Yesterday, I sat on a panel about press kits with Jared Mees, owner of Portland, Ore., record label Tender Loving Empire, and Erica Sparlin-Dryden, co-owner of Bandwagon PR Photography. It was held at VAC and was part of the Promenade Music Festival. More events like it will go a long way toward turning PMF into a kissing cousin of SXSW. Finn Riggins' Eric Gilbert served as the moderator and added some great questions of his own to the audience's.
While I think we all could have talked for much longer than the 50 or so minutes it lasted, each of us on the panel offered at least one tool bands can use to help get their music in front of people and do it in a way that separates them from the bazillion other bands out there trying to do the same.
Sparlin-Dryden recommended spending a little extra dough to get high-resolution, high-quality press kit photos and having a well-done website with a music player on it.
Mees—who is also the frontman for indie rock band Jared Mees and the Grown Children and is one of the nicest, most positive people I've ever met—suggested that one way to get some attention is to have people talking about you; get people who know your music to call or e-mail the venue, PR firm, label or media outlet whose attention you're trying to get. Mees also said that, however hokey it may sound, he truly believes synergy is the key. One way to guarantee a band's success is for them to guarantee the success of their fellow bands.
"If you support other bands, go to their shows and tell people about them, all of that will come back to you," Mees told the crowd of 20 or so people. "Synergy."
I agreed wholeheartedly with both Sparlin-Dryden and Mees and added that press kits need to be as professional as possible and constantly updated. But just sending one out isn't enough. Following up is vital. Yes, there is a fine line between being persistent and being a pest, but you can't cross that line if you don't even walk up to it. I try to be approachable and if a musician takes the time to come down to BWHQ with a copy of his/her band's CD, I will take the time to crawl out of my cave in the newsroom and meet him or her.
And we all emphasized the importance of Facebook and YouTube as tools of the trade, both for bands and for those who represent or write about them.
P.S. I met Emma Hill of Portland's Emma Hill and Her Gentlemen Callers and a member of local Celtic band Guess When—both gave me copies of their CDs. I also met most of local band A Seasonal Disguise and now have a copy of their new EP, Tickle Arms. These guys get extra points for packaging: the paper CD cover has a beautiful block print designed by band member Julia Green, it was sealed with wax and included a tracklist insert, contact info and a ticket to a Friday, Oct. 22, show at Knitting Factory in which they are opening for Low-fi.