Writing a Killer Band Bio

April 4, 2009 — 3 Comments

Writing a good band bio is a very tricky and often overlooked feature for an independent band.  Do you pay the big bucks to get a professional to write it for you?  Do you write it for yourself in 3rd person?  Do you just write casually?

All of these and every other question you have can be answered in one single question: Who are you marketing to and how are you doing it?  The answers to these questions vary greatly depending on who and how you are marketing.  For example, if you are a singer/songwriter, it is important to write the bio yourself in a very personal manner.  That genre is very personable and intimate, so the bio must match it.  If you are a fun punk band, then you should have the lead singer write up something that is informative, but that middle/high school kids will laugh at.  Again, you have to match your demographic.  If you are a metal band, you should pay to have a professional do it (and make sure you have your “tough guy” picture to go along with it).  Actually, if you are making metal music, you should probably just stop.

Here is a list of things to consider when writing the bio:
1.    First, start by gathering all the information you can about the band and its members.  How long has the band been together?  Where are you from?  What makes your band worth listening to?  Interesting stories to possibly incorporate?  Played any shows with a decent list of known artists?  How are you different than everyone else?

2.    Keep it short.  It can be good to actually have two written – one in a longer form and one in a shorter form.  Even the longer bio should not be more than 3 paragraphs or you are wasting the reader’s time.  Also, it is very important to be able to describe your music in a sentence or two to people.  We are a twitter-type generation, so make it quick.

3.    Tell of your influences and list your genre, but avoid “sounds like”. To say that you cannot classify your music into a genre is ridiculous.  However, sometimes when people see “sounds like” and they do not enjoy the listed bands, they can write you off before hearing you.  These are also the people who will probably end up not being fans of yours anyways, but stick with classifying by influences.

4.    Try to come up with something creative, rather than the standard that everyone else does.  Everyone wants to read something interesting.  For example, a friend wrote a bio of his like this:
will-grey-music

5.    Writing a bio is similar to writing a resume.  You need to stand out, but not make it too obvious that the reader can pick up on that intention.  Pull out your areas of strength and don’t even talk about the areas you lack.  For example, do not say, “We have perfected our sound for years, but have not played many shows outside of [local city]”.  You do, however, want to write any achievements your band has had, including any EP’s, CD’s, experience, etc.

6.    Sometimes not writing a bio at all, but writing about other things can work.  Remember, it is all about connecting with your fan.  A local indie-rock band, Farewell Flight, wrote an effective bio:

“We want to play music all year and meet cool people and make some money and not live with our parents. Anything you can do to help with those four things would be greatly appreciated. Especially the third one.

This is us:

Luke- Lead vocals, guitar, piano. Has successfully wrestled polar bears on two separate continents (yes, two!). Supposedly, has received his acceptance letter from Hogwarts, even though the school year has already started. Authenticity of letter has yet to be verified. Can maneuver a van and trailer in reverse faster than Jason Bourne in a Mini Cooper on a Parisian side street. Wins gold medals for outstanding facial hair. Once lost his cell phone 42 times in one day.

Marc- Drums, muscle. Has several tattoos that make him look cooler than everyone else in the band (not that it’s hard to do). Still has health insurance. When sporting a stache, he brings forth the ghost of Freddie Mercury. Voted “Most Likely To Not Fail At Life” by the other members in his band. Believes in and is afraid of “Cubicle Trolls”. Expert on centaurs.

Robbe- Bass. Real into sleeping. Came in second place on Nickelodeon’s Global Guts after being blinded by a glitter storm (aka snow blizzard) and hitting his opponent’s actuator at the top of the Super Aggro Crag. Still has a crush on Mo, the referee. Currently saving up all his change to buy a Ms. Pac-Man arcade console. Has a pretty good vertical jump.

Timmy- Awesome and (sometimes) guitar. Would rather play for the Steelers, Pens, or Buccs than in Farewell Flight. Good at mowing grass and laying down sod. Hates that he’s good at mowing grass and laying down sod. Near-expert level at “Saved By The Bell” trivia. Fist-fought a caramel latte that “looked at me weird”. Wishes he lived in the 1980’s and was the lead singer of Final Warning, licking the microphone like David Lee Roth. Instead, he’s just some poor singing orphan.”
Reference: www.myspace.com/farewellflight, 4.4.09

7.    Try very hard to get reviews from other bands or popular media sites and either incorporate it into your bio, or list it anytime you can.  This can be much more effective for your publicity than anything you say in your bio.   There are a million different publications out there trying to review bands.  Send them your EPK for free and get reviews and list it with your bio.

8.    When writing, you want to make sure you are confident, but definitely not arrogant.  This is a hard line to walk, but it must be done.

9.    Spell check!  If you have errors in your bio, you can guarantee your door is closed before it ever had a chance of being opened.  Write, then re-write, then re-write again.  Then, get a few friends with English expertise to edit for you.  Not only will they likely be excited to work on something like that, they might tell some friends and become an advocate for you.  Double win.

10.    Draw ideas from other bands that are similar (or not) and try to come up with your own creative idea/style for the bio.

11.    Spend time re-writing the bio at least a few times from different angles and see where it leads you.  Make your first line something that is compelling.  Whatever you do, do not start with “Starting at the age of 5, I began drumming on anything I could find.”  This is taboo 101 for bio writing.  Other bio no-no’s include listing band members’ past experience in unrecognized band names.  Do not say that you just randomly started rocking out in your garage and ended up forming together.  Yes, some great bands have been accidents, but not many (and a billion people who write this are still terrible garage bands).

