Promotional Materials

The picture is the heart of any act's promotional arena. It doesn't matter if you do pop, punk, rap or metal you need a picture and that picture needs to be somewhat traditional. This picture will be used by booking agents who will judge a book by its cover, they will pick you based on what they see, plain and simple! Newspapers will determine whether to include that picture based on what they see.

Above L-R: Ramon Ayala, Patty Loveless, Sinbad, Vitamin C

The act should be costumed. The primary picture can be shot in color, but ultimately it will be converted to black and white. It will be 8 x 10 in size. It will have the name of act on one of borders along with contact information -- a telephone number and e-mail address for contact. Depending on what deals you negotiate or what information you feel should be included on the photo the additional of your Management contact, the photographer’s name and maybe the booking agent if they are exclusive with the act.

Above (left) Con Funk Shun, (right) Tower Of Power

For best results you should, when practical, go to a photographer who specializes in promotional or publicity shots for actors and musicians. These are found in the Broadway district of New York City or throughout Los Angeles. You can probably find reputable photographers by calling up any talent and booking agent and asking if they know of a photographer who consistently produces photos that work for the agent.

Photo sessions run between $100 and $1,000 depending on the reputation of the photographer, plus prints. An 8 x 10 print selected from their proof sheet may be included in the price or cost an additional $25 to $50.

Most photographers retain copyrights and negatives, however this is open to negotiation. The photographer must know up front that the picture will be used for promotional purposes and will be printed in newspapers and magazines. There should be no restriction on this, including warranted photo credit as not all newspapers will honor that option. It should be understood photo credit would only be given when and where appropriate. The photographer should also know you intened to mass produce a copy of the picture. If this is not acceptable to them, then you need to find a different photographer as you are going to need thousands of paper prints and will not want to pay $25 each for a copy!

If the photographer retains copyrights then you can't market posters or T-shirts using the photo without striking a licensing deal. These are commercial uses and different from promotional use by virtue of commerce. In the commercial use you are making money, while in the promotional use you are spending money in the form of printed pictures you pass out, postage and other considerations which don't always generate a return on the investment.

Some booking agents and managers will mass reproduce the pictures for you as part of their job as your exclusive representative. Many, however, expect you to supply them with quantities of photos which you can readily get through a company like Duplicate Photo in Los Angeles. You simply send this company one 8 x 10 and a mock-up of the information you want (artist name, management company, logo, phone number) showing the relative size of the text and placement, they will then typeset this and splice it into an 8 x 10 copy negative. Prints in small runs will cost you about $2 if you get thousands done the cost will drop for each picture. Most people start with 50 or 100 pictures.

Offset reproduction can be cheaper and today you can even do small runs on the computer at a low cost, especially if you have a laser printer (ink printers are very expensive to run and the image sometimes smears when wet).

To do this yourself, simply scan the picture into the computer and then import it into a program like Word for Windows, Ami Pro, Word Perfect, Aldus PageMaker, Serif Publisher or a similar desk top publishing package. You can then typeset in your own text and print this out page by page.

For offset work you take in the original 8 x 10 and they will make a half-tone negative by putting a clear screen over the picture and taking a new negative of this with a cross-hair pattern that creates gaps (or dots) in the image for printing reproduction. Screen resolutions of 133 usually work well for both flyers and post cards.

Some agents like 3 x 5 or 5 x 7 printed post cards with the picture on one side. It allows them to send out your promotion in the mails for 10 cents less in postage, no protective envelope and no separate sheet of information. One card does it all, then your 8 x 10s are used as a follow up if you are booked so the venue (or "room" as the place you play is often called) can supply this to newspapers using it for their own promotional purposes.

After the initial cost for making and stripping the half-tone negative flyers ($50 to $100) it can be printed for about $30 per thousand on regular 24 pound paper while several small cards can be printed on 60 pound glossy card stock having text on one side and picture on the other. These cards are then cut (another $15), so you get 2,000 or 4,000 for the same printing order fee (about $125 on card stock with both side printed and two cuts made).

