Where Are We Up To?
It’s been a really bloody long time since I wrote the last article focussing on live-streaming and the prep that goes in to distributing and thinking about your contact lists. A lot has happened and to be honest, I’ve not really had time to focus on these guides! I feel like the landscape is changing and the need to be adaptable is prevalent now more than ever, but that doesn’t stop the need for getting those fundamental tools working to your advantage, what do I mean by that? Those things that you use to promote yourself, like biogs, press releases, photos, etc. So, before we move on to the actual roll out of a release, let’s make sure you’ve got those bits sorted!
I can definitely see myself coming back to the live-stream conversation at some point. It feels ever changing, but for now I’d like to move forward and cover some more ground that I think is useful and will give you something to work on.
A quick reminder, the comments are open, so please add your questions, thoughts, ideas and issues. If someone shares something that they need help with and you feel you can share something helpful, then please do so. With this being a series, please send over questions or topics that we can explore on this. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d rather do it that way. I will also create a resource list for this entire series as a summary, which I’ll keep adding to.
Don’t forget to add your releases to the collaborative playlist. Give it a listen and a follow, this is a community. It’s not enough to just promote yourself, remember to support those brilliant people around you. Don’t see them as competition, see them as allies. We’re stronger together if we shout about each other and share knowledge with each other.
Attacking Your Biography
Writing about yourself can feel a bit excruciating, or maybe just a bit difficult, and it can be massively off-putting – often meaning that new bands/artists don’t give their biography the attention that it deserves. I think there’s a real focus on trying to do it the way people think it needs to be (from an industry perspective, maybe), rather than actually just represent themselves at that particular time. It’s important to note that for most new acts, there’s not a great deal to write about. That’s fine. Your biography is made to evolve as you do and it’s difficult to convey the personality of the project right away, as often that needs to develop, too. It is there to be updated as your project grows. Your biography should be ‘all killer no filler’. It is better that it is small to start off with, than to include every little thing you have done because you feel that you haven’t done enough yet. You don’t have to include every single local accolade, often these aren’t particularly newsworthy and are also pretty boring to read. It’s also worth noting that you need a short biography for your profiles, so if you wandered off and come up with 900 word epic, you’ll have to shrink it right down and cut to the chase in order to use it.
With that in mind – before you start writing, think of all the different places that your biog is going to go. It’s not just going to be used to tell people in emails more about your project, it’s going to go up on your Spotify profile, your bandcamp, you’ll be supplying it in applications for funding, for festivals, for artist development opportunities, if you’re selling records in indie stores they’ll ask for a short biog for them to use to promote the release, if you get booked to do anything then your biog info will be used to describe what’s going on. Once you’ve come up with your biography it’s a good idea to condense it into a couple of different versions, ideally 200 words and 100 words. If you do write it and it fits snuggly into 200 words, then that’s great – if you’ve got more to say, then you’ll need to work out what to shave off. You might find this condensed version is actually more impactful than your original.
It’s important to see your biography as an important tool in shaping how your project is viewed and written about. It’s your first and possibly biggest opportunity (alongside social media posts) to shape your own narrative. You will notice from reading about your favourite bands/artists that the vocabulary used to describe them can seem quite clichéd or generic, and that it can often be specific to the genre, gender or race of the act. You may have experienced this yourself. A really great exercise in this is to read live reviews and have a look at the words used to describe performances delivered across different styles of music, by different genders, sexualities and certainly different races. You’ll see women in rock bands referred to as ‘cute’ or their songs ‘catchy’ even when they’ve been absolutely ripping into their set. You’ll see male singer-songwriters painted as pained troubadours and black women, no matter the genre, referred to as ‘sassy’. Think about the adjectives that would piss you off if they were used to described you in a review, think about how you can counteract them in your biography and choose the language that represents your project. All-female bands don’t have to be a girl band and queer acts don’t have to be ‘un-apologetic’ (does this suggest that some people may think you have something to apologise for?). Think about what is important about your project and the words you feel most comfortable with. This is your opportunity to lead the narrative, to set the vocabulary and also to provide yourself a starting point without veering towards clichéd adjectives that will ultimately lead to a biography that could have an [insert name of band here] at the top. Use this task of writing a biography to start to put in to words what your project is and what you want it to be and let it form part of building the personality that will run through everything you do.