12.    Gear your bio (and all your marketing material) toward your ideal fan.  You may have to come to grips with it, but maybe your target market is middle/high schoolers.  Here is a perfect example from Sara Bareilles, as she writes with a very personable and honest approach to her [long] bio:

“My new Bio.
By: Me

So I’m supposed to tell you about myself and we’ve tried to write something fancy, and I’m just not that fancy, so here I go.
The non-fancy me.
I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember. Some of them make me happy and some of them are shit, but all of them come because I can’t imagine what else to do with my head and the things that are in it besides write songs.
Songs, and some pretty bad poetry.
But mostly just songs.
LITTLE VOICE is my first major label album. I signed with Epic Records on tax day 2005, and I spent the better part of the next year writing and developing the material for the album that is set to release July 3rd. Songwriting is the most sacred thing in my life. It’s how I process my world. For now, it’s usually me and my piano (that I rent cause I don’t have one), my lousy grammar, and some emotion that makes me feel like I’m bursting at the seams.
And it’s the best feeling in the world.
We started recording in February of 2006 and it took about a year to get to a place where we felt like it was finished. My producer, Eric Rosse, and I spent countless hours deliberating, fighting, and seeking compromise on what would make this music the best it could be. I’m not proud to say it, but I feel like in many ways I walked in with my dukes up. In the end, we both walked away with some gnarly battle scars, and an album that we’re both pretty damn proud of. It represents one of the most tumultuous years of my life that thankfully made me a stronger, better artist. I’m incredibly grateful for that.
It’s a collection of songs that pretty much mean the world to me. They chronicle my life, my relationships, my basket-case-ness, and my utter devotion to trying to write honest stuff down and share it. That’s where the title comes from. This record was really about me learning to trust my own instincts, and more importantly, recognize how desperately I needed to learn to listen to myself, however inexperienced and naïve I may be. It sounds cliché, but that little voice is sometimes the only voice that’s speaking the truth. I think that’s pretty fucking cool.

‘What kind of music is it?’
I write mostly on piano and I’m a girl, so lots of people say it’s Norah Jones, or Fiona Apple. That’s fine. I love Norah’s subtlety and Fiona’s fierce lyrical prowess. But I also have an affinity for the playful and intelligent-pop of people like Elton John and Ben Folds. And although I don’t necessarily write like them, Radiohead, the Police and Bjork changed my musical consciousness. Ben Gibbard writes better lyrics than I can even imagine up. Etta James and Sam Cooke make me wish I lived 50 years ago. Counting Crows recorded an album that I consider to be perfect, and Bob Marley created music that makes me want to be a better human being.
So there’s all that. And it’s all in there. In me. Somewhere. So do what you will with that information, I know it’s vague, but it’s the best I can do.

‘Where are you from and how’d you end up here?’
I grew up in Eureka, CA. Since hardly anyone knows where that is, I’ll tell you. It’s pretty much as north as you can go up the coast of California before you stop paying sales tax. (Oregon, baby.)
I lived on several acres of Redwood forest, and spent most of my time in the woods developing a delightfully overactive imagination that I’m pretty proud to say I’ve managed to salvage. I sang in high school choirs and did community musical theatre and played right field softball and rode horses and had my heart broken a few times. I was borderline normal.
I was incredibly lucky.
I moved to LA to go to UCLA, and realized the world was bigger than my hometown. Way, way bigger, come to find out. In school I studied Communications, but everywhere else I secretly studied the world around me. I felt stupid and wonderful and small and liberated and exhilarated and I started feeling the need to write it all down. So I did. And then I wanted to start singing those things. I played open mics and small shows that started becoming bigger shows and actually started calling myself a musician. I met my band/road mates and finally started sharing music. Because of them, I also rediscovered what “family” means. I met my manager, Jordan Feldstein, who has made tiny opportunities blossom into bigger ones, and now I’m not a waitress anymore. I fell on my ass more than once but figured that I’d rather do this than anything, so what the hell?
And here we are.

‘Why’d you write such a long bio?’
I realize this is incredibly self-indulgent, but it all feels important to me, and I’m a terrible editor. So, thanks for coming. Thanks for listening. Thanks for ignoring my potty mouth, and thanks for giving a shit about this music. I really really truly appreciate it.

Love and peace,
s”

13.    Balance humor and serious information to talk about.  If you are a high-school punk band, you can probably err on the side of a lot of humor.  However, if you are a very deep, philosophical-type writer, you probably can use some wit, but you will probably not want to write anything ridiculous like “addicted to chocolately-chunk ice cream”.  As Max Lowe writes, “Throw in an anecdote that sums up how you think and how you play. If your van lit on fire and you were stranded in the middle of the desert between shows and you ended up writing two of your most popular songs while waiting for a tow truck, find a way to integrate that story. It will humanize you even further, provide a back story for your music and help you connect with fans.”

14.    Don’t lie and don’t exaggerate your points.  It can be ok to say that your sound is like “Coldplay meets John Mayer meets Ben Gibbard”.  However, the problem when you throw out huge names like this is it gives this impression that you will deliver an unbelievable sound and may set you up for failure.  The bio is supposed to lead the reader to want to listen to your music, as well as give them more info after they’ve started listening.

Now go write something worth reading!

Sigs

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3 responses to Writing a Killer Band Bio

  1. This post is very helpful to anyone wanting to write an interesting bio! I’m kinda curious to know why you say “if you are making metal music, you should probably just stop.” Do you think there are already too many metal groups out there for a new band to stand out?

    • Hey Kate –

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I was just joking around and poking fun at metal music. I actually have several friends who make and enjoy metal music, but it is not my style. There definitely are MANY talented musicians in the genre, though!

      Glad you found the article helpful!

      Jonathan

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