The Importance Of Having A Good Press Pack and How To Create One

UnknownA press pack is one of the oldest but relevant and useful promotional tools in the arsenal of any artist or band. Usually in a word document, it contains all of their information such as bios, pictures, important dates and links to their music – essentially everything a member of the music press needs in order to write a well informed article on a band or artist.

Despite the importance, some bands still don’t have their press pack or E.P.K (electronic press kit) figured out ready for use. From a music blogger’s point of view, it can be extremely frustrating requesting a press kit from a band wanting a review and receiving an email with little information about them, it can be so frustrating in fact, that I sometimes decide not to feature a band on the blog because of the poor quality of their press pack.

Equally, when I first started out and was trying to break out as a solo artist I had bloggers turn my work down because my press pack wasn’t up to scratch. I’m not trying to be a hyporcrite with this peice, I’m just hoping to help up and coming aritsts learn from my rookie mistakes.

Now I’ve given a rather lengthy introduction, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of  how to create the perfect package that all bloggers and music industry professionals will love!

  1. Bio’s – Be detailed but don’t waffle

The bio is the piece of text that gives bloggers a sense of what you as an artist or band are about. You don’t need to provide your life story, just enough info about you for the blogger to give their readers the low down on you! The most important thing for me when reading a bio is that it’s engaging and interesting, if I’m falling asleep whilst reading, my readers will too and this is an instant red mark.

2. A picture speaks a thousand words

If you look at most of my blog posts, you’ll see that there are at least two pictures in pretty much every one. A picture not only gives the reader a break from the text, it can give an even more detailed look into you as a band/artist, put a face to a name and even sometimes encourage readers to look into your music. With that said, you need to make sure that all of the images in your press pack are up to date and of high quality, if the images are of an old line up and/or grainy and pixilated, they won’t make the cut.

3. A broken link destroys the bridge

In this digital age, links to your sites and videos are mandatory – How else are bloggers meant to research more about you and listen to your music? Depsite the obvious importance of links, the amount of links I’m provided that don’t work is shocking. Before providing links to your sites, please make sure that they are correct and don’t take bloggers to a “Domain For Sale” page. This is a major no no and will  put you on the rejected pile instantly. Also, make sure that your sites and social media pages are kept up to date, attractive to look at and easy to naviagte. No blogger wants to spend their time working out where the various pages of your website are.

4. The sound of music

This one is the most obvious, if you’re going to submit your music for review please make sure it is of high audio quality. It goes without saying that you should never upload anything sub-par online and this is a especially true if you want something reviewed. Finally and just for the record, most bloggers will not except downloadable MP3’s, a Soundcloud or Youtube link is your best bet.

That’s that ladies and gents! Provided you follow all four of those points when creating or updating your press pack, getting reviews should be a doddle!

Know any bands or aritsts that need help with their press packs? Be sure to send them this article, they’ll thank you for it.

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The Importance of Networking and How To Go About It

Unknown“It’s not what you know, its who you know.” A fairly common phrase that couldn’t be truer when it comes to the Music industry. The way I get most of my sessions, wedding performances and teaching clients is through reccomendations from previous clients and colleugues.

Of course, I have built up a reputation as a session musician and music educator over time through performing and networking both on social media and at events such as open mics and jam nights. Getting your name out there in the industry and introducing yourself to people you haven’t even met can be a hugely daunting task when you first start out, it most definitely was for me!

With that in mind, I’ve devised a short list of tips and tricks to make networking on social media and in person easy for anyone.

1. Have a solid online presence
There’s no use in making yourself known within industry circles if you’ve nothing to showcase your work! Make sure you have a website and social media pages full of quality content (such as photos, videos and audio clips) that you can refer people to once you meet them.

2. Join online groups and forums
Social media is at the centre of how our society operates these days and has proved a brilliant tool for networking. If you’re too shy to go out to public networking events, you can start by joining the various groups and forums online. I’ve found Facebook and Linkedin to be the best place for this. Just go to your preferred one and type “Musicians” in the search bar and you’ll be spoilt for choice! There’s groups for session musicians, covers bands and music teachers, something for everyone.

3. Don’t be shy to say hi
when I first started out, I found it impossible to introduce myself to people. It’s perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of walking up to a random fellow industry person in the room and going “Hi my name’s Gary Cunningham, I play Piano!” Did anyone else hear a five year old’s voice in their head when reading that? I know I did *Cringe.*

That being said, you MUST take the plunge, the best ice-breaker for me when it came to making introductions was complimenting somebody’s performance. Something like: “That was amazing! I’m Gary by the way.” It may seem really kiss-assy but you’d be surprised at how well the conversation begins to flow after that.

