it could look less than professional. I’ve taken self-shot videos of live performances, edited them down to the best parts, added fades and credits and achieved a much more professional look. The more seriously you take this part of the job, the more seriously bookers, agents, and clubs will take your band.
iMovie is a free tool available on the Mac that can help you produce your own videos. Upload your finished video to YouTube, then embed it on your website. For Facebook, upload it directly to your timeline. Embedding a YouTube video on Facebook will only create a link to the video, while uploading it directly to your timeline will allow people to view it on Facebook without being redirected to another website.
Also, keep in mind that video is king on social media. Your fans are cruising their accounts all day long hoping something will make it through the political drivel to brighten their day, and nothing does this better than a great video. Promoting yourself while brightening people’s day in the process? More of that, please.
A simple stage plot.
5) Stage Plot – The stage plot is a simple birds-eye view of your stage set-up for a club or sound man. It should show where each band member is on stage as well as what each member needs as far as mics, DIs, monitors, etc. It should also show if you are using amps and/or pedals. It doesn’t need to look fancy, just organized. Black and white, created in a simple graphics program will do. There are online stage plot designers you can use for free. Save it as a PDF or JPEG for your EPK.
6) Social Media – As much as we all struggle with the ins and outs of social media, it is imperative that your band have a Facebook account, and not just a personal profile but a dedicated band page. If your band is known for exceptional live shows, get an Instagram account to show off photos and short videos. I am not a fan of Twitter, but if you can think of a way to make it work, by all means, do. Don’t overburden yourself by signing up for every social media service—stick to Facebook and you’ll be fine.
7) Contact Information – Your contact information should be consistent across everything—website, EPK, business cards, social media, etc. Even if you don’t have a website, I suggest registering your .com through a company like 1and1.com which gives you access to a free email address at your domain (e.g. email@example.com). This gives you a more professional edge over someone with an email like firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your phone number, email, and website if you have one, along with your Facebook URL.
Putting it all together
Once you have these items ready, it is time to build your EPK. You will need a PDF and an online version. You should have both to cover all bases and make it as easy as possible for anyone to view it, whether they are in an office on a desktop computer or on-the-go using their phone. Always assume a promoter is viewing your EPK on their phone—if you make the experience seamless on the phone, the desktop will follow, but not vice-versa.
1) Online Version – If you have a website, great. This essentially serves as your online EPK, but I like to create a separate page on your website named “EPK” that has all of the above laid out in an easy-to-view format. I’ve included a few samples at the end of the article.
If you don’t have a website or the money or experience to build one, Reverb Nation is your next best option. You can upload pictures, MP3s, bios, video, and list your upcoming shows, all for free. If you’ve taken the time to make sure your pictures, bio, etc. are tight, then your Reverb Nation page will look great. You can even use your .com and forward it to your RN page as your de facto website. Bandcamp is another free tool you can use, although it isn’t as fully-functioning as Reverb Nation or your own website. There are also free website building tools available, and I’ll explore those in a separate article.
You should also include a link to a high-resolution promo picture and a link to the PDF version of your EPK.
While the video and MP3s do not play in the PDF itself, you can link them to music and video on your website.
2) PDF Version – A PDF is a small digital file that can include graphics, text, and links, and looks the same no matter what device it is viewed on (unlike a Microsoft Word document which can shift layout depending on the computer it is viewed on. Needless to say, never send a Word document as your EPK!).
Things to keep in mind when creating a PDF are layout and size. Think of your phone and how you use it: you always hold it in your hand vertically, so this is how your PDF should be set up (i.e. make it tall, not wide). File size is important, too. Your PDF needs to be “optimized” for the web, making it the smallest size in megabytes as possible while retaining the best looking graphics possible. The size should be under 5mb, and preferably much smaller than that. I once saw a PDF EPK from a professional, touring entertainer that was 50 megabytes—ask a promoter to download that to their phone and you might as well just tell them you don’t want the gig.
Include your promo picture, bio, and contact information, then create graphics that represent your MP3s and video and link these to your online EPK. Unfortunately (as of this writing) you can’t embed music or video in a PDF, but you can link them graphically to your online presence. Be sure to link your website and email, too.
As far as what program to use to build your PDF, this is the point I would say to hire me or give yourself a crash-course in graphic design and buy a professional publishing program like InDesign. Microsoft won’t get you the professional results you need. There are free layout tools out there, but the learning curve is steep. Explaining how to use a publishing program is too lengthy to get into here. Conveniently, I offer software training if you want to go this route.
How do I send it?
Now that you have your EPK ready, it is time to send it out. Always send both the PDF and online URL in your email. The PDF is important because it can be viewed with one click, even away from an internet connection, and is easily forwarded. Keep in mind some people don’t download PDFs on their phone for fear it will eat up mobile data.
To send, include the PDF as an attachment in your email, then include a link to your online EPK in the body of the email. Here is suggested wording:
Hi, Thanks for your interest in My New Band. Our EPK is attached as a PDF and is viewable online at www.mynewband.com/EPK. Please contact me at 504-222-2222 or email@example.com. We look forward to rocking your club!
Sincerely, Your Name
Here are samples of online EPKs I’ve built for bands here in New Orleans. You can click through to the PDFs from these links.
• The Set Up Kings
• Bob and Dave
• Kenny Triche (In this case, Kenny’s website functions as a one-page EPK)
• The Jasper Brothers (*I didn’t build this EPK originally, but it is a great example of a Reverb Nation page)
If you need help creating your EPK, please reach out. I also offer software training and can record singer/songwriters in my home studio. Visit my blog for more free advice and articles on web and graphic design, and remember to sign up for my newsletter below for monthly updates on new articles.