Advice for Musicians during the Pandemic : Part 3, Marketing and Promotional Material
Updated: Jun 3, 2021
Once you have done all you can to stabilize your finances (see first article) and reached a state of relative mental and emotional balance in this new situation (see second article), many of you might notice that you have a lot of extra time on your hands. Practicing is a good outlet, but outside of the practice room, there is also a lot of work that you can do to prepare for the future in terms of your print materials. During the concert season, artists often don’t have time to dedicate the time these important materials really deserve. It could be a good opportunity to do a deep-dive on your marketing materials to be ready to go when the concert season starts up again.
As agents, we see, read, and edit a lot of marketing materials such as biographies, programme descriptions, EPK, and educational materials. It can feel like these materials aren’t that important in comparison with audio and video materials, but the truth is that they matter, a lot. Concert presenters communicate with their potential audiences primarily through words - advertisements, emails, and posters - and they need to have the raw materials to do so. If you are prepared with a snappy, compelling biography, eloquent programme descriptions, and a comprehensive educational package, that goes very far toward convincing a presenter that you are not only a great artist, but a marketable one as well.
Biographies are often disregarded as marketing tools, but they are often among the first introductions a potential presenter has to you and your art. Your biography should be concise but captivating, and not a detailed timeline of your career. A biography is not a resume or a CV, but a description of your personality, artistry, and career highlights. You can think of it as a blend of mission statement, storytelling, and copywriting.
The first sentence is the most crucial - you want to quickly catch the reader's interest and show who you are as an artist.
Take your time in writing your bio - brainstorm in list format, and let it sit for a few days before coming back to it. Rinse and repeat. Notice where your imagination goes in performance and practice, and what that tells you about your artistic values. How can that come through in your biography?
It’s essential to have multiple lengths of your biography so you can quickly meet the needs of programme editors : a 1-2 sentence pitch description, a short version (100-200 words), and a long version (max 600 words). Most people will only ever read the short version, but it’s important to have the long version on hand as well.
Keep in mind that your biography will be used in concert programmes and websites, but also in marketing communications with presenters and in grant and showcase applications.
For more details on how to structure each paragraph of your biography as well as additional resources, click here.
Programmes and programme descriptions
There are two parts to designing a programme:
Deciding on what pieces you will play,
Creating the printed material to describe and promote your programme.
In this article we will focus more on the second part, but it’s important to spend ample time on the first as well. In music school, students learn an unusual formula for putting together recital programmes that works well for a jury to adjudicate, but doesn’t generally transition well to the concert stage. Keep in mind that the audience wants to be moved by your performance; they are not paying tickets to judge your technical abilities. Avoid creating an academic recital and try to create a programme that has an interesting thematic continuity or creatively conceived contrasts.
You can have the most interesting, compelling programme in the world, but if you can’t convey some of that in your written materials, you may never get the chance to bring that concert to the stage. For prospective presenters, you should have on hand the following elements:
An engaging title: You don’t have to get too clever with this, but do find a title that captures the spirit of your musical offering. Usually a shorter, 1-3 word title will work best, but there are certainly exceptions to that.
A short description: This should be a very short text of 30-50 words which is appropriate for promo text on a website or brochure.
The pieces: Format this as you would a concert programme, with the works you will play, in order, with the composers’ names and dates, and the intermission indicated if applicable.
Durations: For each piece, the intermission, and any spoken introduction or interludes, include the approximate timing in minutes in your written programme. Also include the duration of the whole programme and the duration of each half (in programmes with intermission)
Formatting: Having well-formatted materials goes a long way towards giving a professional impression. This doesn’t mean fancy; it just means free of typos, with regular typeface, and easily readable. Have your materials on hand in both Word and PDF forms - PDF can be nice for presentation, but Word documents are easier for presenters to copy/paste and edit.
An EPK (or electronic press kit) is one of the best multi-purpose tools you can have on hand to pitch your artistic abilities as a musician. The EPK should reflect the overall aesthetic of the artist. Simplicity is preferred; long texts are to be avoided.
An EPK should include:
Biography (short or medium version)
Recent press with important quotes highlighted
Tech rider (abbreviated version if long)
Sample programmes, selection of available programmes, and/or programme descriptions
Links to your website, audio/video samples, and social media accounts
Contact info (include your agent’s contact info if you have one)
Educational and outreach programme descriptions, including programming, target audiences, and testimonials if available (stay tuned for a future blog post exploring this important element in more depth)
We highly recommend engaging a graphic designer to build a professional looking EPK, however free design platforms like canva can be useful for design savvy musicians. The order of the elements is up to you; but think about putting the elements that will be of interest to the widest audience first (bio, photos, press, etc.) and the more targeted materials later (outreach programmes, tech rider). A vertically oriented EPK is fine, but also consider orienting your EPK horizontally, as that’s the orientation of computer screens and an EPK is generally not intended to be a printed material.
Repertoire list (for soloists and conductors)
The most practical reason to have an up to date repertoire list is for when a presenter needs to quickly replace a soloist or a conductor to play or conduct the same work. It should include one picture, a very short biography, and a list of all works with orchestra that you either know extremely well or that you have already played and can quickly jump into it.
It is not necessary to include instrumentation on this document, but we recommend that you keep this information on a more lengthy list on a separate document for you and your agent’s information.
The more you see these documents as marketing tools that show your artistry and personality, the more you will stand out as an artist and be attractive to potential presenters. If you need help with your marketing and promotional material, please fill the form here to inquire about consultations.
Sources and additional information
Crafting Your Artist Bio by Elizabeth Hinckley
How to Write a Killer Artist Bio by Dave Ruch