You know it’s important to have people spreading the word about your band at work, at school, and in online communities. Who wouldn’t want to be empowered by engaged fans showing up in larger numbers month after month? What a lot of people don’t know is that this conversation usually begins at a single origin; the band biography.
What is the Artist Biography?
Your band biography is a key tool to help you draw in fans, get more gigs, and open new opportunities. Writing a band biography can be difficult to do in-house, which is why many acts struggle with it and hire a copywriter.
In this article, I will show you all of the components of a strong artist biography as well as give you the steps needed to write your best band biography ever.
Having a well-written biography sets you apart from the pack and increases your chances for high-opportunity leads to respond to your proposals. It doesn’t need to set you apart as the “greatest band ever”, but it should get the reader intrigued enough to check you out.
There are different types of biographies that you will utilize throughout your journey but they all answer the same basic questions – who is the act, what does it sound like, where are they from, and how far are they on their journey.
Band Biography Questions
A biography’s job is to provide the context for the music. It should accurately prepare the listener for your songs. It should answer a few questions that most listeners have in mind. I have broken these down for you below.
Who – Who are you? What are the names of your current bandmates, what were the names of the founders? What other acts have your musicians been a part of or recorded with? The best answer to this question would show that your band is full of credible musicians with experience or a history of relevant or interesting projects.
What – What do you sound like? Don’t compare yourself to big name artists. Instead, use the descriptive terms found inside the big name artist biography in your own biography.
Describe your sound through intriguing, informative, and vivid terms. Use highly descriptive and emotionally engaging language. Decorate your band’s bio with evocative imagery through the written word. Use a Thesaurus if you need help coming up with words. Show, don’t tell. Never, ever use hyperboles or “absolute” words – full, complete, unique, or empty. If you have to compare yourself to an artist, say that you are ‘influenced’ by them instead of being ‘just like’ them.
You need to set yourself apart!
Where – Where did you come from? Your notable history and musical releases should be included here. We don’t care when you started playing music or that you were in a bunch of garage bands that no one has heard of. If you don’t have extensive history with the scene, then spend more time describing your sound. You should spend a paragraph discussing where you’ve played, who you’ve played with in your scene, and which regional gatekeepers support your band.
How – This is very important! Most indie artists see the ‘how’ as an opportunity to share about all of their hard work and how much they practice, but this isn’t the story your listeners want to read about.
Your listeners want to believe that your band was ‘destined to be’. I’ve heard of groups that supposedly wrote their debut single on the night of their formation, but then took three whole years to release their debut record. Although this seems unlikely, it creates that ‘destiny’ vibe that listeners grab onto. Please don’t go on about how often you practice! If you aren’t practicing 3 hours a day, you’re already behind and don’t need to let everyone know about it.
Telling Your Story
Your band biography should have just enough information to convince people to listen to a record. Do you remember Bon Iver’s debut album? I’m sure that before listening to the record, you were intrigued by the album’s creation story. For those unfamiliar, Justin Vernon retreated to a cabin for 3 months to get over a hard breakup, and brought some instruments with him. When he returned, he came back with an album of over-dubbed songs which would become the Grammy-winning For Emma, Forever Ago. He was a regionally-known artist who was able to sell a story and album that resonated with people around the world.
A strong story is sometimes all you need to get a record to the ears of your listeners. It just needs to be interesting enough to get them to check you out for 10 to 30 seconds. When you are writing your bio, think about what sort of things draw you to other artists when you read their bios. Try to make yourself stand out in the same fashion.
Here is a one-liner bio about one of my favorite hip-hop artists – “Building on the rapping style of eccentrics Kool Keith and Del the Funky Homosapien, Def Jux artist Aesop Rock became one of the hottest MCs in the post-millennial underground” (iTunes).
Here’s a write-up for an indie band, “With a sound that’s as exuberant as it is infectious, Athens, Georgia dance-rock quartet Reptar has been scuffing up dancefloors since they formed in 2008. The band brings danceable electronic rock into the modern era with a sound that evokes the classic synth-drenched funk of Prince and densely layered dance-pop of bands like Passion Pit” (iTunes).
At the heart of a strong biography is a basic story arc. The artist acts as the hero in the story resolving a problem.
Take these stories, for example; Wayne Coyne is a walking revelation after he was almost killed as a cashier. Justin Vernon became a heartbreak hero after he retreated to be alone in a cabin for 3-months after a breakup.
