Self-promotion is one of the things that are required of a performing artist. Building a promo packet that accurately reflects your performance strengths and what you have to offer is vital to taking the next step into the booking world that all of us must enter at some point. This can be a bit tricky because you want to build yourself up into a salable commodity, but you don’t want to over-blow your own horn. Whatever you put into your promo packet you have to be able to deliver, so while you might be tempted to stretch reality a bit, you really have to be careful how far you push it. Often promo packs will include a headshot, biographical information, perhaps a song list, any endorsements from prior performances or venues. You might also list venues where you’ve performed, bands you’ve worked with and whatever else will paint you in a good light and get your foot in the door. Most of the time one the more important items in the packet is the demo CD where you are giving your target an example of what you can do. Usually these have maybe four or five tunes on them, sometimes more. Another option is video of past performances. Your packet should look professional and give the person who is booking the venue confidence that you will be able to deliver once hired.
When it comes to putting a professional packet together, the best way to go about it is to farm out as much as one can to professionals in the field. If you want good photos for the promo pack, you need to find a quality photographer to shoot them, and it should be someone who is familiar with the product you are selling. Take time to coordinate with the photographer about potential location shoots, and to also consider what you are going to wear for the photos. You want a look that is appropriate to what you’re trying to sell, and sometimes this might necessitate costume changes. You might want a rock and roll image for booking rock clubs, plus a more formal image for booking corporate events. If you’re presenting both looks in your packet, the person booking the show will have greater confidence in your professionalism.
Likewise, when it comes to the demo recordings you should go to a reputable studio to produce them. The recordings need to give a good idea of what your performance is going to deliver, and while they don’t have to be the same quality as a national headliner’s studio produced albums, they should give a pretty accurate perspective of your abilities. Studio time does cost money, just like booking the photographer, so you need to plan what you’re going to record, and also ensure that you are well rehearsed before showing up for the recording session. The more time you take to get a good take of a tune, the more money you’re spending to produce the entire demo. Usually what will happen after you have cut the demo tracks is a quick mastering session, that might simply be mixing the recordings down, adding some light reverb and then burning your master CD. If you plan well and go to a decent studio it is possible that you might be able to complete the process in one session. I did a fingerstyle demo in two hours of studio time. I laid down about 12 short tunes and had a basic mastered CD in my hands at the end of those two hours because I was prepared, knew what I wanted, and maintained focus. It helped that it was an excellent studio as well.
If you are a decent writer, then go ahead and create your own bio. Even if you aren’t, you’re going to have to present the pertinent details of your musical career to someone else to write it, so you should at least outline the important points you want to make before taking to someone who can write it up for you. Remember, the packet is you in the hands of the venue. Everything about it represents you so you want to be certain that the bio is well written, just like the photos and the recordings. If you don’t know how to write well, no big deal, just find someone else who can so that you end up with a bio that reads like it has a professional purpose. Along with the bio it’s also a good idea to have a statement of purpose, or an artist’s statement. What is your perspective on performing and how do you go about communicating this with your audience? Once again, you should consider what you put in, reflect upon it, and if it’s not going to be helpful it should be cut.
Usually business cards are included with the promo packet. These are pretty easy to get your hands on these days, particularly with companies like Vistaprint that can be accessed through the internet. Vistaprint has a wide variety of business card templates that are really easy to use to design a respectable card at a reasonable price. I’ve used them for several years and have been quite happy with the end product, as well as their prices, and their speed of delivery. They always seem to get the cards to me faster than I expect and they’re always exactly what I’ve ordered. Once again, if you are not confident in your abilities in this area, you can always hit up a friend you have confidence in to help you design the cards and put in your order. It’s pretty easy.
This being said, another alternative that has been gaining popularity is the electronic promo kit. Essentially you can build a web site that does all of this as well as hosts your own email address. You can either hook up with one of the d.i.y. online companies to build one or you can hire someone to make a full blown professional site that even allows you to sell merch on it, a good way to supplement your gigging income. This does cost money, and it’s a real case of getting what you pay for. You’ll still need to do business cards, but in this case your card is the gateway to your promotional material. When you use a traditional promo pack, each one you hand out is a business expense that you’re not going to be able to use again. Clubs don’t return your packets so once it’s dropped off, it’s done. This is one of the benefits of the online type. Plus with the online one your fans can access it as well.
Promo kits are still very much a reality of being an active performing artist, and in most cases they are the gateway to solid booking practices. They are your professional representation in your absence so they need to accurately represent you in the best manner possible. So whether you choose to use a traditional promotional packet with recordings, photos, bios, and business cards packaged in a nice folder, or opt for the electronic one along with business cards, the packet itself is a necessary tool to self-promotion and booking. Whichever you choose, think carefully about what you include and what image you present. It’ll pay off in the long run.