It’s saturday morning and I’m a bit worn from waxing philosophical. So just for giggles, I’m posting a silly rant I wrote a few years ago about sending promotional kits. For YEARS I stood in line at the post office mailing promo kits (a cd, bio, tour schedule, etc) to Talent Buyers. The digital age should make the sending of press kits moot, but strangley, many Buyers still like to get a physical kit in the mail.
This rant is comprised of stories Buyers have told me over the years about what happens to press kits, or what I’ve actually seen piled in corners and on desks as I’ve traveled to venues, bars and clubs. It’s full of fun and information. It’s Funformation.
You simply should NEVER send a cold kit (unsolicited demo). It’s a tremendous amount of wasted effort, time and money to simply SEND without ever making contact with a venue, label, potential manager, booking agent, festival, or promoter. NEVER SEND A COLD KIT.
If you don’t heed my advice, here is what could POTENTIALLY happen!
You have lovingly and carefully put together a promo kit with a photo, stage plot, bio, songlist (if you play covers), a copy of your brand new poster, your new cd with beautiful artwork, (with the shrink wrap slit of course…cause lord knows Talent Buyers do not like to fiddle with shrink wrap) in that snazzy jewel case, all packaged in a darlin’ folder you specially purchased in a custom color from Staples in bulk. And that special folder had to be specially cut to accommodate your very special and artsy business card, and all that needed a special size envelope- which you also had to order from Staples or you have to package everything in an oversized padded envelope and of course that cost extra too. You carry it to the post office and mail it first class careful to tell the clerk to mark it fragile so the jewel case IS MORE LIKELY to be smashed in transit. More STUFF in your promo kit does not make it more impressive or important.
Now, tally how much money you have already spent (time, effort, money, envelopes, printing, paying for your photos, jewel cases, cd duplication, etc)
Bear in mind mailing first class is a waste of funds and PRIORITY MAIL is laughable. Your unsolicited demo package is going to SIT on someone’s desk or worse (see 1,2,3 below)
The package arrives at the club- or not- depending on if the mailman can shove the padded envelope (always a bad idea– but you had to have a padded envelope for all that stuff!) through the mail slot because no one is at the bar til 9PM to pick up mail. Mail service doesn’t run at 9:00pm so the arrival of your package is tenuous at best. It may be left on the sidewalk (I actually had a talent buyer tell me bums picked up his promo packages). Menu Venues are different– there is usually someone around when the mail arrives. Of course, menu venues are more focused on the menu than the venue. So if you like to bear your soul to the accompaniment of people laughing, yelling and eating, or if the chicken wing platter is “larger than my banjo” as Jeff Mosier told me once, you might reconsider playing there anyway.
If your demo is unsolicited (you have not called the talent buyer and spoken to him FIRST before sending it) it sits on top of the bar fridge for 3 years eventually melding with other promo packages in indecent incestuous relationships creating amalgams of crud. Or (the most likely scenario) it goes directly to the trash can. Sometimes if you’re lucky a bartender will rip open the package, take your CD out and try to sell it to the local record store for money to buy a bag of pot. At least then your music is “available at retail outlets”
3. If a package arrives solicited, which means a talent buyer has spoken to the band or agent, it is likely (if the talent buyer has an office at the venue) the person who finally scoops up the mail from the floor in front of the mail slot will put it on the talent buyers desk (if he has a desk) or the Talent Buyers pile of stuff. You increase your chances of having this done IF you have put the words
SOLICITED (or REQUESTED) MATERIAL FROM THE TONY G ORCHESTRA. WE SPOKE WITH MR TALENT BUYER 6.18.06 AND ARE IN THE PROCESS OF BOOKING 7.26.06 AT YOUR VENUE. PLEASE BE SURE THIS GETS TO MR TALENT BUYER. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
4. If you play everything right, no package will ever go to Talent Buyer at the venue. Instead, when you finally track down Talent Buyer and he requests an actual physical package (because he doesn’t like online press kits, or he doesn’t have a computer, or you’ve made your music difficult to download) say, “Do you prefer to receive mail at the venue or should I send this to your home?” You’ll be surprised at the times they’ll say “Just send it to my house.I never get anything anybody sends to the bar.”(surprise,surprise) and they’ll provide you with an actual home address OR a post office box they check routinely. This is privileged information. Don’t pass it around.
