How to Create an EPK Booking Agents & Record Labels Will Love
Back when MySpace came out, I remember wondering whether or not musicians needed a website of their own to promote their music. I still wonder the same thing today. Some artists put up elaborate expensive websites, while others choose to hang their shingle out on social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, or Pinterest. Other artists choose a music streaming service such as Pandora or Spotify to use as a promotional home base. Music aggregator sites like Sonicbids or ReverbNation allow artists to quickly and easily upload and host their musical content and image marketing materials.
Today, there are so many options for reaching your audience via the digital universe, it’s easy to be confused by having too many choices. On top of all that, the trends are always shifting and the business environment changes constantly. With your professional relationships, there is another set of concerns. People are busy and attention spans are short. When approaching a record label, a Booking Agent, or an Entertainment Lawyer, what do you really want them to see? How will they find you? What will grab and maintain their interest? What are your best choices? Don’t be overwhelmed by all the decisions, just inform yourself the best you can and get to work making them.
A strong EPK includes:
- Photos and artwork
- Artist bio
- Press clippings
- Links to social media
- Contact info
An EPK is Your First Impression
First impressions are really important. This is where having a solid and concise Electronic Press Kit (EPK) comes in. Prospective professional collaborators and A&Rs want to see what you show your prospective audiences, but at your first introduction they will have different interests than fans, want to see specific things, and maybe listen to a few tracks. Because they are very busy professionals with extremely limited time to check out new artists, it’s crucial that you put your best foot forward when approaching them. This means you want to efficiently deliver your very best work to them using a format which lets them very quickly understand what you are all about.
They need to be able to see and assimilate the most important points quickly and easily, and you want to give them just enough to do that, and not more. Your EPK should make it easy and there should be no excess or fluff included. It’s all about making a professional initial impression. Your EPK is more than a calling card, it is your ultimate marketing tour-de-force.
What is in an EPK and Who is it For?
EPK stands for Electronic Promo or Press Kit, as previously mentioned. In the most general terms, it’s a digital portfolio designed to promote a musician or artist to others in the industry, delivered over the internet. The industry people you will be reaching out to are often referred to as “intermediaries” because they insert themselves into the artist development, marketing, or business development process at some point. Some examples of intermediaries are as follows:
Additional types of intermediaries who will have interest in your EPK might include the following:
- Music Supervisor
- Tour Manager
- Venue Owner/Manager
- Festival Director
- Video Producer
- Music Director/Conductor
- Session Musician
- Web Designer
This is not an all-inclusive list, but it should be clear that just about anyone you might want to collaborate with, hire, or work for will want to see your EPK at your initial introduction. Their goal at this point is to get a very quick and clear understanding of your music, your image marketing materials, where you are in your business development process, and what drives you.
There’s an audience for your music and your EPK should make clear who that audience is and how you intend to reach them. The EPK should communicate clearly to the viewer how and why your music and persona resonate with your intended fan base. Like anything else, it may seem simple at first look, but it is not a simple task. A lot of thought and care should go into crafting an amazing EPK, as it will reflect on your professionalism, preparedness, talent, ability, and commitment. It’s worth taking the time and doing the work to make it as good as it can possibly be, since your music career could, in fact, depend on it.
Begin by considering carefully who you expect will be viewing your EPK. If your goals are to get a major label record deal and a big-shot Manager, your EPK would likely look different than an indie-oriented artist. Who are you trying to get your materials in front of? Keep your targeted individuals and your overall goals in mind as you design your EPK and work on the materials to include.
Think of it like your musical resume which lives online. You want to make it easy for people to access, and easy to navigate. Let’s consider some of the above elements briefly in turn, and then I’ll offer a few suggestions about where to host the EPK, and how to get it in front of the people you want to see it.
There’s an audience for your music and your EPK should make clear who that audience is and how you intend to reach them. The EPK should communicate clearly to the viewer how and why your music and persona resonate with your intended fan base.
Since anyone looking at your materials will assume that it’s the best you can produce, do make sure that it really is your best work. Making professional-sounding recordings has become easier over the years. What used to require grueling hours in a studio layering tracks, overdubbing, mixing, and mastering can often now be accomplished in less time and with fewer people using a laptop with quality peripherals and recording software. Of course, there is a certain amount of know-how and skill involved, and accomplished musicians will make every effort to get great recordings since the results are so important to advancing their career. If there’s something you don’t know how to do, you can always learn it.
The main point here is that you should do whatever it takes to get the best recordings you can. Quality recordings will enhance the listening enjoyment for your fans, improve accessibility to your music, and let any listener know you care enough about your music to record it properly. Your recordings can live in your EPK as audio files or be hosted on another platform, such as SoundCloud. If you opt for the latter, make sure you can embed the file in your EPK so the listener doesn’t need to leave your EPK hosting site to listen.
Photos & Artwork
The same advice applies to your photos and artwork as to the recordings. Make sure you get the best quality you can. It usually pays to hire professionals, and if you are a current student you might be able to get a big discount on services or even barter for them. You might consider offering a photography or art student some music lessons in exchange for their work, which they could also use for their own portfolios. The point is to get the best quality you possibly can since viewers always assume you are showing them your very best.
Promotional photos (a.k.a. promo pics) should be style-appropriate. The setting and attire might look quite different for an aspiring opera diva than for an indie-rock band. Choose your settings carefully to create the right “vibe” or ambiance for your brand image. Artwork can be album art, website page designs, logos, or other graphic content that is representative of your music and image.
