I guess many of us that work in the music industry are failed musician. My first band was not even a band. We were incredibly young and started a band even though we could not play any instruments. Instead, we played air instruments to our favorite songs. Cute yes, but there is one thing here. The first thing we did before we even rehearsed with our air instruments, was to take a band picture. To be honest to get the right location and background and pose took so long that we missed our first rehearsal and we had to get home before curfew. And the second rehearsal we looked at the pictures and the girl that sang was not pleased because the guys in the band looked better than her. In the third rehearsal, we went to take new pictures.
I have just gone through 100 applications for my new festival, Future Echoes. I started to see a trend. Many of the pictures were blurry or out of focus. Another thing was that the artist was not in the whole picture. It was like a gallery of modern art. A place where you really don’t know what the art is, or if you are staring at the radiator and no art at all.
After a while, I became really annoyed. All the pictures that were posted of the band really sucked. I was so frustrated that I promised myself to book any artist that had a real promo picture that was a good picture in the next fifty applications I checked out. Sorry to say, that I didn’t book anything. Either they were blurry or taken with a mobile camera and then added a crappy filter from Instagram. The worst ones were blurry, no lighting and with the band logo in 30% of the picture, you can’t really use that.
It seems this is the trend of today. The artist does not have decent promo pictures. Does it matter if you book them for the music? At the same time, you also know if they don’t have the picture now, they won’t have it later and you need that picture for social media, homepage, and posters. Yes, but when you have the amount of several hundred artists the picture it can be the thing that makes your decision. That can be the thing that makes you go “wow I need to hear this!” It happened to me a couple of years ago. Same procedure, I was going through hundreds of artists and suddenly I stopped on a guy with feathers and a big beard. The picture just talked to me. I needed to listen to this band. I did and just fell in love with the music and booked them. Here is the picture if Capitano that grabbed my attention:
Just because of that, I needed to listen to “Gypsy on a Leash” with Capitano right now. That picture just made a huge difference. And Capitano is very artsy, they do strange pictures and promo, but they are professional enough to send the really good studio pictures when presenting themselves.
It seems like the artists of today have forgotten what a picture can do. It is your best promo choice. Don’t get a crappy “indie” blurred picture. If you need to be artsy then do it with a big thought and also combine it with good promo pictures. My guess is that my team actually spends two working days out of five looking for promo pictures for their stories. And then they get shit from the artists when they have chosen the wrong one since the artist didn’t bother to update their homepage with a good promo picture.
Actually, it is very easy to stand out today in the music industry. Just have a good promo picture. And now I think back in the days past. We didn’t know how to play any instruments, but we were professional enough to at least start with a good promo picture.
Editor’s Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals and is an advisor for INES and co-founder of MusicHelp/Discover Sensation. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and Super Bowl. Peter has currently taken up the seat of Station Manager of Cashbox Radio, working with MD, PD and station owner, Sandy Graham. His latest venture is a new Showcase Festival in Sweden, Future Echoes scheduled for September 16-18, 2021.