Musicians' Resource Directory
I get dozens of press kits from bands every week. I have three full mail bins sitting to the left of me as I type. I'm not claiming to be an expert by any means, but I've grown familiar with what I like and dislike when opening one bubble mailer after another. While my rules might differ a bit from other people's (maybe some folks like getting XXL T-shirts they'll never wear?), I can offer a few basic rules to remember when sending your music to the critics.
You need to be concise; less is more. Music writers are like idiot-savant children, voracious for newness and easily distracted. My desk is buried under free CDs, so if your press kit overflows with pages and pages of unnecessary press clippings, band-member bios, and ridiculously clichéd band photos, chances are I'll be so distracted by flipping through everything and/or making fun of the picture, I won't even get a chance to listen to your CD before something else grabs my... OMG a new Beyoncé single!
Where was I? Oh yeah. Honestly, your press kit only needs two things: a copy of your latest record—with the band name and contact info on the CD itself—and a one-sheet. The one-sheet should have everything—a quick band bio (where you're from, any previous bands you've played in, influences, past and/or upcoming show info, and other pertinent facts), a small photo (if we need a bigger one for print, we'll ask), information about the recording (who you recorded with and where), and, if you've got 'em, a few glowing quotes from other press sources. That's it, easy peasy.
The press clippings won't hurt, but they're not necessary. If you do choose to include them, remember that I'm not going to read 20 pages of incidental mentions from every community-college newspaper and unknown blog in America. Just give me the top three. You're going for quality, not quantity.
You're also going for timeliness. Don't send the package the week before your big CD release show. We're a weekly paper, plus we're kinda slow in the head, so we need several weeks of lead time.
Know your audience. A couple weeks ago, I got three copies of the new Kenny G record. Clearly, my name is just on a mass-mailing list at Arista—and receiving the album three times isn't going to make me like it any more. (It's a fact: The effort with which a publicist pushes an album is inversely proportional to the quality of the album.)
Knowing whom you're sending your music to could make the difference in getting it not only heard but also written up. There are a number of different music writers at The Stranger and we all like different things. Send your new noise album to a writer who just positively reviewed Wolf Eyes; it'll be far more successful than sending it to our hiphop columnist. Become familiar with the writers' tastes. (Personally, I like Jawbreaker. Do with that what you will.)
I've gotten a bunch of press kits that included candy or other trinkets, and yeah, that did tug at my curiosity enough to make me listen to the CD. But what left the lasting impression wasn't the necklace with my name on it (okay, yeah, I fell for that, too), it was the fact that the music was really good. Bottom line, no matter how involved your press kit gets—T-shirts, matchbooks, stickers, free tickets, magnets, toys, I've seen it all—it's the music that needs to stand out. I'm not going to write a review of the miniature Snickers bar you send me. Save your money and make a bitchin' record.