If you are planning to use live performance shots, make sure the Photographer includes the audience and their reactions in their camera angles. Seeing enthusiastic audience members makes a stronger impression than seeing shots of just the performers on the stage without the audience in view. Your Photographer will need full access to the stage during your performance to get camera angles which include the audience.
The bio is where you get to tell your backstory and explain to your prospective audience why they should be interested in you and your music. It doesn’t need to be very long, but it does need to be well-written, without spelling, grammar, capitalization, punctuation, or other errors. Above all else, it should be interesting, and tell the reader what you want them to know about you and your music. Bios can be humorous, serious, tongue-in-cheek, and even fictitious, as long as it is clear you aren’t being deceptive.
The bio should not be too long; usually 2-3 paragraphs is sufficient. If you wish to do a long form bio and a short one as well, you could include both versions. (For more info on how to write an effective artist bio, please read my article here.)
Not all EPKs use videos, but if you have great quality live video that shows your music in a positive light, my advice is to use it. If you have professionally produced concert or music videos, that’s always great to have in your EPK, as long as it shows you at your very best. But if your videos are grainy, unfocused, poorly lighted, or otherwise not professionally produced, it’s probably better not to include them. Always remember that the viewer will assume that all your content is the very best you have, so if you aren’t proud to show it for any reason, it’s better to leave it out. As with live performance photographs, try to include the audience with your camera angles. The best performance videos show enthusiastic audience reactions to your live music.
Press Clippings, Quotes
If you don’t have any press articles or quotes from other influential people to put in your EPK, make it your mission to go out and get some! Think like a Publicist; find writers and reviewers at local news outlets, and make friends with them. Interview some well-known musicians, talk to radio people –- be resourceful and you can generate the buzz you need. It takes some effort and strategic thinking, but it will be worth it. Having positive comments from believable people and articles written about you in the news will give you and your music extra credibility, help you attract an audience, and is a great way to show hard evidence in your EPK that you are a musical force to be reckoned with.
Social Media Links
Today’s A&R departments at major labels aren’t interested in only high talent levels and quality music. When they evaluate artists and bands for a possible record deal, they want to see that you’ve successfully cultivated a loyal and dedicated group of fans. Having an audience already in place and being connected to them through daily interactions is the best way to show strong career potential to your prospective label partners and others within the A&R community.
The best way to do that is by maintaining and growing a large social media presence. This needs to be done with authenticity and integrity and cannot be faked. Buying likes and follows is a bad idea. Experienced industry people will quickly see through that and write you off for it. Your following and interactions must be verifiably real. There are many free platforms you can use to build your following, such as Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, SoundCloud, and others. LinkedIn is extremely important because all the music industry people use it, so you should definitely have a credible and completely filled out profile on LinkedIn. Engaging actively with your fans on social media is a requirement for any and all aspiring artists and bands in today’s music industry.
Most labels are looking for hard evidence of your fan base and also want to see that you are already earning money with your music. One award-winning A&R Representative I know has the requirements listed on his website and says right up front that great talent and music isn’t enough to be eligible for consideration. He asks (in addition to great talent and image, bio and regular live shows) that you have 30,000 Spotify streams per month, 70,000 Twitter followers, and a YouTube video with half a million views. He requests that artists do not contact him until they can meet those requirements.
Your EPK is the place to show off all your online stats. Music business people pay close attention to data analytics. They will be looking to see that you have a strong social media presence, where your followers are located, and how often they engage with you online. Regarding your online presence: build it and they will come.
You may not be quite that far along, or your goals may not be to sign with a major label, and that’s perfectly fine. Regardless, you should strive to show through your EPK that you have the ability to generate strong interest in your music as an independent artist or band. One often-overlooked way to do that is through a successful crowdfunding campaign. Besides the obvious goal of raising funds to record or tour, successful crowdfunding is a powerful way to prove to others that you can appeal to a prospective audience. More artists should consider crowdfunding as a “proof of concept” for their music business prospects. There are many types of crowdfunding models artists can use, I recommend investigating this further and showing the results in your EPK if successful.
One award-winning A&R Representative I know has the requirements listed on his website, and says right up front that great talent and music isn’t enough to be eligible for consideration. He asks (in addition to great talent and image, bio and regular live shows) that you have 30,000 Spotify streams per month, 70,000 Twitter followers, and a YouTube video with half a million views. He requests that artists do not contact him until they can meet those requirements.
Where Should Your EPK Live?
The EPK can be a standalone file, like a Zip file. The advantage of this is that you can send it as an enclosure, and the recipient won’t need to be connected to the internet to view and listen after they’ve downloaded it. Though you don’t have to, most artists and bands will make their EPK available online to anyone who wants to check it out. In this case, the link can be sent via email, text, or chat, and the EPK might also be searchable using search engines like Google or Bing.
Music aggregators like SonicBids or ReverbNation are specifically designed to host your EPK; other places to host include your own website, or a full-service subscription platform like Bandzoogle. The advantage of the latter is that you can integrate many other music business functions, such as selling merch, ticketing for shows, designing a website, and email marketing, to list a few.
Most hosting platforms will also allow you to integrate your calendar into your EPK and link to the venues you play. They might also allow you to apply for performing opportunities or help you to license your recordings for visual media. You might also like to have an automated email marketing function to stay in contact with fans en masse. Shop around to find the platform that most closely suits your needs and budget.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
A professional looking EPK allows you to quickly and clearly show your best work to others while telling them why they should want to work with you. Since you only get one chance to make a first impression, it’s important to dedicate the utmost care and thoughtfulness to create your EPK as the ultimate ninja marketing tool for you and your music.
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