While going through my mail recently, I was reminded of a panel discussion I attended at SXSW a few years back on music writing and the alt-weekly press, or something like that. Toward the end it essentially devolved into repeated requests by musicians for tips on how to get their press kit to stand out enough to make us want to write about them.

The number one recommendation from the critics—“Don’t suck”—didn’t seem to satisfy them.

But there were other suggestions I remember too. For example: “Don’t put it in a school-report folder. Nothing good ever comes in one of those.”

There is a frightening amount of truth to that prejudice. It’s not always justified—Alligator Records, for example, uses those distinctive green folders in every mailing, and their track record of sucking isn’t too bad—but one does start to notice tendencies. I think I’ve also observed an inverse relationship between amount of packing materials/size of envelope and music quality.

Another don’t: don’t slather me with merch. Especially not little annoying things like printed candy, buttons, pencils, etc, that fall all over the place. The really scary thing about the two—two!–pairs of red panties I got from Bang! Bang! a few years ago was that they got my size right.

Artwork on the envelope isn’t bad, but only if you’re good at it. I have several envelopes from Plastic Crimewave I’ve saved for years. But be careful not to make your artwork more memorable than your record.

And yet another don’t, something so dumb I can’t believe the number of otherwise functional artists and PR firms that do this: do NOT enclose a picture without the artist’s name on it. At many publications, including the Reader, the person who deals with writing and the person who deals with photos are not the same person. And we have a huge slush pile of pix of pouty-lipped babes in meadows and very-serious-looking young men standing on railroad tracks . . . and no bloody clue who they are.

By this same principle, it really should go without saying that unlabeled CDs get the attention they deserve. (Yes, I have seen this.)

Anyone else? Particularly egregious bribes, lapses of reason, and anything that actually made you remember a band in a good way? Suggestions? Examples of things your band has tried?