5. When the package finally makes it to the Talent Buyers hands- he will rip it open and discard the envelope, the pretty expensive custom folder you just made, your bio, stage plot, photo, the list of where you’ve played before and opened for, the cd cover/artwork, your poster or sticker (he might put this in a pile for the employees to paw through- that’s how your band sticker made it to that girl’s car in Milwaukee– and you thought your marketing was working!), your business card and the jewel case. He will, however, LISTEN to your CD because you have made contact with him via phone and told him to expect the kit and you have discussed a date and you have paved the way for him to listen. He may download the CD into his ipod and listen later. He may throw it in his truck along with 50 other submissions. Eventually that CD will end up thrown away as technology would most likely have it. It’s also advisable you put your name and contact number on every shred of anything you send to that buyer in the highly unlikely case he is one of those people who actually really cares about the folder and it’s contents. Make sure your contact info is especially on the CD- your phone number, website etc…. it’s worth LABELING the CD – and not with marker. You can also STICKER the CD with your best cuts, AND the date you are looking to book. This information is USEFUL to the talent buyer.
6. People will say – You must make your submission STAND OUT. That’s just wrong. What is important is that you SEND a package in a very timely manner to talent buyers who are INTERESTED in you. You have aquired Talent Buyers permission and his expectation of the packae. It’s better to send a CD in a paper sleeve or a slim line jewel case the day after you speak with a talent buyer than WAIT until your folder is done and WAIT until your photos are perfect and WAIT until you get your bio just right.
What you consider esthetically pleasing and informative, talent buyers see as peripheral stuff they are going to discard — they don’t care about your package. They care about your music. Actually the consideration of your music is balanced with your act being able to bring people INTO the venue. They care about how many beers they’re going to sell while you’re playing. For club owners and talent buyers it is about profitability and that means alcohol and food sales. And you should be GLAD they think that way. Alcohol sales create income and income is how a bar manages to keep that great sound tech, that wonderful PA and the ultra cool stage with groovy curtains and the insanely funky Green Room. Venues don’t make money from the door at a music event- they hope to simply cover their expenses (see the previous sentence). The majority of a venue’s income will come from the BAR. That’s why sometimes when you call to rebook a show, the talent buyer will refer to his or her receipts. “I haven’t looked at my Saturday night receipts yet. Why don’t you give me a call Thursday after I’ve had a chance to see how we did at the bar.” The Talent Buyer is not looking at DOOR receipts, he’s looking at BAR SALES.
Talent buyers are very very busy. It is not unusual for them to cook, book, clean, order liquor and beer and food, deal with radio and newspapers for promotion, hire,fire and manage the staff, deal with permits, plan and implement improvements and construction and repairs to the venue, and try and be an all round good host or hostess and pal to their patrons. They are saints among men and women and we as musicians, NEED them and their venues. Respect your Talent Buyers. You should never be offended by a NO from a talent buyer. They’re actually not saying NO to you or your music, they’re simply passing along hard earned experience that this music will NOT fit in their room. Believe me, a no from a talent buyer is doing you a favor. They know their room inside and out, up and down, they know their demographic and clientele. Listen to them! Take their advice.
For gosh sakes don’t put in premiums like trinkets, keychains, coozies, etc. And confetti- oh please- You’re gonna put somebody’s eye out with that stuff. This is rock and roll not a birthday party. Imagine a talent buyer opening your package and it exploding into a shower of confetti. They will NOT be amused. Confetti has a time and place- and it’s not part of a promo package. Also of particular ire is the padded envelope with that gray packaging that looks like insulation, excessive tape and basically anything that rattles or makes an odd noise is going to be flagged by the post office and opened by postal clerks. Do you want your kit opened by postal clerks? That’s a fate worse than death. Then your package will NEVER get to where it’s going.
Do yourself a favor. Take the $10 you invest in every unsolicited press kit and spend it on crackers and peanut butter for road trips. When you’re in the middle of the desert at 3am with a busted water hose believe me, you’re going to need peanut butter and crackers to survive. A press kit isn’t a place to spend a musician’s hard earned dollar. MAKE CONTACT before you send.