I suppose that if you’re not involved in a particular thing on a continuous basis, it’s easy to overlook vital details of it. Such is the case with professional record promotion, and why I am such a stickler for Indie artists actually turning these particular reins of their music horses over to riders who consistently ride them on the promotion track daily.
As such, with independent artists only self-releasing recordings sporadically and by default, they tend to assume that after doing so, all one needs to do is get it out to as many stations as affordable, and then a natural course will be taken. In a perfect world, this would be true.
But, it isn’t a perfect world. And, speaking of truth, there are days when I wish I had remained equally as naive, in respect to just how responsible an artist becomes once he or she decides to self-release.
Not only responsible to himself, or people that work with or for him but, most importantly, to fans who happen to be innocent unsuspecting bystanders that fall in love with him and his music.
But, being that this is how, in part, I earn my living, and more importantly, out of respect for my clients and their hard-earned dollars, I can’t afford to feign naivete, turn a blind eye, or deaf ear to what I have either learned by firsthand experience, or via intellectual or business fortune bestowed upon me from other sources or resources.
So, just what the hell am I speaking of through all of this rhetorical ranting? I’m speaking of one of the key ingredients I continue to find missing in artists’ media kits (“press” kits if you’re from the Gulf South region of the U. S.)…the “response” card,” often referred to in the Music industry as the “bounce-back” card. And, the few response cards that I do see, don’t nearly request enough information from their prospective respondents.
So, let’s address what is, possibly, the most important item in any media packet that is sent out with the intention of spearheading a lengthy ongoing promotional process, thus, setting the stage for either success or failure, even though most artists seem to place very little importance on it…which is, most likely, attributed to their unawareness of its significance.
As an independent musician working your own recording and label, if you are not including the most powerful response card possible within each of your outgoing radio media kits, not only are you doing yourself a grave injustice, but you are already losing the proverbial war before the first shot has even been fired. Why?
I’m glad you asked, for this now affords and presents me with the perfect opportunity to break down each element of the response card in order to show you, not only how important each is, but also how extremely powerful it is as well.
A radio response card is similar to a postcard. In fact, it is a postcard that is enhanced and customized with information reflecting your particular goal. It is, generally, in the dimensions of 4″X5,” with the paper quality being that of what is referred to as “card stock.”
A great way to create the response card quickly and easily, while also having it appear professional, is to design it in the Microsoft Word word processing software. I am certain that other programs lend themselves to its customization and design much better, however, this is my personal choice. If you, alternatively, have Microsoft Works, you may be able to follow this process as well.
1. Open Microsoft Word to a new or blank document.
2. Insert several “returns” within the page. If you do not insert them now, it will be more difficult later to move outside of the following border I am about to address. Also, make sure the border is inserted, at least, BELOW the *FIRST* “return,” preferably, below several “returns.”
3. From your menu, select “Format,” then “Borders and Shading.”
4. To your immediate left, there should be several icons that are labeled, “None,” “Box,” “3-D,” “Shadow,” and “Custom.”
5. Select “Box.”
6. Next, go to your “Style” area in the middle of the screen. Click on either of the line styles, however, my personal favorites are the last 2 in the list, due to their textured appearances.
7. You should now see your selection as a complete border to your far right of the screen under the “Preview” label. Click “OK,” which should now reveal a slender rectangle that stretches from page-end to page-end.
8. Now, take your “Right Margin” tab and drag it over to # “5” on your ruler. After doing so, the rectangle border should automatically adjust accordingly.
9. To get your 4″ height will be a little tricky at the present time, since it will be determined by the amount of text you place inside the border. In fact, don’t even worry about it right now, as you will be able to easily adjust it after inserting the text, and it does not require a Rocket Science degree in order to get it just right.[By the way, if you do not wish to have this border on
your response card, simply skip all steps up to the
10. Now, let’s assume you are preparing a response card for radio station KLOV-FM. In the upper left-hand corner of the border, beginning with the “call” letters, type the complete address of the station, just as you would in addressing the upper left-hand area of an envelope (your font size should be set on approximately “10,” or any small but still readable size, depending on your font type in order to insure all information can be adequately placed on the card).
11. Next, use your “Return” and “Tab” keys to get to the center of the border. Then, type your complete record label address, just as you would address a letter to be returned to you. For instance, our own label, “1st Light Records,” is self-addressed as follows:
1st Light Records
Attn: Radio Tracking
11927 Pinyon Creek Blvd.
Houston, Texas 77095
Presto! You have just created the “front” side of your response card. Now, for the “back” side…
12. Create a second border, just as you did for the “front” side, either below the front side of the card, or on a separate page. The easiest and fastest way is to simply copy the “front” side of the card, then overtype the information within it.
