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Marketing your music to the USA (Page 3 of 4)
(c) 2002 Myles Wakeham

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Your Press Package

OK, so you have your copyright forms now. That means you are protected. Now let's get ready to present your material to the decision makers of Hollywood. The press package is what its all about. The press package should contain all the necessary information and entice the executive to pop that tape of yours in the player and hear the next big hit.

I mentioned that most of the major record labels in Los Angeles receive about 1,000 tapes per week. So they can't hear 'em all. They pick and choose and the first thing you have to realize is that they don't listen to tapes that don't have some form of "professionalism" in the packaging. That's the importance of the press package. Its your image and reputation and it makes the differences between whether they will even take a listen to your tape or not. If it looks "home-made", forget it. Its gotta look snazzy and professional. Let's look at what goes in the press package...

1. The Demo Tape

Now, despite popular belief, if you have a cassette of your songs or a CD, it doesn't make one bit of difference to the executive. In fact, cassettes may be a better method of pitching your songs for one critical reason - NEVER PITCH MORE THAN FOUR (4) SONGS AT ANYTIME TO A MUSIC INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE. There's some etiquette here. The basic rule is that you know what your strongest songs are and the executive doesn't have the time to hear 60 minutes of an artist in order to find the best songs. You have to do that for them. I'm a strong believer in pitching only ONE song. You have a higher chance of getting the tape heard that way. If they like it, they'll contact you and ask for more.

I mentioned before that a demo tape is typically a master quality tape in Hollywood. There are lots of full-time writers with contacts in Los Angeles that are pitching studio quality tapes each day. If you can't keep up with these guys, you don't have a chance. The competition is strong and you have to be willing to step up to the plate with this.

So you picked out the best 1-4 songs that you are going to pitch. Put the strongest one first. If you can't work out which one is the strongest, get an expert opinion. If you give me a listen I'll tell you which one is going to do the best there. Or find someone who you trust who will give you an honest answer. Don't get relatives or close friends to do that. They think everything you do is the greatest right? No, find someone in the music business and ask them. After you have found the strongest song, other songs should follow based on strength. Someone once told me that pitching similar songs is more often successful. You might be an artist that can do anything from country to classical to rock. But that doesn't help a music industry executive understand who you are and how to categorize you. Pick the style that is your strongest and keep the songs on your demo tape of that style.

Now assume you are going to pitch to 50 companies in the US. So get a professional duplicator to make dupes of the tape for you. Ideally get them to label the tapes for you too. And make sure you get your phone number on that tape. Remember that to dial you from the US, its not just about dialing your local number. You have to give them the full dialing sequence.

Now also make sure that the record tabs have been knocked out off the tape. You don't want someone to accidentally erase your tape, do you?

I would also suggest that you encase the tape in one of those flexible cassette cases, not a rigid clear plastic one that you commonly find. Most tape duplicators will offer you different types of cassette cases for your tape. Look for the flexible cases specifically made for mailing. They protect the tape much better.

2. The Photo

If you are not just interested in marketing your songs for other artists to record, and are looking to have a career as a musician as well as a writer, they will want to know what you look like. Here we enter the "glamour" side of marketing.

You need a professional photographer here. The sort of person who does those photos that you see at modeling or acting agencies. You need to find a photographer with a studio, good lighting and ideally some vision. You probably also need to have a professional makeup artist available for the photo session too. That goes for you guys too. Your photo has to look the best you can get it. Attitude in the photo is important, along with clothes. Remember you are marketing to Hollywood here. Think fame. If you feel uncomfortable in working out how you should look, or what you should dress, see if you can find someone in the acting business to give you some tips here. Remember we are in the "entertainment" business. Yes, its music, but when it comes to photos its about impressing people.

Once you have the photos taken, you are probably going to be given some shots to look through and pick the one that you want to use. Once you have chosen it, the photographer is going to make an 8 inch x 10 inch Black & White from it. You may need to contact a duplication house and find out what they need to duplicate such a photo. Your photographer can probably help here.

Don't expect to get out of this cheap. Quality photographers are worth every cent if you come away with a great glossy photo. Its your calling card when you can't be there.

3. The Biography

If you work, you probably know all about resumes. They tell the potential employer about what you can do, and what you have done. A biography is the entertainment industry's version of a resume. But its a bit different. Its supposed to make you sound like a star. A resume is typically more conservative.

Ideally an artist's biography should be prepared by a professional writer, and preferably one with expertise in the field of entertainment. But if that's not practical, you can write a good, workable biography and quite likely it will be as good as many done by writers.

Here's the basic list of components that it should have in it:

  1. Hometown of the artist
  2. Date and circumstances of the group's formation (if a band)
  3. Information about previous or formative bands
  4. Education or any formal musical training of members (including awards)
  5. Anecdotes - anything that gives personality to the act
  6. Stories behind the songs - what inspired them, etc.
  7. Capsule information about each song - what its about
  8. Musical Category of the Artist - usually difficult to do, but important to include

Now its hard to describe how to write one of these, but here is some excerpts from one for the band, "The Gipsy Kings".

"There is a new sound being carried to America on the winds of World Music. It's as contemporary as any disco hit, but its roots go back to the Middle Ages, perhaps to the time of Christ. Its the passionate, percussive music of the GIPSY KINGS captured in full cry on their self-titled Elektra debut album.

The six-man band known as the Gipsy Kings was born in 1979, when gipsy families from the French cities of Montpelier and Arles joined together. Two of the members (Andre and Nicolas Reyes) are the sons of famed flamenco singer, Jose Reyes; the other four belong to the Baliardo family, and are either cousins or brothers-in-law of the Reyes......

... "What makes [Gipsy Kings] so satisfying, and promises longevity, is the group's penchant for writing powerful, universal songs", said Music Media, whose reviewer praised the album as a "strong collection of flowing instrumentals and passionate ballads".

You get the basic idea. Hype it up! Lots of entertaining descriptions of you and your music. If you have copies of any press clippings that speak favourably of your music, then include a photocopy of them on a separate page. Otherwise keep the whole thing down to one page if you can. Like a resume, you don't want this document to be too long and hard to digest.


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