For those of us who have decided to turn music into a profession, there are challenges outside the scope of music. The main hurdle for many, including me, is reaching out to others and finding good gigs. We spend so much time focusing on music, and we should, but very few of us learn how to properly search for good paying gigs.
In my own quest to find paying jobs, I've decided to find a booking agent. The downside to an agent is that he gets a percentage of your gig money. The upside is that he can find you jobs that may have eluded you if you had been looking on your own.
I recently contacted an agency to see how to go about being a part of their company. The person I contacted told me that they have several inquiries each day, so in their submissions process, they require that a press kit be mailed to them. What's a press kit you ask? I asked myself the same thing. I didn't learn about press kits when I was coming up as a classical trombonist! I learned that a press kit contains:
- A CD. For some musicians, this is a full CD. For someone like me who is just starting out, it's a demo CD. My press kit includes On the Cool Side's demo CD.
- Glossy photos.
- Business cards.
- A fact sheet. The fact sheet for On the Cool side includes the names of the band members, my contact info, websites, a description of our musical style, and recent and upcoming performance dates, all laid out in bullet points. If this were for print or broadcast media, I would include some more personal information, such as my home town and where I went to school.
- Song list. If my other materials didn't already make it obvious, anyone could see from the song list that On the Cool Side specializes in jazz.
- Bios and quotes. I included two bios, one for On the Cool Side, and one for me. I included one for myself because a) I'm the band leader, and b) I give On the Cool Side clients the option of hiring me as a soloist if they're on a budget or the occasion calls for quieter, more intimate music.
- Reprints of press clippings. Since On the Cool Side is a new band and we're focused on background music, our total number of press clippings is exactly zero. That's OK, though. If I included a bunch of manufactured press clippings in my press kit, an agent would easily see through my bullshit. It's better to have no press clippings than to fake some. In lieu of press clippings, I included some nice quotes on my bio page.
- A cover letter. My cover letter is brief and to the point. I explain who we are (On the Cool Side, jazz group that can provide a quartet, duo or soloist) and what we want (background music gigs for receptions, cocktail parties, etc.). Aside from that, there doesn't seem to be any sense telling everything there is to know about the group, because it's all covered in the rest of the press kit.
Assembling this press kit took a lot of time and money, especially the CD and the photos. It'll be something that I constantly update and improve. Aside from creating a useful tool for finding an agent, this was an important personal step. Narrowing all my information down to a few sheets of paper helped me focus on what kind of group On the Cool Side is and where we can find our niche.
As far as the agency is concerned, I imagine they ask for a physical press kit partially to weed out pretenders. Anyone can send a link to their website or email a photo. I think the agency wants to see who will go the extra mile by physically assembling a press kit and getting off their duff to mail it. Of course, there are many others like me who are also willing to put in the work, so then it's a matter of hoping that my press kit catches their attention and that my style of music fits in with their company.
I finally completed my first press kit about an hour ago. It's ready to be dropped in the mail. Wish me luck!