Writing a Band Biography
Musician biographies are deceptively difficult to write. Your band biography is your way of introducing yourself to both fans and music industry types. You need to strike the right balance between providing useful information and going into so much detail no one makes it past the first paragraph.
Know Who the Band Is
That may sound like a pretty easy thing, but is it? If you are a solo musician or if you are part of a distinct group that makes up a band, it's simple. But what about the keyboard player who always plays on your records and at your live shows but hasn't officially been asked to join the band? What if you write all the songs and think of it as your project, but you always have the same musicians backing you up? Before you can write a bio, you need to know whose bio you're writing, so decide who gets a bio mention and who is essentially a session musician.
Pick an Approach
There are two main ways to write a musician bio:
- The Straightforward Approach: Just the facts, ma'am/sir
- The Not Straightforward Approach: Creating a story/characters
The straightforward approach is much easier. You explain your inspirations, accomplishments and offer a little bit of background information, end of story. The not straightforward approach can be very effective but is VERY hard to pull off. Instead of offering the real story about band members, you create a fictional account of some sort about the band and about the musicians.
Pros and Cons to the Straightforward Approach
Taking the straightforward approach to your bio is the easiest way to go. First, it is the easiest to write You don't have to get caught up in trying to be clever without being corny; all you have to do is stick to the facts. Also, your bio will give journalists all of the info they need to write about you without having to do a lot of research. This alone can make the difference in getting a review of your band and not getting a review. The con is that your bio will be a lot like everyone else's, so you may have a hard time standing out.
Pros and Cons to the Not Straightforward Approach
The con is that this kind of approach can be extremely difficult to pull off. Creating a story about your band can come off as cheesy, pretentious and just plain dumb. You could generate a lot of eye-rolling, and you risk getting people to write about you for all of the wrong reasons.
Why would anyone do this? Well, because when it works, it REALLY works. An example is Belle and Sebastian. Early in their career, the band hid behind short stories for bios and press releases and masks in press shots, but they did it with a lot of charm. It only increased their popularity.
Highlight the Important Info
This step is where you'll make the really crucial decisions about your musician bio. What matters and what doesn't? Band bios should be short (one page), so you've got to use your space wisely. What do you want people to know? What is going to make them want to listen to your music?
The best bios highlight musical accomplishments and musical influences and then add some color with a personal story or two. Think of what you want to know about the musicians you like or what you expect to learn when you read about a band in a magazine, and then include that same information in your own bio.
Write and Edit Constantly
It might not be fun, but you should play around with a few drafts of your bio. Your first draft will usually contain some info that you could probably leave out. Try to distill your message down to the really good stuff so that you leave your readers intrigued, not bored.
It's also good to get a few outside opinions on your bio before you run with it. Get a few friends who are willing to give you constructive criticism and let them read it through.
Don't Start at Birth
The worst mistake musicians make in their bios is telling their story from birth. There's no need to go into so much detail. No one really needs to know that you played the lead role in your grade school's production of The Sound of Music. Stay on point about the things you're doing now, and save the rest for your memoirs.