You shouldn’t have to convince your audience that you are a great musician. But you do need to entice their imagination by making them feel like you are on a journey that they can be a part of.
Band Biography Variations
Audience – There are two audiences that you need to entice with your bio; the public and the professional music community. Both are reading for the similar purpose of determining whether or not your values align with their own.
A band bio is not a one use tool, but more like a Swiss army knife.
Instead of having one bio that you use for everything, it is about using the right parts from your core (log form) artist biography to meet the different tasks at hand.
Don’t just simply copy and paste the same bio everywhere; instead, compile the right pieces to convey the right message.
Length – Band bios should never be more than one page. Unless you have a biographer writing your life story, one page is sufficient. Even the most famous musicians are forced to edit out or summarize most of their story for readability. As much as fans love John Lennon, they just don’t have two years to get through his full life story. They want the interesting parts.
Start by writing your long biography. By the time you are done with this article, you should have a single strong band biography which can be broken down into smaller, more specialized bios for specific audiences.
The biography that you send to a booker or promoter might not be the same biography that you post on your facebook page (which actually allows for multiple biography lengths).
After drafting your long band biography, the next thing to do is trim out the unnecessary details and information. Use the free Hemingway tool to simplify your language.
Let’s work through this quick exercise to help you contextualize the voice you should use when writing your band biography.
Imagine that you are a music journalist for Rolling Stone, and you are tasked with bringing attention to a brand new act. Their sound is new and they have a rabid fanbase that lovingly call themselves by a unique name. They have rocketed to the top of the charts in a matter of a few years.
- Who are they?
- What do they sound like?
- Where did they come from?
- How did/do they reach out to their fanbase? Latest Project, Guest Features/Collaborations, etc.
Hint: Think of how a fan of yours would describe your band to someone else. For instance the specific sub-genres and in what order they list them. Specifically comparing yourself to other artists will hinder the process of your fans defining you for themselves.
“The Bayonettes is an indie rock band from Phoenix, AZ, formed in 2012. The group consists of vocalist April Lonie (Finalist on NBC’s The Voice), guitarist/producer Mick Moran, and drummer and keys player Jonny Swift. The band’s music has been characterized as drawing on modern pop and surf-rock influences and they have been described as “a truly important band of the twenty-first century” by Time Magazine.
After releasing their debut record independently in the spring of 2015, the Bayonettes drove to Chicago to protest radical law changes. The band climbed on top of their tour bus and performed until they were pulled down and arrested by the police. After the stunt, The Bayonettes debut album “StarDuster” charted #22 in Billboard’s Top 100.”
Fitz and The Tantrums
Look at the differences between the vocabulary between the biographies listed on the band’s website and their Wikipedia page.
Bio On Website – Notice the differences in branding and wordage.
The difference between these two biographies is night and day. The language used in the Wikipedia article is professional and factual. The biography on The 1975’s website is drenched with emotional language. Quick side note, it looks like their copywriter and web designer are clearly in sync by knowing their target demographic.
This is an artist biography by the artist CloZee. While she opens with a weak ‘childhood’ introduction, it was likely included to inspire her fans. Immediately after that section, the bio jumps into her significant history – awards, sonic inspirations, performance history, and remix contests. While it establishes her as a credible artist, I’d like to see more details about her music. The phrase about her “unique, highly surprising style, mixing powerful basslines” is empty and not very descriptive. She uses the same biography on her Facebook and website.
By now you should fully understand how to create a great band bio. We have broken down the components, the target audience, and the various versions that you’ll need to create. We’ve discussed the do’s and do not’s of writing a bio, such as always using descriptive language, not comparing yourself to others, and never using superlatives. We’ve provided a few examples of strong biographies to get you inspired.
If you haven’t taken a look at our Band Bio worksheet, click here to check it out.
After writing your band’s bio, its extremely important to create your Electronic Press Kit and your band website. These platforms will increase the amount of opportunities your band will be subject to, whether its booking more gigs, reaching out to labels, or just having something for your fans to enjoy. They will show the identity of your band and will be a quick way for the outside world to gain access to your music and information!
If you’ve filled out the worksheet and created an artist bio, I’d be interested to see what you have written. Post your band’s bio below! If not yours, post your favorite band’s bio.