4. Follow up
This is the biggest mistake people make when it comes to networking. You spend all night make introductions, complimenting performances and exchanging business cards to then get home and forget to follow up the next day. What.a.waste! If you’ve managed to bite the bullet and make some connections in person, make sure to keep the relationship going online by sending a DM or email, or even giving them a cheeky follow. It’s important to keep the image of you in the minds of the people you meet for as long as possible and keep that connection alive, you never know what that person may be able to do for you one day!

There we have it, four tips to help you make yourself known in the industry. I hope all of these little nuggets help you get as many gigs and students as possible in 2019.

5 Things I’ve learnt from my 3 weeks at The Edinburgh Fringe

For those of my readers that don’t know, I have been working up in Edinburgh for the last few weeks as part of The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Edinburgh Fringe is arguably one of the biggest performing arts festivals in the world, theatre companies come from all over to showcase their productions to huge audiences and reviewers across the whole of the fringe.

I am currently on keys for one of these shows, “Seduction.” Written and perfumed by Ivy Paige (The Voice 2018), it is a mash up of Music and comedy, focusing on the art of Seduction and the empowerment of women in todays society, with a mixture of original material and well known covers thrown in to accompany Ivy’s wicked sense of humor.

This is my first tine at the world renowned Fringe, and here are five important things I have learnt during my time here:

1) It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

This is a phrase I heard continuously from Ivy during the rehearsal period and general build up to day 1 of performances. I must admit I didn’t entirely know what she meant at first, but as we did more shows, had more late nights, it dawned on me how essential it was to rest and get enough sleep.

2) Focus Focus Focus!

As the set up of the shows is literally keys and 2 vocals, it is literally IMPOSSIBLE to hide behind other members of a band if you get stuck. This is why I have to do everything in my power to remain switched on during the show, constantly watching Ivy for different cues for elongating or ending the songs. Writing charts for the show has also helped, doing it from memory just wouldn’t have worked.

3) Develop your own pre-show routines and rituals.

I have always done this for any show run or tour I’ve been a part of but during this show, it feels even more important to the success of my performance every night. I personally like to have a cup of tea and some Nutella on toast before each show, it may sound strange but tea calms me down and the Nutella on toast gives me a little sugar boost. I also walk to the venue every night, this allows me to take in some nice Scottish scenery and clear my head.

4) Network as much as you can

The great thing about being at a month long festival is that you’re surrounded by musicians, producers, directors, sound techs and other creative people from day one. It would be highly beneficial to your career as a musician to get to know all the people on your team, no matter their job role, it could come in handy in the future.

5) Have fun!

Although you are at the festival to work, it is also not illegal to enjoy your time there! Get out and see shows, go to the bars with your team after your show, explore the city during the daytime if you have it free! I have come across loads of great musicians just by walking around the city and happening to hear them busking, I’ve been blown away by the amount of talent Edinburgh has to offer!

I hope these five tips help you first time Fringe Goers to have as much fun as I am!

P.s I have been working on a FRINGE VLOG during my time here, check out episode 1 and two here:

 

How to enjoy music when you do it for a living

Like many young musicians and creatives, I always dreamed of being able to play my instrument for a living one day. Well two years ago, this dream came to fruition. I started playing keys for various different bands, writing scores for some indie films and also teaching keyboard to a few students.

This has now steadily progressed to turning into a semi full time job alongside my university studies. I have had great experiences and performed alongside some pretty prestigious artists and don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret a single second, however, there has also been times when I’ve wanted to flat out quit. This has been down to purely not enjoying Music, I’m sure some of you can relate to this, thankfully, I’ve found various ways of being able to do what I love for work and also get pleasure out of it. I am going to share these ways with you today:

1) Play music that you enjoy

We all know what its like having to play music that we hate in order to make ends meet. I’ve done it more times than I can count and its really not beneficial to you or the artist you’re working with/for. So if you can afford to, make sure to say yes to projects that excite you on a musical and personal level, that way your client will always get the best out of you and you will always enjoy going to work.

2) Try and play as many different genres of music as you can

As a session musician, I’m lucky to be able to be involved in several different musical genres. This includes: general covers, acoustic singer-songwriter, Folk rock and progressive rock. I have always felt that being in a singular band playing the same genre every weekend can get rather stale pretty quickly, thus causing you to fall out of love with it, something every musician wanting a long-lasting career should avoid.

3) Get along to some local jam nights!

