BIO HAZARD: Things to Consider When Writing Your Artist Biography

Bio Hazard: Things to Consider When Writing Your Artist Biography

Contributed by Adrienne Lake, AMF Guest Consultant

 

Writing a good band bio and writing a good song have some distinct similarities. Most importantly, neither will get anywhere without a Hook. You know, that chorus, guitar riff, or whatever-it-may-be that makes the song stick in the listener’s head. The best bios and one-sheets have a healthy handful of Hooks; facts that grab the reader’s attention and make them think the artist is worth paying attention to even if they haven’t heard of them previously. The bio needs to be a combination of juicy facts and dynamic writing to really give a strong sense of the sound and personality of the artist.

A lot of people who haven’t been playing for long assume that they have no Hooks. This is so often not the case – it’s all just a matter of perspective. It can be hard for artists to write about themselves without feeling odd. It’s understandable. It’s also not always easy to have perspective on what makes you unique when you are in it. That’s why it is a good idea to recruit a writer to do the job for you. Journalists are great at this because they are trained to dig deep to find the gems that keep the reader’s attention. If you have a friend that blogs, that works, too! If you need to do this yourself or help a less-experienced writer along the way, here are some tips to help you write a compelling artist bio that gets results.  

Find your Hooks

  • Since the first thing the reader will see at the top of the page is your band photo, it needs to be one of your Hooks. If it doesn’t look professional, neither will you. Don’t ever use a blurry fan pic of a live show. If you don’t have any photographer friends that you can enlist, look around for someone who does band photos and can work with your budget. If you are sending out your bio to the press (and you should be) it will need to be of a certain quality (at least 300 dpi), especially for print media. Lastly, always always always credit the photographer and give the year the photo was taken just below the photo.
  • Sit down with your band and list your accomplishments (i.e. – you played before 1,000 people at a benefit that raised X amount for X cause, successfully toured the south and supported X band), accolades (named “Band to Watch” or “Best New Band” by X blog or magazine or if some notable blog or person bestowed a great adjective to you). Think hard. Did a DJ or well-known artist you worked with say something positive about your music that you can quote?  Use your best tidbits in the first paragraph.
  • Band/artist history is more important than you think and can be a great pool of interesting facts for new artists. Are you a country performer? Growing up in a trailer in Texas and being taught at a young age by your outlaw country performer daddy will get you some cred right off the bat. Did you grow up in a musical family? Did you play with some other notable artists in the past? What is the story behind your band? Were you discovered at a high school talent show? Are any bandmates related (journalists LOVE this)? Did you meet your bandmates busking in filthy underpasses? Take your time. It’s amazing how a porch and a few beers will jog the memory for helpful information. There are almost always special nuggets in your backstory that will make a reader take a second glance. But you will have to dig deep.
  • Once you have your Hooks, make a bulleted list of them and start writing. Like any good story, it needs a good beginning, middle, and end. Never boast unless you are quoting someone else.

 

Consider your audience. Imagine it is your job to read 20 bios a day. If the first paragraph isn’t attention-grabbing, you might quickly lose interest.

  • Can you cleverly wrap up your sound in a brief sentence? Make it stand out. For example, don’t just describe yourself as “a loud rock & roll band”. That is meaningless to most people in this industry. You have to describe yourself in a way that establishes you as better or different than all the other rock bands out there, such as, “Zappa, Devo and Oingo Boingo meet MC5 fronted by a younger Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington at the circus- that sort of comes close to describing Tucson’s Mr. Free & the Satellite Freakout, a band whose live performances never fail to astound.” Now THAT means something, even if it is a mouthful.
  • If you get stuck, look to others for inspiration. Dig up the bios of successful bands and take notes of what kinds of information they contain and how they are written.
  • Don’t ever just write your bio and send it out or publish it. Almost all people lack the ability to see all of our own mistakes. It is absolutely necessary to have multiple pairs of editing eyes to read over any content you intend to publish before you do so. Fact-checking is crucial! It’s incredible how one accidental incorrect fact, misspelling or awkward sentence can compromise your professionalism.  Don’t skip this step!

Adrienne Lake is a music industry professional who has worked in A&R, publicity, talent buying, marketing, and music journalism in the Tucson, Los Angeles, and Austin markets. While in Los Angeles, she held positions at Capitol, Giant and DreamWorks Records, and the latter of which created a Jr. A&R Executive position for her, where she worked closely with Elliott Smith, Jimmy Eat World, AFI and Creeper Lagoon. As a Music Journalist for Arizona Daily Star, she traveled to cover festivals and conducted interviews with John Doe, Mike Davis of MC5, Peaches and more. Lake has been a Talent Buyer and Promoter at multiple venues, including the world-famous Club Congress in Tucson, Spider House, Empire Control Room & Garage and The Parish in Austin and was most recently a Music Festival Programmer at SXSW

Got questions for Adrienne? Schedule a free one-on-one consultation here

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