I’ve been getting a lot of questions about EPKs lately. What are they? Is an EPK online like a website, or offline like a collection of files? What’s the difference between an EPK and a website? Do I need one? What should I include in it? This blog post will attempt to answer all of these questions as well as address how you can begin assembling one for yourself.
So what is it?
EPK stands for Electronic Press Kit, and it is just that – a press kit in electronic form. The days when you would send a physical press kit with physical sheets of paper and a physical CD are for the most part long past. The exception to this may be if you are seeking out a deal with a record label. Some record labels may appreciate receiving a polished physical collection of work in the mail.
Online and Offline
Before we go any further, I’d like to differentiate between online EPKs and offline EPKs. An online EPK functions much like a website does – it has a public URL address and contains a navigational bar with links to different sections for music, gigs, info, press, etc. An offline EPK is a bundle of individual files (PDF, MP3, etc.) – usually compressed into a ZIP file – which you can easily send to someone via an email attachment. I will discuss both versions of the EPK in this post. Let’s start with the online EPK.
History of the EPK
According to Wikipedia, the first online EPK appeared on the Internet in 1995 (January 8th to be exact – leave it to Wikipedia to know the exact date!) for an R&B artist named Aaron Hall. Since then EPKs have increased in popularity each year. Today, although the term EPK is commonplace amongst musicians, in my experience the majority of people, instead of having a fully functioning EPK at their disposal as you might expect – actually don’t have one (and wonder if they should).
EPKs versus Websites
A lot of people ask what the difference is between a website and an online EPK. After all, they both contain photos, upcoming shows, bios, music, videos, press reviews, and contact info. So what’s the point of having both? It all has to do with your audience. Depending on the nature of your band, the needs of fans could vary greatly from the needs of media outlets and bookers. The online EPK originally came into existence because it was thought to be a good idea to have a “website” of sorts that was geared specifically to the people who might be booking you at a venue. To give these people everything they need in one place, in a straightforward manner, without all the “fan-centered fluff” in between. To decide whether or not you need an online EPK in addition to your website, take a look at the types of people you would be sending it to. If you’re dealing with smaller venues and you think that for your booking audience, your website will suffice – then perhaps stick with that. But if you’re dealing with larger agencies/venues, it may be worth the trouble to build an EPK so that it’s catered to their needs.
So where can I get one?
There are a variety of companies online through which you can create an online EPK for yourself, some of which are paid services and some of which are free. Probably the most popular paid service for EPKs is Sonicbids. Sonicbids offers two plans for EPKs – the basic EPK for $5/month and the premium EPK for $10/month (the premium plan buys you additional space, so you’ll be able to include more files such as music tracks and videos). I would suggest only paying for a Sonicbids EPK if you plan on taking full advantage of their collection of performance, licensing and broadcast opportunities. As a paying member of Sonicbids, you will have access to a database of opportunities split into three categories: live performances, contests/competitions, and A&R/licensing. However, your EPK will not submit itself. Unless you’re willing to put the time in to submit your EPK to various people and more importantly, to continually follow up – I would suggest saving yourself the money and opting for a free EPK instead (learn more about Sonicbids).
The two most popular websites that offer free EPKs are ePressKitz.com and ArtistEcard.com, and I have heard good things about both. So how is it that these websites offer free EPKs you might ask? Websites like this offer multiple plans, one of which is free. If you go with the free plan, you’ll most likely have their logo on your EPK, limited storage for your online files, not be able to use a customized URL – suffice to say, your EPK won’t have many frills. However, many people find that the free options more than suffice for their needs, so the same may be true for you.
The offline EPK
As I mentioned before, an offline EPK is simply a collection of files on your computer compiled into a ZIP file that you can easily send to someone via an email attachment. I would recommend all musicians to have a bundle such as this ready to send at any moment. This way, if someone ever asks for your press materials via email, you’ll be able to send it right on over without a minute’s delay. Just make sure you keep this bundle updated and revised on a regular basis so that you don’t end up sending anyone information or a list of performances that is out-of-date.
But what’s IN it?
Whether you’re building an online EPK or an offline EPK, the contents are pretty much the same. Below is a list of things you’ll definitely want to include in your EPK.
Music Clips – Obviously people need to first and foremost hear your music. Don’t overwhelm people with too many tracks. Try to keep it to three or four tracks if you can. And make sure you put real thought into what track you put first and second, just in case they only listen to the one or two at the top. Another idea is to create a longer music file that will include fade-in and fade-out of several of your songs. The benefit of this is that the listener will get a sense of the variety of things that you do in the span of a few minutes and without having to click on multiple tracks. This can easily be accomplished in Garageband or any audio editing application.
Biography – This might be an artist bio or a band bio depending on whether you’re an individual or a group. Make sure if you’re writing a band bio that you don’t wander too much into the individual lives of the band members – people will be more interested in your history as a unit. And as is true with all of these EPK components, always put yourself in the shoes of the person who will be receiving this and ask yourself “would they care about this?” This will help dictate what information should go in your bio and what can be left unsaid. For more help with writing your bio, see my blog post, The Perfect Bio (ten tips).
Hi-Res Photos – The photos in your press kit must be hi-res (High Resolution). Do not, whatever you do, include photos in your EPK that are either too small (less than say 600px wide for vertical photos or 900px wide for horizontal photos) or out of focus/pixelated. Including up to five photos is not atypical – and it can be a good idea to have one or two in black and white and the rest in color. Just make sure that your photos look totally professional. If you haven’t hired a professional photography to take photos of you or your band, do so immediately. It is a worthwhile investment.
Performances/Tour Dates – If you have upcoming shows, make sure and include them in your press kit. This is helpful not only because people might want to come hear you live to witness your talents in person – but also because it shows them that you are out there, gaining a draw, and have a certain amount of visibility. And as mentioned before, just make sure this list is maintained and stays current.
Videos – You simply can’t get away with having an EPK without videos anymore. This is very often the first thing people request when they want to learn more about you, and understandably so. While photos and audio tracks do give people a glimpse into what you are and what you do, it’s a video that will really show them the whole package. It will most likely be beneficial to at some point hire a two-person video crew to record you performing a few songs, and this could happen at a live show or in the studio.
Other URL Addresses – Make sure and include your main website URL, as well as the addresses of all your social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation, etc. People may be satisfied with the contents of your EPK and not go looking elsewhere, but it’s worth including all of these various homes on the web just in case.
Press – That’s right, after all it’s not called an Electronic PRESS Kit for nothing. Compile your best write-ups and reviews and include them in your EPK. Your press can be in text format with photos if it’s from an online source, or as a PDF if you’ve scanned it in from a physical newspaper or magazine. This is perhaps the one category where I wouldn’t worry about listing too many things. If you have a lot of press, include it! You want to show people that you are talked about. Again, just make sure you give some thought to what goes at the top of the list in case people don’t make it past the first or second article.
Contact Information – Obviously people will need a way to get in touch with you, and 99% of the time a simple email address will suffice. A quick note about this: avoid using Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo addresses if you can. The truth is, they just don’t look very professional. If you don’t already own a working email address @yourdomain (for example firstname.lastname@example.org) do so now. It looks much more professional than having a Hotmail address listed.
So there you have it. Hopefully by now you feel you have the tools and the means to get your EPK press kit assembled and ready to go, whether you decide to go with an online or offline EPK (or both). Just remember, whether or not you’re a person who really needs an EPK in your line of work in the music business, one thing is for sure. Having one never hurt anybody.