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How to Make a Professional Musician's Portfolio
If you are a musician you need to create a portfolio, commonly known as a press kit, to demonstrate your musical background and work history. Your portfolio showcases what you have to offer, such as your image, genre and style and achievements. Portfolios are works in progress and evolve along with your career. As such they should be updated consistently to accurately represent your music and image. The steps to create a portfolio involve assessing your career path, organizing and arranging your work and choosing a format for its presentation.
Your portfolio should contain a head-shot or a group photo of your band. The photo of you or you and your band needs to represent the image you want to convey. Large bands may benefit from the photographer using an ultra-wide or wide-angle lens to fill the frame as much as possible. You can also shoot band photos as individual portraits and combine them to make a montage. Talk with the photographer and settle on a style of shooting that fits the image of your music.
Cover Letter and Bio
The cover letter is a short introduction to you and your music. It includes a brief description of yourself or your band, including the style of your music and what you hope to accomplish with it. Include your artist or band name and contact information at the top of the page. You should also include a biography detailing aspects of your life which define yourself as a musician, such as when you released your first album or a hobby that has helped you shape your particular style of music. Address the letter to a specific person in the agency or record label, rather than "to whom it may concern" so it doesn't appear that you are blindly sending out your portfolio to myriad agencies and record labels. If you can, add a personal touch: Find out something about the person you are sending the portfolio to (an affinity for Burmese cats, perhaps) and include a sentence or two about it in your letter (a brief, amusuing anecdote about your Burmese cat).
Put together a demonstration CD using songs that best represent your music and image. The number of songs to include depends on the requirements of the company or person you are submitting to. Some may ask for just a few tracks, while others may allow (or prefer) you to include a full-length album. If not specified, a good rule of thumb is to include no more than three or four songs. Assume the listener is a busy person and place your best foot forward, as you want to capture the listener's attention immediately.
Include press clippings such as feature articles about your music. Only use clips that are representative of your music and are from reputable magazines, newspapers or websites. If you previously released an album, include good reviews and quotes about it. If you have a variety of clippings of different formats, such as features and reviews, dedicate them to specific pages rather than a random layout. For instance, provide headings to let the reader know she is looking at album reviews, features, interviews, quotes, etc.
Johnny Kilhefner is a writer with a focus on technology, design and marketing. Writing for more than five years, he has contributed to Writer's Weekly, PopMatters, Bridged Design and APMP, among many other outlets.