What To Put In It
Let’s have a think about the actual content. An early biography most likely isn’t the place for achievements, as these will be limited and probably won’t be particularly interesting. When notable things happen, they can be added in – but it’s good to start off by thinking about what makes your project what it is. If it’s a solo project, then think about the themes in the songs, the processes of making the actual music, the inspiration for wanting to do what you are doing. Look for the stories, embellish and expand on them to make them individual. How do your surroundings influence your output, what makes this project individual. If it’s a band or collaborative project, then you’ve got that meeting of minds, how did that happen, what is the combination, what’s the common ground, what are the differences. There’s so much to explore in the creation of music that we can create meaningful starting points without actually releasing anything yet. It might not seem interesting to you, but delve beneath the bonnet and you can find the interesting stuff, the themes, the shared values, the personality.
It’s important to note that you can take a more abstract approach with it, providing conceptual detail and not giving everything away, but ideally you don’t want to create a barrier to building support and allowing potential supporters to enter in to your world. The same goes for taking a fully comedic approach to the whole thing. Look to strike the right balance. Test it out on those you trust.
Your biography shouldn’t focus on a particular release too much, it can nod to it, but ultimately it should be providing the context for it. You can expand on the particulars of the release in the press release, using your biography as the basis. Your biography is the information about you the creator of the release, rather than the release itself. However, if something interesting happened during the creation of the release which has shaped the project significantly, then this can be interesting biog material.
If you are writing it yourself and don’t feel confident on the flow and general quality of it, then get a pal who has a flare for writing to look over it and sharpen it – make sure you brief them with how you want to come across rather than just waiting until you get it back to give feedback. If you are getting a pal to write it for you, it’s better to see this as a collaborative process and talk through vocabulary, audience and key points you want to get across. Working through a few drafts until you land on something you’re happy with is normal.
Building Your Biography Into A Press Release
I have a bit of a system with how I pull together press releases, which is based on how interested the reader is and what information they need first in order to encourage them to read on:
PROJECT NAME IN IT’S FONT OR LOGO
HEADLINE – WHAT IS THE PRESS RELEASE FOR AND WHAT’S THE RELEASE DATE
MAIN LISTEN HYPERLINK (private link if pre-release, smart url with all digital streaming platforms of post-release)
HYPERLINK TO FOLDER WITH PRESS PHOTO, ARTWORK AND WAV FILE (I use googledrive – make sure the permission is set so that anyone with the link can access)
ARTWORK WITH TEXT WRAPPED (tiny file, so it keeps the document size down)
PARAGRAPH 1 – SHORT INFO ABOUT THE RELEASE – THE IMPORTANT STUFF (if there’s a key live date, whack that in here, too)
PARAGRAPH 2 – INFO ON WHAT THE BAND/ARTIST HAVE BEEN UP TO MOST RECENTLY, RECENT PRESS
PARAGRAPH 3 – RECEPTION OF PREVIOUS RELEASE (PRESS COVERAGE, RADIO SUPPORT, TOUR SUPPORTS, STREAMING NUMBERS, PLAYLISTING – hyperlink any notable press within text)
PARAGRAPH 4 – BACK TO THIS RELEASE WITH MORE INFORMATION (WHERE/WHO/WHEN WRITTEN AND RECORDED – MORE CONTEXT ABOUT THE TRACK, LEADING IN TO THE QUOTE)
QUOTE FROM THE BAND/ARTIST ABOUT THE RELEASE (this is important as it’s always used by blogs and it’s always the most accurate bit of information due it being directly from the mouth of the creator)
PARAGRAPH 5 MAIN BIOG INFO – Taken from your actual biog, this can be multiple paragraphs
IF BAND LIST THE BAND MEMBERS
FULL CREDITS FOR THE RELEASE
ALL SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS HYPERLINKED IN A ROW
This is how I do it, anyway. This can differ greatly, but I find that sticking to a formula like this helps massively with constructing my press releases. You might not have released anything yet, so just take that paragraph out and maybe make your quote more substantial so readers have more to pull from.