Ad slicks can be another nice idea. This is where your photos are screened in several sizes at a courser resolution (at a cost of $15 to $35 each new type), often 75 or 95 lines for newspapers. You take your photo and have it reduced to the average column with of a newspaper (call up a few and ask what their "mechanical" requirements are for a column). You can get thse done in one column, two and maybe three columns widths from one to three inches tall. You paste up prints or "stats" of these different sizes on one page of paper and give it to the printer to be done on 30 pound glossy or 24 pound flat paper stock at cost of about $75 for 500. These get included with press releases. The idea here is that all the newspaper or magazine needs do is cut one of these stats off and paste it on to their hard copy. It saves them having to screen a picture. By lowering their costs and making it convenient you might actually get more pictures placed in smaller papers as it will cost them $4 raw costs and up to $20 to use an outside service just to screen your 8 x 10 pictures for use in their paper. You can also use these for ads you buy in newspapers to promote your club dates.

This is essentially making "clip art" for your act and major manufacturers do this for products like cameras, record albums, computers or home stereos. They supply a ream of these ad slicks to all the newspapers so they can use them in reviews or for advertising as major companies generally contract for a year of ad placement at a time in newspapers or magazines. So, you are essentially doing the same thing as RCA or Panasonic -- proving a promotion tool that is easy to use as an inducement for the magazine or newspaper to pick your act in a pinch when they need to show an example or promote something!

The press release is another good promotional tool and whenever your act is doing something interesting, like recording a new album, going on tour, doing a charity benefit, etc., you write up a short, quick, interesting story on this (try and keep it under 100 words).

Who, What, Where, When and Why. That should be covered in your first two sentences and that may be all a newspaper will pick up. You can add extra paragraphs, but don't count on them going past the top of press release.

Bios for the act and each member should also be included. This can be more detailed, but again pack all the information stuff into the top of each bio!

All printed matter like that is for publication should be doubled spaced, proof read, spell checked, one in margins, printed on one side of the paper, dated and marked FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE or if it is dated FOR RELEASE ON (put a date here). There should also be contact information for the newspaper in case they want more information.

Along with your cassette tape or CD, these elements become part of your "promo pack" that is handed out to prospective financiers, agents, managers, A & R people and venues that might book your act.

A video tape or DVD can also be quite nice, provided its real good! If you did a really professional looking video, that can be a wonderful tool for the booking agent, plus you can sell it at venues. When I first got into the business video editing was $30 an hour minimum. Today for as little as $200 you can get a video capture card with some entry level editing software and spends weeks working up a good product. For an investment of about $1500 or less you can create a broadcast quality product with all the effects used by the major acts -- this is DVmini camera, capture card and good editing software.

T-shirts are another good promotional tool. Again, with today's computer you can produce iron on, full color T-shirts, although getting them silk screened professional is still the lowest cost method. You can take your 8 x 10 promotional picture into a graphics house and have a 95 line half tone screen negative made. Then have a positive on film made from this. The silk screen company can usually work off these materials or you can even try making them yourself! Art supply houses carry blank screen materials in stock. You simply coat the screen with a photo sensitive material, let it dry, put your 95 line screened positive film over this, expose it to light, then put some chemical solution over it. After it develops you wash out the unused material. All you need do is add some black ink, wipe this over with a special squeege on top of a heavy, white cotton shirt.

Today, promotional materials are easier and cheaper to make than they have ever been! I used to make flyers with Letraset rub on letters ($10 a sheet), get a photographic stat made of these letters ($5). Get a half tone made from photos (another $20). Then I drew blue lines on paper to mark the places where all the materials were to be pasted. Finally I'd take this to a printer for flyers or tickets ($40 per 1,000). Everything today can be done on a computer with a digital camera, scanner and simple software like Word XP. A laser printer will render high quality flyers at a cost of about 2 cents each!

Our Music Special continues with these other articles:
Learning Music | Promo Pictures | Booking Agents| Managers | Producers | Pressing CDs
Record Companies | Copyrights | Recording Software | Sound Cards | Guitar and Bass
Multi-Track Recorders | Live Sound Gear | Microphones | Recording Engineer | Bands in Texas
Teen Band: Y@nK | Gigs and Clubs | Music Theory | Radio Airplay

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