13. Starting in the upper left-hand corner of the “back” side of the response card, type the following information, replacing the song title example with that of your own. This is the “single” you are desiring for the station to play. Also, remember to *NOT* include the quotation marks…they are only below for effect.
“Will you give the single, “Tough Break,” any air time on your station? Please circle Y or N.”
“If so, will it be added to your Regular Rotation, or on a Specialty Program?_________________”
“If added to a Specialty Program, what is the name of the program?___________________”
“If added to your Regular Rotation, will it receive Light, Medium, or Heavy rotation? Please circle L, M, or H.”
“On what date do you expect to begin airplay?_______”
“Would you be interested in receiving future releases from our label? Please circle Y or N.”
“For your convenience, please feel free to FAX this card to us at (713)555-1234.”
“We sincerely appreciate your response, assistance, and support.”
You have now completed the “back” portion of your response card. Also, if deciding to utilize the border,remember to adjust and balance the “front” border in a comparable size by placing added spacing within it in order to insure it matches and appears evenly with the “back” side.
But, why go to all this trouble? Well, with competition being what it is, and the fact that, again, musicians often omit vital information radio personnel require, while also not having enough proactive information about their own recordings, it is far too easy for station people to simply drop one CD and choose another.
We are doing all of this to, not only insure that we don’t become a victim of the “drop zone,” but also so that we can have all of this information at our immediate disposal for future use.
Note: *ALWAYS* place a stamp on each outgoing postcard, even though you have requested that the station FAX the completed “back” side to you. Why?
Well, some stations either won’t have a FAX machine, believe it or not (mostly smaller stations), OR they will choose to simply place the response card in their daily outgoing mail. If you don’t already have a stamp on it, do you believe they will pick up the tab for your postage?
Nope, they won’t. Besides, it’s a small price to pay (currently, still only 22 cents for a postcard stamp) for the return of this vital information.
HOWEVER: The reason we have requested that the station FAX the completed side to us, is in order to save on slow mail time. If you receive the card by FAX, you can immediately follow-up with sending out press kits to the print media the very same day,
to the areas where stations have just confirmed having begun your airplay.
Already having the airplay prior to approaching the print media, will dramatically increase your chances for fast interviews and reviews since you are already getting airplay in the print publication’s own local area.
And, on the other hand, the relatively fast interviews and reviews will prolong and extend the radio airplay, not to mention that you will also be able to instantly use the comments from the music directors within your print media kits prior to mail-out, of which they are also likely to reprint in interviews and reviews.
On the flip side, radio personnel will see support for your recording in their own area print media, and realize that they aren’t the only ones interested in and supporting your recording.
Next, from both of these lines of defenses, you will start to realize sales. Naturally, if listeners and readers hear of, and read about you, at least some, are going to attempt to get your recording from their area music stores.
Therefore, it would also be wise to choose a few retail stores in each area, if possible, and attempt to get them to carry your recording by proving the media exposure you are currently getting in their local areas.
And, probably the most appropriate time to contact them, is immediately after you have secured airplay. To locate them, either visit your public library for telephone yellow pages in the areas, or use one of the online sources such as (http://www.smartpages.com) to find them.
Yet, another way, is to search on the phrases, “telephone directories,” or “yellow pages” in your favorite search engine. For best results, try either http://www.google.com, http://www.alltheweb.com, or the stand-alone engine at http://www.copernic.com.
Attempt this, even if it means consigning a few copies to the area retail stores through the mail every couple of weeks, or so. Your point, is that you are playing with 3 balls in 1 game…radio, press, and sales. And, in order to be successful overall, you need all 3 elements to understand that all others are supportive and are pulling their weight for you.
But, above all, you are establishing a track record, pardon the pun, and will also be in a position to have your retail sales legitimately documented by SoundScan in order to count toward industry sales awards.
Point of Note: SoundScan also documents certain online music sales sites, but to my knowledge, you must be a member of SoundScan in order to learn which sales sites they document.
Now, after all is said and done, imagine this same overall process occurring in, say, 300-500 different radio markets. How about it occurring internationally? Can you spell m-e-d-i-a b-l-i-t-z s-a-t-u-r-a-t-i-o-n?
Also, with a few simple tailored changes to the above response card, you can utilize it in your print media kits, as well as your outgoing video kits for those of you who have taken this step as well. In fact, it can (and should) be used in all fragments of your mail-out campaign.
Above all, try it…I assure you that you will greatly increase your media success rate tremendously. Moreover, you will be much happier…literally and financially.
Copyright © 2001 Kenny Love All Rights Reserved
Editor’s Note: Kenny Love serves in a number of capacities in the Music and Writing industries. See his web site at www.kennylove.net.
For more information go to: http://www.kennylove.net