With all this technology at our fingertips, why does it always seem like nothing is where we want it when we need it? For musicians, and all entertainers for that matter, keeping track of your promotional materials is of the utmost importance. Yet, so many of us (myself included) struggle with keeping track of and organizing all of our accomplishments and appearances!
When I was a kid, my Mom always had a special place for my sports trophies, medals, awards, and certificates. They were all on display. Never necessary, but always easy to find. For music students, specifically SoundLife students, there are no trophies or certificates. Instead, there are awesome photos, videos, recordings, posts, articles, etc. These are more than symbolic signs of effort or progress! These are promotional materials. Our students are artists, they are writers, they're in bands...they're rock stars. Their promotional materials are valuable assets to have just a click or two away, for when an opportunity comes their way and they need them most.
Why? Well...let me share a quick, and 100% true, story. When I was 18 years old, I entered Berklee College of Music as a freshman. I had a nominal, hard-fought scholarship from the school. Along with a few smaller scholarships from various sources for my first year, I was able to get in the door, but I had to take out the rest of the money needed for that first year in personal loans. I knew going into my first year that if I did not increase my scholarship, I was not going to be able to afford to continue. So from day one, I started building a “scholarship portfolio” to submit to the Scholarship Office at Berklee. Every semester, they would review these portfolios and decide whether a student should continue to receive their current scholarship or should be awarded more. These portfolio’s included report cards, performance photos, gig flyers, recommendation letters, news clippings, audition materials, current projects, and recordings. With each review, I grew my portfolio until, in my senior year, I reached full scholarship status. This process led to wonderful relationships with my teachers, the department heads, and everyone in the scholarship office—which, in turn, led to my first job. In the last two weeks of school, two entertainment companies came to Berklee immediately in need of a guitar player. In both cases, I was recommended. I took one of these jobs and never looked back. To this day I keep that scholarship portfolio close by as a reminder of what is possible when I have a goal, and I diligently chip away at it little by little, day by day.
Once I moved to Los Angeles and started trying to work as a professional musician, I quickly realized how important “promo materials” were. Every gig asked for a resume, performance videos, head shots, etc. For me, putting all of this together was easy because of my experience building that scholarship portfolio. Every gig, every photo, and every tour went into a folder on my computer and backed up on an external hard drive. This made submitting for auditions or responding to referrals almost effortless. Eventually all of this information was moved onto a cloud drive, and now, when a request comes in, I just send a quick link.
Here are some tips to find, store, organize, and share your own promotional materials...
All SoundLife Students who participate in our concerts get professional live photographs and an edited video from each performance. Keep these! When the email goes out with download links to all of the photos and videos, it’s best to find yours and immediately throw them into the place where you store all of your materials. While I completely understand that not all of the photos or performances are perfect, or something that you would want to share, some will be keepers for life! It is best practice to keep everything and have a separate folder for the cream of the crop.
For those who are performing outside of SoundLife, always talk with anyone you see taking pictures or recording video. Kindly ask if they would send anything they have to you. If they're a professional photographer, make sure to offer to give photo credit on anything you share, and ask for their website/Instagram handle. These types of gestures go a long way! If friends or family are attending your performance, make sure someone is recording and taking photos. Once you receive the files, immediately put them where they belong.
Search for yourself online. Search on Google, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. If you come across something that you don’t have in your folder, make sure to get it. You can download YouTube videos using a tool. You can screenshot posts or photos. You can also download any Facebook photos.
If you write, record, and release your own music, make sure you put a copy of any demos or final recordings with your promotional materials.
Decide where and how you are going to store your promotional materials. So many options are either free or inexpensive. Storing your materials across your desktop is a terrible idea, as is storing them only on your phone. A multi-location approach is the safest bet to making sure you don't lose anything if one storage location crashes. When deciding how you are going to store your materials, it's important to answer the question: “If someone wanted to understand who I am and what I’ve done, what is the quickest way I can show them?” I’ll let you ponder that for a moment... The answer is with a link. With one link you can send everything you need, so storing your materials in a cloud is the best option. (Yes, you should also have them backed up on a hard drive.)
Google Drive and Dropbox are the most widely used services. In my work as a musician, both are used, but Dropbox is used more often. Both are free to start with, offering a limited, but suitable amount of storage when you're just getting started. I urge all of our students to open up an account and start creating folders. If you have a Gmail email address, then you have a Google Drive account associated with that email address.
Once you've decided where you're going to store your materials, it’s important to organize them for use. This isn’t like a garage full of things you will never need or use—this is where you'll go to retrieve promotional items requested of you, so it’s important that you know where everything is and how to access it efficiently.
I suggest creating one folder labeled “Promo Materials.” Then, inside of that, create a subfolder for each category. Example: Resume, Recommendation Letters, Videos, Photos, Press, Recording. Then, inside of those, create more subfolders. Example: Live Videos & Music Videos, or Headshot & Concert Photos, or Demos & Masters.
Inside of the main folder, create one subfolder labelled EPK. This will be your electronic press kit, and it's where the cream of the crop goes. Ideally your best 1–2 live photos, your best head shots, and your best recordings all go in here.
How you share these materials will depend on the situation. Sometimes you'll be able to just fire off a link. Sometimes you'll have to download and then upload individual files. In either case, knowing where everything is makes your life easier. One of the biggest benefits is being able to easily share links with friends, family, and mentors! If you’re looking for feedback, or you just want to share something you are proud of, sending a link in an email or text beats waiting for a whole file to upload into a text/email only to realize it’s too big to send.
The reason so many people just don't collect and organize material like this is because they don’t think like they need to. I understand that not every music student is on a mission to be a musician...just like not every person going to the occasional acting audition is planning to be an actor. But practicing this skillset goes beyond any of that. Mastering this will lead to success with less stress in any field you may be in.
For students planning to attend college, especially those hoping to get a scholarship, starting a process like this early will make life much easier when the time comes. And for those who are already artists, actors, entertainers, or plan to follow that path, this is all of the content that will go on your website!
When someone calls with a gig, often it’s the first person to respond with the best materials who gets the job. For me, responding to an inquiry takes about 10 minutes. I generate a link, copy/paste my template email, adjust it to the situation, and press send. That’s it. More often than not, I hear back within minutes that I got the gig.
I hope this helps you in your own musical/artistic journey, wherever you currently are along the way and wherever you plan to go with it.