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Writing A Band Bio

January 14, 2014

About Rose Allen

A marketing and communications professional with a love of the cultural landscape on the East Coast, Rose Allen has worked with organizations including the East Coast Music Association, OUTeast Film Festival, The Disappeared, the Halifax Jazz Festival, the Atlantic Film Festival, Neptune Theatre and Eastern Front Theatre.

Rose is a devourer of news, art, books, adventures and social media, and is always looking for new organizations or projects to get involved with. Engaged in her community, she has volunteered in leadership roles with Gottingen Street for Scott Jones, the Halifax Pop Explosion, WetSpot Halifax, Women in Film & Television Atlantic, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and LunaSea Theatre Company, to name a few. She is dedicated to experiencing and listening to her community.

It’s probable to find her with a dog or three, carrying a newspaper, a Steinbeck novel and an Archie comic at the same time. Rose is a future fashion designer and a children`s TV show host; dream big kids.

I see a lot of artist bios. (I shake my head at a lot of artist bios). I think the artist bio is one of the most important pieces in a press kit, festival guide, website, etc. When I read a musician bio, I want to know the artist behind the curtain; I want to get a peek at their creative mastery. Tease me, intrigue me, and if you can do it in less than five sentences you’re sure to please me. Since I complain about artist bios, I thought I should put my money where my mouth was.  Since I am not going to re-write all the bios I hate, I wrote this instead.

On Musician Bios…

Sell It

Your bio is a sales tool, which communicates what you have to offer to bookers, labels, media, agents, promoters, fans, etc. This value has to be communicated clearly and should be clever, but not indulgent.

Bios are usually the first thing read about your band. A good bio may get your music listened to, a bad one can turn someone off from listening to your music altogether. Your artist/band bio needs to have a positive tone, be straightforward yet enlightening and the narrative has to be interesting – you want the reader to not just listen to your music, but ultimately become a champion for it.

Where to Start

To start your bio, think about your story and what your music sounds like. What is your mission statement? Why do you play music? Which qualities set you apart from other bands within your genre? What can a fan expect at a live show? Having a mission statement will help inform your bio and can be woven into your story.

If you had 30 seconds to answer “what music do you play?” or “tell me about your band” what would you say? Your mission statement needs to not just be your own reflection/perception. Think about your fans (other than your Mom) and peers – why do others love your music? What is the audience reaction at your live show?

A band bio that starts with or integrates a mission statement is powerful and has a better chance of captivating your reader (so they keep reading, about you googling you, listening to and promoting you).

Tell a Story

While your band bio does need to be professional, it also needs to tell a story and avoid the standard formula.

Start your bio with your mission statement and then make sure all the particulars that follow about your history and playing experience could not belong to anyone but you. Just like who? Avoid comparisons to established artists. Who are YOU? Again, being clever is good, but don’t indulge yourself. You don’ t want to induce eye rolling. What is happening NOW in your career? That is what I want to know now and where you should start.

There are a lot of attractive, talented, hard-working musicians out there, so without your story (which is more than education, practice, etc.) your bio will probably sound just like that other band, you know the one…I forget their name.

That being said, this is not a memoir.  No one wants your life story and most readers don’t give a shit if you started playing piano at age four (unless you’re Mozart). Generally, skip childhood. Are you promoting a new record? Talk about that record. What experience relates to your band/music? If you’re a band and not a solo artist, no one wants individual member bios. You want your readers to know the names and roles of the members, but you are selling the package, not the fact that Johnny was in the best Blink 182 cover band ever.

The Long and the Short of It

Your long bio should be max 500 words. Your short bio should be about 250 words and even then, sometimes you will be asked for 100 words. You should also have a three- five sentence bio that can be used for social media, festival guides, etc.

As a rule of thumb, your short bio is just your long bio stripped of a detailed history, focusing heavily on your mission statement and current projects.

Your baby bio is the hardest to write. Clever, capturing and current.  (The bios in the SappyFest and Pop Explosion guides are my most favourite East Coast examples).

Stay Fresh

Your story is dynamic and always unfolding, and your bio is a way to tell this story, so keep it up to date. What is happening NOW? Land a big show? Get signed? Win a prize? Working in the studio? Writing new music? Even if nothing earth shattering is happening, you should be revisiting your bio often. Clean out that symbolic refrigerator. This sales tool needs to reflect your current plans and where you will be in the future. Keep ‘er up to date to keep your audience engaged and paying attention.

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