How to Write a Great Band or Artist Biography

Dan Kimpel was kind enough to add his tips on writing an excellent band / artist biography to The Music Snob wiki, which we are featuring here because it’s a very popular article…Hope it gives you some good ideas for your own bios!

Writing a Great Band or Artist Biography

A bio is the cement that holds your presentation together, creates your identity, brands your style and leads the reader directly to the music. Ideally, your bio should be applicable for multiple purposes: a key ingredient in your press kit, an essential element on the homepage of your website and as an easy introduction to bookers, journalists, fans and the music business at large. Music people are intuitive about press and publicity materials, and if a bio is non-existent, shoddy, poorly written, off-putting or amateurish, odds are the music it represents will share these same adverse qualities. Keep in mind that if you are using your bio to generate press, oft-times overworked and underpaid journalists with lift the exact phrases and words in your bio for articles and reviews.

Recording artists, songwriters, musicians, composers, performers and producers all benefit from having well tailored, professional bios. In this article MC advises your how to create an effective bio in reverse, by advising you what not to do.

1. Don’t tell, show. Beware the hackneyed cliché, the imprecise metaphor, and the goofy, strained adjective. “Joe Jones is a brilliant artist,” or “Sue Smith is destined for stardom,” are lame and off-putting. The bio must lead the reader to his own conclusions. Telling a reader what to feel or think may lead to the exact opposite impression.

2. Avoid the time machine. “She began playing piano at the tender age of four, and by age five….” Instant naptime. Begin your bio in the present, and then go back in time, but only so far as the story is fascinating. Beware dating yourself: if you’ve had an extensive career, you may want to be non-specific about years and simply summarize the main points and experiences.

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How to Find and Work with a Music Publicist

The most difficult thing about working with a publicist comes before you’ve even met the individual. Finding the right person or company to manage your press responsibilities is a serious effort. Without deep pockets or solid connections, the task can seem impossible, but it isn’t.

How to Find the Right Publicist

1) Playing festivals, like CMJ and South by Southwest, is one of the best ways to meet publicists. If you happen to be in New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago, there’s a decent chance that a publicist might be in your audience on any given night.

2) Do research on press agencies. Consider the other artists on their respective rosters and send your music, a list of upcoming shows and any press you’ve already gotten, along with a personal note, to their offices. While getting picked up by any music-related agency has become increasingly difficult, it still happens and the younger the agency, the better your chances.

3) Keep your funds in mind. If you have thousands of dollars, any agency will likely take on your project. However, if your budget resembles that of most musicians, you’ve got a few hundred bucks. This is not an inherent problem. Many agencies and publicists will take on a project they believe can succeed and accept payment later. Indie publicists will often accept a job without anything up front, so long as they like the music.

4) Talk to your friends. You’d be surprised how many artists find their managers, publicists and booking agents through a simple, friendly connection.

One You Have a Good Publicist

A publicist will have connections at major and indie publications across the country and throughout the world. They can be an invaluable resource when preparing for an album release or a tour.

1) Trust your publicist, but remember, you’re the artist and they’re working for you. Make sure that your publicist is serious about your work and represents you accurately (unless you’d prefer to leave it all in their hands, which may make things easy at first, but be warned, you may not like that reputation as a maniac, party monger in ten years).

2) Make sure you and your publicist can work together civilly. If he or she has a completely different understanding of your art and your image than you do, the relationship may not work in the long-term. However, there is good news: once you’ve had a publicist, getting a new one is far less difficult.

3) While your publicist can get your work in front of the eyes of journalists, he or she cannot force them to write about it. Don’t hold out for a review from one particular publication. Keep the big picture in mind. If your publicist gets three indie publications excited about you, but doesn’t get that Rolling Stone article, don’t immediately fire him or her.

Good luck. Got other suggestions? Tell us about them!

For a good intro level article that addresses “when to hire a publicist,” go here.