Keep it simple, easy to update and also easy to view on whatever device the reader has opened it on. Copy press releases in to the body of an email with a nice little personalised message above it. Make sure all your links are hyperlinked and clear. Don’t bother with PDFs or over-designed EPKs, they look nice, but they’re not particularly functional for the reader. I feel like the only people who use fancy looking, time consuming PDFs are those who have been taught to do so in college. Following a lot of market research I can officially state that it was pretty much unanimous amongst the journalists and industry professionals that they saw them as a pain in the arse and also difficult to read on their phones. No point in style over substance, or functionality.
Describing Your Own Music
This is a tricky one for most. This is where it’s very important to stay away from clichés and generic music-type adjectives. ‘Swirling guitars’ ‘driving drum-beat’ are the two that spring to my mind that I see all the time and I don’t really feel they mean anything. I’ve just asked a journo/promoter pal for his bug-bears and he said a common one he gets is when bands describe themselves as ‘psychedelic’ when they’re not, so I’d say it’s important to explore the acts that represent the genre/scene that you think you fit into before aligning yourself – do you actually fit? The other one we both agreed on was when bands say that their influences are so broad that they’re basically indescribable! There’s always elements you can pull out as reference points, nothing is soooo unique. We also agreed that phrases such as “leaving them wanting more” and also “much-anticipated” feel a bit unnecessary for new bands and often they’re used because they’ve been seen in lots of other places.
So there’s a few phrases and things to miss out, doesn’t really help you describe your own music, does it. I’m going to say a big, don’t worry too much about this bit. Less is more, you want to encourage people to listen to your music and form their own connection with it. If there are singular elements that you think make you unique, do pull them out, but don’t worry about painting a full picture. Also, your music will evolve and there will be elements of your current output that may be subtle now, but will grow and give you more of a signature, identifiable sound, which you will be able to talk about more easily, because it will become more apparent and conscious. The same for your lyrical style and content. So what I’m trying to say here is, don’t over think this bit. If you can’t yet describe what you’re doing, you can ask fellow musician pals and see how they describe it and see if anything sticks, but again, be careful of clichés.
Don’t try too hard, don’t force yourself into genres, or sub-genres or scenes because they’re popular. Be careful of comparing yourselves to bigger bands just because you love them. Give yourself some time to let your music develop and grow and I promise this bit will become easier.
What’s an EPK and Do I Need One?
EPK stands for Electronic Press Kit, which is a bit old school. It’s basically just one sheet with biog info, press quotes and links to social media, music, photos and logo/font. If someone asks you for an EPK, generally festivals, then this is what they’re after. This is usually what a lot of people over-think and will create a fancy PDF. Again, it needs to be really easy to use and functional, so just a word doc with your up to date biography and all the important links will work a treat. Think of it as all the things a festival would need in order to add you to their poster and their website.
What Assets Should I Link To?
Create a dropbox/googledrive folder that has the following in it:
– photos – a portrait and a landscape – make sure there’s one that looks good cropped square – hi res and lo res versions of each
– Stick your up to date biog in there with all your social media links
– Most recent press release (if you have one)
– WAV of most recent release (if you have one)
– Artwork of most recent release (if you have one)
That’s it for this one, thanks for reading and I hope it’s helpful. x
Next up I’ll go into detail on how to pull together your release strategy and basically crack on with it…
Questions, comments, suggestions, chatter in the comments please.
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