Many independent artists struggle with biographies, and it’s no wonder. For many artists, they know that they haven’t “done anything” yet, so they feel the best option is to over-compensate. This is not the case. Think of reading a biography as an equivalent experience to meeting someone. The best tactic is to keep it concise and information-based, to impress with the facts and not the over-hyped propaganda.
One thing I have noticed, as a consistent pattern in the thousands of artist biographies I have read, is the tendency to over-emphasize your story. You need to have the ability to step outside yourself and put yourself in the shoes of the reader, whether they are an industry person or a prospective fan. How much about you would they possibly want to read?
Far too many biographies start with something like “David Smith has had a love for all things music since the age of three, when he began to teach himself singing, guitar, and drums.” They usually go on with tales of junior high bands and an impressive number of instruments played, including clarinet, saxophone, and recorder. Two pages later, the bio is done and you have to wonder if they contemplated the process at all. While David’s music may very well have been amazing, the reader would most likely abandon ship before listening. It’s important to be able to spot what will come across as arrogant.
It takes a discerning eye to be able to choose what is relevant to share, and what no one is going to care about. Your family and friends can’t help in this regard, because in most cases they won’t be honest with you. For this reason, hiring a professional bio writer, or someone outside the band, is also a great option. You are often too close to yourself to talk about yourself.
Another good rule of thumb is to keep it short, and without language such as “The Evil Lizards are the best band to come out of North America since Metallica.” As great as this statement sounds, it will just end up making you look like jerks.
It will not have the desired effect (Metallica fans and media personnel foaming at the mouth to check out your music). As you gain press (which we’ll get to) you can also add press quotes to your bio. Why? Because it’s ok for OTHER PEOPLE to brag about you – but you can’t do it yourself. Remember that!
It’s also ok, even recommended, to talk about your influences in your band’s biography. Until you are as big as U2, go ahead and mention who influenced your sound. As long as it’s done in the correct way, it will definitely entice more people to give your music a chance, and also help your search engine results, successfully tying your band name to the influences of your choice. Just be sure to keep it humble and clear.
When in doubt, read Wikipedia. It seems counter-intuitive, but when I write biographies, I try to keep it concise and fact-based as if it was a Wikipedia page on the artist. When you read an artist’s Wikipedia, you are not going to get a whole bunch of promotional language. You are going to get something stronger and much more convincing – cold, hard facts.
Proper comparisons example: “Inspired by the likes of Tool, Metallica, Queens of the Stone Age and Lamb of God, the Evil Lizards showcase their own aggressive brand of metal-infused rock music.”
The reason a statement like this would work is because the band is mentioning very successful bands, as a tribute of sorts, while not making the language overly promotional. This quote is meant to entice fans of the aforementioned bands to wonder, “What do the Evil Lizards sound like? If they sound anything like a cross between Tool, Metallica and Queens of the Stone Age, they must be awesome!”
Wikipedia style example: “Sonic Youth is an American alternative rock band from New York City, formed in 1981. Their most recent lineup consisted of Thurston Moore (guitar and vocals), Kim Gordon (bass guitar, vocals, and guitar), Lee Ranaldo (guitar and vocals), Steve Shelley (drums), and Mark Ibold (guitar and bass).” (Taken from Sonic Youth’s Wikipedia page)
Formatting your band’s bio to look more like a Wikipedia article makes it look more official, and even though you may not think so, you will have many more bloggers and media personnel take the time to learn about you when you are not going on about yourself. Let the music do the talking.
Sample Band Biography:
Here’s a sample band biography to help you. Remember, the bio is for the media, the music industry, future contacts, as well as your fans. It should read like a fact sheet, but keep it creative, energetic, and useful. Be sure it represents your band. Make them want to listen.
1st Paragraph: You will need an introduction. This should be a sentence that clearly defines you, your band name or alias, where you’re from, your specific genre of music (eclectic brand of space rock, punk-infused speed metal – make it interesting but don’t lie!), etc. You can also add a positive quote you have received from a website, blog, radio or magazine review. (Rock Magazine calls the Sonic Spacemen “A real rock juggernaut…the sound of the future”.)
2nd Paragraph: This paragraph will go over the purpose of the bio. What is your band up to? If you have a new CD coming out, this should be the topic of the paragraph. Promotional information such as tours, events, or music videos to support the album should also be mentioned here. Keep it concise.
3rd and 4th Paragraphs: Relevant information on band members (edit out the bit about your drummer being the greatest player since Danny Carrey), band accomplishments (festival spots, awards, licensing deals, glowing reviews, etc), experience (tours, albums, song writing), and information about the forming of the band can be delved into here. Once again, it’s critical that this area is concise.
Ending: Summarize current activities and events, the goals of the band, and be sure to include another raving press quote here.
Remember, you do not need an epic story to get noticed. Let the music speak for itself. The shorter you can make your bio, the better. You do not need four paragraphs. You just need to present yourself accurately and professionally, and do not get in the way of the music. I remember reviewing an artist who claimed that his album was “the best rock album since Dark Side of the Moon”. Needless to say, my perception of him was clouded from there on. I saw him as egotistical and out of touch, and there was no way his music could come close to the lofty heights his ego was reaching for. So how could I relate to his music?
James Moore is a Canadian music promoter and author of the best selling independent musician’s resource guide “Your Band Is A Virus! Behind-the-Scenes & Viral Marketing for the Independent Musician”. Get the Book at www.independentmusicpromotions.com