What do I look for in a press kit?
By: Derrick “Majestic” McKenzie
This question varies because this is my personal preferences and not all press kits are the same. Most of the time press kits are so drastically unique it’s difficult to include everything we look for in a press kit. Considering the number of press kits that have come across my desk over the last seven years I figured that I would give you my top five things to look for in a press kit. Even though some of my examples seem outrageous, believe me, I have experienced each of these scenarios. I hope this information helps in your career.
1. Professionalism. – If your press kits contains vulgar language then you should consider hiring someone to handle all of your business. When your press kit comes across any desk, it should be professional and to the point. Also avoid writing in the first person, using words like I, me, mine and so forth. That gives the impression that you are writing your own press kit and that you have zero support. Put some time and effort into your press kits to make sure that they look like they were made for a celebrity. Having a polished press kit is very important.
Good example: Last year Alisha Lange, a photographer, sent in a press kit in the form of a video interview. She spoke about her work and her passions when it came to photography. Included in the video was a montage of her work along with video testimonial from her clients. She did it without swearing, lying or cutting corners. She kept it professional and put forth effort in her presentation.
Bad examples: Writing free hand on note book paper, sharpie marker or un marked cds
2. Completion – Make sure your press kit displays everything you have to offer. There is nothing worse than getting an epk and seeing an unfinished product. Submitting a link to a song is nothing compared to including that songs visual impact. Did you make a flier design for the release of your single? Have footage of you performing the song with the crowd chanting your lyrics? Has someone wrote an article about your song? Is there radio spins and if there are what stations and how many spins? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then make sure you include them in your release. This shows a lot of effort by an artist to successfully promote a single. Show your proof, stand by your product, and make sure that what you are giving is the picture you want others to see.
Good example: Its been a few years and I cannot remember the name of the company that submitted it but they had a very thorough submission. Everything was in order and all their information was presented. They had articles photo copied, pictures and video of them performing in front of large crowds, and every flier design they did that year.
Bad example: thinking an email with your song and a short bio constitutes a press kit.
3. Consistency/Creativity – There is nothing worse than a press kit that confuses its viewer. Try to make all of your promotional efforts show some sort of organized thought. Everything from color schemes down to the lyrics of your song should mesh together to provide some solidarity in your presentation. Include imagery that correlates with the name of your mixtape or single. Keep it fun and entertaining because when it comes to reviewing press kits nothing is more refreshing after hours of reviewing the same cookie cutter press kits then seeing something that stands out from the crowd.
Good example: Slick Watts presented the Ohio Hip Hop Awards with a press kit reflecting his current release; 25 to Life. The press kit was presented in a case file, with a sticker on the folder that said Confidential, with a mug shot photo paper clipped to a bio that was formatted as an arrest report. This all meshed with his mixtape cover.
Bad example: having a submission with a photo of you in a business suit when your product reflects you as a gunslinger.
4. Honesty – Nearly everyone is guilty of stretching the truth when it comes to their resume or press kit. That’s expected to a certain extent but sometimes people over do it. When someone says they did something there should be some evidence of it. Do not include extravagant claims of success without providing some reassurances. There are instances where someone will say they did something amazing and they actually did, however most will not simply take your word for it. Providing some kind of authenticity will go a long way with people. Even if you did what you claimed don’t assume that others are going to believe it or that they should already know.
Good example: Once received a press kit that said they produced beats of some very reputable songs. Well they included their sources and made it very easy to check their story out. When it turned out to be true it made our day.
Bad example: Someone got mad because they were not nominated and said “I sold 50,000 mixtapes, how am I not nominated.” Well you have no proof and claim like that is hard to believe without some reassurance. Show your work.
5. Updates – When you release a new single, it should have its own press kit, or at least its own press release. A lot of artist do not know how to properly release their music. Putting your song on youtube is a release, but it’s a very basic one. When your first press kit comes across my desk, I review it and then move on. When several months pass and there have been no updates then why would you expect recognition for your current contributions to hip hop? I don’t know about it, and how should I? Do you expect my team to be following the careers of everyone who sends us a song in an email? Also the frequency of your press kits will make your name more memorable. The more times someone reviews your new material the more familiar they are with you in general.
Good example : Big J from Toledo submits an epk every time he releases a single, collaboration, or video. His tenacity and professionalism has made him well known to us and it gives us an understanding of who he is and it also lets us see who he is working with. He doesn’t spam us though, so don’t go getting any bright ideas.
Bad example: Got a submission from a fellow who had a nice press kit and was even nominated for one of his songs. When he found out he contacted us and thanked us but asked “Why did you pick that song, its old, my new song is doing numbers but is no longer eligible for next year due to its release date.” Well he didn’t keep us updated on current events.
These are only 5 things that I look for. There are other things that can be impactful when it comes to your presentation such as including your contact information. Just remember to be as thorough as possible and keep it clean. Good luck with your submissions and please, share your press kits with other organizations as well as with ours.
Derrick “Majestic” McKenzie – Co-founder of the Ohio Hip Hop Awards.