This is one thing I never have done enough of and definitely something I’m glad to be doing more of! I’ve recently started attending a jam night at The Bull in Colchester every Tuesday night after uni and its definitely one of the best things I’ve done! I think that giving yourself the chance to play freely with other musicians without the constraint of charts or a click track in your ears is a brilliant way to not only meet and network with different instrumentalists but also a chance to play whatever you want for a change!

4) Go to some gigs!

Us musicians spend so much of our time on stage that we sometimes forget how much fun it is being a member of the audience! I’ve always done my best to go out on my nights off and support my friends in local bands, this is the only way to keep local music and local venues alive after all!

Follow these four pieces of advice and I can pretty much promise you that you will all enjoy your music a lot more!

5 Things I’ve learnt from my first three months of touring

You may have noticed that I haven’t updated this blog in a long time, as much as I apologise for this, I do have a very valid reason.

Since the beginning of March, I’ve been on a UK tour with a Northern Soul Band called “The Signatures.” It has been one of the best experiences of my career, but it has also had its challenges and various valuable lessons.

1) Don’t eat fast food (too much)

This tour is the first time I’ve been away from home properly without my parents around, so of course I took this as an opportunity to eat whatever I wanted. BAD IDEA, after the first two dates, I quickly learnt that getting by on the energy of McDonalds. is not going to see you through a show and it is not going to make your insides feel very good either. Obviously, everyone eats junk food on the road, but as long as you balance it out with the odd fruit pot and flavored water, you’ll be fine.

2) Sleep as much as possible on the bus/ at home

On this tour, we are only on the road during weekends  and during the week, we go back to our normal mundane lives, we also drive back home on the same night for some of the gigs. This involves various days of getting in at 5:30/6:00AM, this renders me and various other members of the band shattered the next day. This is why its important to get as much sleep as you possibly can when you’re on the way back from a show or the next day once you’re at home, if you don’t make time to sleep, you’ll end up becoming unwell pretty quickly.

3) Try your best to get to know the sound guy of every venue by name

This can be quite hard sometimes, but it is also quite important to make sure at least one of the band members knows the sound guys name, especially if you want your show to go well. For me, its integral to know the sound guy because he is the one in charge of my monitor mix and because I’m running in ear monitors for this tour, having a good or bad mix really does affect the way I perform and play on stage. If the sound team and I are on first name terms, I feel more comfortable asking for certain things, such as the adjustment of my monitor mix. Another thing I try my best to do, is to shake the hand(s) of the sound guy(s) and general venue team and say thank you, it may take that little bit of extra time, but it makes them feel appreciated and they won’t forget it very quickly.

Further to this point, you will get the odd sound guy that can be rude and sometimes let the power of being in control of your sound go to their head. If you meet a guy/girl like this just nod and smile, as tempting as it is to tell them wear to stick their advice/demands.

4. SPARES SPARES SPARES

This lesson was a very hard one for me to learn and it certainly isn’t one I will forget in a hurry, I really learnt it the worst way possible too. We were on our last show of the first month of the tour, and it was a hometown show for me, literally in Billericay, the town in which I live and grew up in. We get on stage and begin setting up, I plug everything in, go to switch on my keyboard… NOTHING, literally not lights, sound, nothing! To say I was bricking it was an understatement! I unplug my power supply and check it to be greeted with the heart breaking sight of bare wiring, which basically means the power supply isn’t going to work… I was stressing, the band were stressing and I wanted the ground to swallow me up.. thankfully, a fellow keyboard player lent me his keyboard and I had to learn how to use it on the fly. It’s safe to say that I will not be making that mistake EVER again!

5. Enjoy it!

I’ve been very fortunate to have my first touring experience at the age of 19. It has been stressful, crazy, sweaty, tiring, absolutely hilarious and genuinely the best experience of my career. The tour hasn’t ended yet either, which is good because I don’t want it to for a while! The musicians in The Signatures are outstanding and have a wealth of knowledge that I have learnt so much from dipping in to, asking questions and by simply watching how they do things in the studio and  on stage. There will be some videos of our shows and some behind the scenes stuff real soon!

Thanks for reading, I hope the advice has helped you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made!

Being cocky and knowing you’re good is just as important as being humble

This is a sentence that I live by every single day. It’s what drives me.

Some people are definitely going to disagree with this statement, it’s just how statistics works, you are always going to have a critic. However, before you decide that this statement is false and that I’m talking out of arse, let me explain this.

I’m 18, that’s very young, to some people, it’s too young to be taken seriously in this industry. Yet, I do get taken seriously and what I have to say is listened to, appreciated and most importantly, taken on board. (by some.) Why? because I do know, for a fact, that I’m a bloody brilliant musician. Am I under the illusion that there aren’t people better than me? NO. That would just be plain stupid and delusional! I just know that I’m good at what I do, hell, it’s been proven!

