Historically, artists have been encouraged to cheapen the way they present themselves in order to be more digestible in the industry. Sometimes this is just slick marketing, other times it means compromising the art itself. Though it’s true that your career will never move forward without other people, giving those people what they need to help you doesn’t require anything but a little humility.
I’ve seen more than one band put together a press kit with three page bios. One band I remember had a two inch thick press kit they assembled in a binder. I’m going to say this as nicely as possible: you’re not that special. I’m not saying your art isn’t amazing, or that you’re not the next big thing. It’s just that no one will ever be as enthralled with your music as you are. If you embrace this reality, you can actually leverage relationships in your favor by asking one simple question: what does this person want? And ‘this person’ could be anyone who you want to win to your side: a talent buyer, a publisher, a label rep . . . they all have something they want from bands, and I’d wager Ike Turner’s legal retainer that it’s not a three page bio.
I once booked a show at a swanky coffeehouse in Cleveland. The talent buyer demanded a press kit from anyone who wanted to play. I sent him what I had and followed up with a phone call a couple weeks later. Turned out he rarely looked at the press kits, he just wanted them there ‘in case’ he needed information to promote the show. It was largely a formality and what he really wanted was that phone conversation. I ended up talking to him for two hours, mostly listening to him regale me with stories about how Paula Cole had played his venue right before she toured with Peter Gabriel. I got the gig without him ever looking at my press kit or listening to my demo, simply because I made a good impression on him and gave him what he wanted: someone to talk to.
Other times were much different. I was booking a date at CBGB, and the buyer only accepted calls one day a week between 2 and 4pm. Press kits were a joke to her. When I called and asked for a date, she said, “So why should I book you? I don’t know you.” I said, “I know Binky. He said you’d be open to the idea." “You know Binky? Binky’s great. When do you want to play?” The conversation lasted just a few minutes, but she got what she wanted: someone she trusted.
Here’s the rub, if you’re in the music business, you’re in sales. The fun part is that the product is your art, and no one should be able to sell that better than you. By taking a second to put yourself in the shoes of people you’re trying to sell to, you both get what you want.
Ashley Peacock is a singer / songwriter living in Northern Kentucky, one half of alt-country duo The Chance Brothers, and former frontman of The Times. His songs have been featured in various compilations and on television, including The CW's One Tree Hill. He owns and operates a recording space, Cathedral Studios, in Norwood, Ohio. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.