Illustration: Benedikt Rugar
Writing about yourself is hard.
However, writing a great musician bio is an absolutely crucial step if you want to advance your music career. Your bio is your chance to tell the story behind your music and give people a reason to become a fan. It’s also what you’ll be using in all of your online materials, your promotional efforts, and as part of applications to grants and live venues.
In this blog post, we’ll go over nine tips for writing the most effective, concise, and compelling bio that will help you present yourself in the best light and get more exposure, fans, and opportunities.
1. Start with your hook
The brutal truth is that people will stop reading your bio after the first sentence if you fail to grab their attention. Say you start with something like this:
“Based in [city, country], [artist name] is a talented multi-instrumentalist and singer whose music can be best described as a blend of [genre 1] and [genre 2]”.
Are you writing about yourself, or the thousands of other musicians who fit this description? Instead, try to think of what makes you stand out from everyone else and use that as your hook. Do you play a unique instrument? Do you have a particular fashion style? Do you make music with your twin brother? Anything goes. The key is to engage the reader right from the start and make them want to find out more about you.
2. Tell a story
Next, you’ll want to expand on what makes you unique, but be careful not to bore the reader with too many details. Avoid writing statements like “he was born in 1988 and started playing the guitar at just nine years old.” Instead, focus on telling the reader why you do what you do and why they should listen to your music, come to your show, feature you in their publication, etc.
Sharing your story and your “why” shouldn’t be as plain as saying “She became a singer because…” To make your story more engaging, share the pivotal moments in your journey that led you to where you are today. Write about the emotion your music conveys as a result of those moments. The key here is to share something that resonates with the reader and sparks a connection.
3. Share your accomplishments
Writing about your own accomplishments can be challenging – you want to strike a balance between sounding too humble and too arrogant. To help with this, try writing down every accomplishment you can think of. Then select only the two – three most important and most relevant ones to include in your musician bio.
Avoid name dropping too much or stretching the truth. It’s much more effective to share the small milestones you’re truly proud of than to give your fans a false sense of who you are.
When writing about your accomplishments, focus on the outcome rather than the action you took. For example, say you’ve released four albums to date. Though it’s no small feat, that’s not the kind of accomplishment your reader will care about. Instead, pick your most successful album and talk about the feedback you received for it, where it was featured, its sales, or streaming statistics. Remember that people tend to gravitate towards things with social proof. In other words, if they know that others have liked something in the past, they’ll be more likely to give it a try.
4. Describe your sound
It’s likely that someone reading your bio has never heard your music. Tell them a little bit about what they can expect, what genre your music can be categorized as, and what kind of atmosphere your music creates.
A common mistake musicians make in their bio is comparing themselves to other well-known artists. Though it may be entirely accurate, try to avoid saying that you sound like a particular artist. A statement like this is very subjective, so it’s best to leave it to the reader to decide whether it’s true. Instead, consider saying that you’re influenced by that artist – this achieves the same outcome without making you sound arrogant.
5. Keep it professional
Your musician bio should be an accurate representation of you as an artist and your music. You should feel free to add a little personality and write in a style that matches your personal brand.
That being said, it’s important to maintain a level of professionalism in your bio. Remember that it’s one of the key pieces that will be used to promote your music to new audiences, so it should be polished and ready to use in a variety of media.
The best way to keep your artist bio professional is to write like a journalist. It should be written in third person and be as factual as possible. This means avoiding all opinion-based statements and unnecessary embellishments.
Of course, as your number-one supporter, you might be tempted to write all about how incredible your music is. But once again, it’s best to let the reader form their own opinion instead of forcing yours onto them. Rather than telling them why they’ll like your music and stuffing your bio with ungrounded praise, use the accomplishments section to show them and give them proof that your music is worth listening to.
6. Get readers excited
End your musician bio by sharing some of the projects you’re working on, what you’re looking forward to, and what people can expect to see from you in the near future. This will give the reader a good reason to connect with you and follow your progress. Regardless of how grand your past accomplishments are, if you have nothing exciting coming up in your career, people will lose interest.
Make sure the upcoming projects you’re sharing are actually in progress and not just something you’re hoping for. There’s nothing worse than boasting of future achievements that don’t match where you are in your career. For example, if you’ve only released one or two singles so far, you probably don’t need to say that you’re looking forward to a North American tour anytime soon.
Lastly, be sure to constantly update this section of your bio. Using an old bio in 2020 where you write about an upcoming release in September 2019 can make you look careless and inattentive (you’d be surprised how often this happens, though). To avoid this, keep track of everywhere you’ve published your bio and update it regularly, especially before submitting it to a new media contact.
7. Do your research
Before you sit down to write your musician bio, put yourself in the shoes of the reader and study the bios of other musicians. They won’t all be prime examples of what you should strive towards, but they’ll give you a general idea of what language to use and what important sections to include. Take note of what you like, what you don’t, what engages you as a reader, and what bores you. Keep in mind the tips we’ve discussed here so far and see if you can critique each bio you read. If by the end, the bio makes you want to listen to that artist’s music, they’ve done a great job and you can definitely learn from them.
If you don’t already do this, it might also be helpful to read publications or listen to podcasts that review music and discuss musicians in depth. This will give you a good sense of the language people use to describe music, various genres, and sounds. It can sometimes be hard to put your sound into words, so make reading or listening to these a habit and you’ll be well versed in the language of music in no time.
8. Edit relentlessly
Once you’re done with the first draft of your bio, get ready to go through a few rounds of edits. Remember that your bio needs to be engaging, concise, and convey only the most important information. This means that you’ll likely need to cut some sections and rearrange or rewrite sentences.
It’s best to write your musician bio over a period of a few days or even a week, instead of at the last minute before a deadline. This will give you a chance to take a break from it and come back to look at it again with fresh eyes.
When you’re happy with what you’ve come up with, use a text-to-speech converter to catch any grammar and spelling mistakes, as well as check how it flows from sentence to sentence. All you have to do is paste your text into the converter and it will read it out loud for you. When you listen to it, as opposed to just reading it, you’ll be more likely to catch mistakes and evaluate it more objectively.
Finally, send your artist bio to a friend or two for an outside perspective. They’ll be able to tell you whether it’s engaging and represents you well. Plus, they might bring up something you missed or let you know if something needs to be cut.
9. Make multiple versions
The question most musicians ask when they sit down to write their bio is “How long should it be?” The answer to that is, it really depends on where you’re using or submitting it. As such, it’s helpful to have several different versions of your bio.
Start with the short version – this should be just a paragraph or about 100 – 150 words. This one is the most difficult to write because you’ll need to select only the most important information and convey it effectively and concisely. Think of this as your elevator pitch: if you had 30 seconds to convince someone to listen to your music, what would you tell them?
The longer version of your artist bio will still begin with that same paragraph. This is because when you send someone the long version, they might actually want something quite short, so they’ll often copy and paste the first paragraph and leave out the rest. The first paragraph should, then, be able to stand on its own.
To fill the rest of your long bio, you can add another paragraph or two to discuss your music career, style, and accomplishments in more detail. Aim for 300 – 400 words, though this will largely depend on where you are in your career. This version is the one you’ll be putting up on your website and submitting as part of public relations efforts or any other applications.
Apart from these two versions, you might also need to make adjustments on a case-by-case basis. For example, if you’re sending your bio to an event venue, you’ll want to give more attention to your live performance experience. Always keep the reader in mind and give them exactly the kind of information they need to know.
So there you have it! Use these nine tips to write or update your musician bio and let the world know about your music.
Which tip did you find the most helpful? Let us know in the comments below.
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September 29, 2020