If I wasn’t good, I wouldn’t have countless bands asking me to join their outfit and I wouldn’t have to turn them down because of my commitments to other bands. If I wasn’t good, I wouldn’t’ve been asked to perform at a prestigious music event and then be featured in a music magazine (Music Week) due to my participation in that event. And lastly, if I wasn’t good, I wouldn’t be getting paid to play the Piano every week.

All of these opportunities have arisen not only due to my ability, but due to my confidence IN my ability! How many 18 year old musicians do you know that can walk into a room of people they’ve never met before, get asked if their good at their instrument and confidently turn around and say “Yes, I am.” THAT’S the difference between me and so many other musicians my age! And that’s also the difference between you and your competitors.

They’re cocky, they dub themselves a “Musical God/genius” and you? You sit at the back, all quiet and when asked “are you good” you reply “I guess so.” If you want to start making money, making an impact in the industry you are a part of, then for crying out loud GROW SOME BALLS, GET COCKY AND DON’T GIVE A FUCK WHAT PEOPLE THINK!

It’s not that difficult, TRUST me! The next time someone asks you if you’re good say YES and then? PROVE IT!

After that, watch the MAGIC happen.

Reputation Is Everything (Trust Me)

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Reputation, that’s is bound to be a word that everyone has heard at some point in their lives, you’ve surely had people preaching to you about how it matters. Trust me, it’s true, so so true, and now I’m going to show you why.

I’ve been playing the Piano for 14 years and I’ve had various positions are keys player in various bands. However, my career has only kicked off seriously in the last year or two, this is because I’ve been putting myself out there and building my REPUTATION (there it is again) as a musician/composer/performer and what have you.

My reputation has allowed me to delve into various areas of the music industry throughout my year or two of growth, one of the most recent areas I’ve managed to break in to, is teaching. It is weird, I must admit, to be sitting in “the other chair” so to speak, but it is also very rewarding and fulfilling too!

I got my first student through my reputation as a Pianist and musician. I received a recommendation from one of my college classmates, Ryaan. I got the recommendation due to the fact that a family friend’s son wanted to develop his Piano ability and learn new things about his craft. The reason I was the person Ryaan first thought of to be suited to this job was because he has seen me perform on stage before, and he has also worked with me and also witnessed me work with other people. This meant that he knew for a fact that I was perfect for this job of teaching this young lad.

See? reputation! I go into college or any other musical environment with the mindset of showing the people within that environment what I can do musically and also what I am like as a person. In other words, I am building my reputation among my peers everyday, giving them more and more of a reason to recommend me for work.

This is what YOU need to do also. Okay, it may be near impossible to show someone what you’re capable of, in person, everyday or thereabouts. This is where the internet and social media comes into play! If you shoot videos or your song covers, gigs and whatnot and post them onto Youtube, if you write informative, helpful articles and post them onto a blog, if you engage with your followers on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram etc, then you are also building your reputation. As long as you have a presence somewhere, have a solid body of work for people to research and look at, that is high standard and consistent, you are building your reputation!

No matter what field of work you are in, reputation and building that reputation is ESSENTIAL for you to build a client base and get yourself work! It isn’t all that hard either. I know it sounds super complicated to some, so let me break it down into small steps for you below:

1. Get yourself out there!

Go to gigs, meet-ups, networking events, open mics. SHOW the audience what you can do! Introduce yourself to as many people as possible, give them your card, make sure they remember your name!

2. Build a solid, high standard portfolio!

What good is handing out your business card going to do if you have nowhere for the recipient to view more about you and your work? Building a simple website with everything about you and some samples of your work is so important in todays market! If you’re struggling to find somewhere to start, I suggest Weebly, the service it’s self is free and there are some brilliant templates for you to use to get started. If you’re a musician, would also recommend Soundcloud, it’s a brilliant for storing your songs for people to listen to.

3. Social Media!!

Again, an integral part to building that reputation these days! Having a social media presence on all the major sites like Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, can go a long way towards showing people how talented you are and can lead to exceptional opportunities if viewed and noticed by the right sort of people. One key thing to social media working for your reputation though, is to ENGAGE! Nobody wants to feel like they’re talking to a robot!

And lastly!

4. Follow Up!

So you’ve gone out and made yourself known in both the real and online communities, you’re getting emails and phone calls left, right and centre, well done! Now what? Possibly the most important part to all of your hard work, FOLLOW UP! Reply to everything that comes your way, and grab every opportunity by the short and curly’s! You never know what might come of it!