You Need a Better Bio
Writing about yourself is hard, writing about music is ridiculous, and writing about your own music can be excruciating. But these words can motivate people to click and listen, to attend, to collaborate, to promote, book, and fund your music. So it’s time to admit it: your bio could use an upgrade, right?
It’s Not Me, It’s Your Bio
You know I think the world of you, and I’d never, ever want to hurt your artistic sensibilities! It’s just that how you describe yourself is . . . uh . . . it’s just . . . so. . . so BORING!
YOU and your CRAZY MUSIC aren’t boring! But baby, it’s your bio . . . it’s FALSE ADVERTISING! Makes you and your music sound so generic—it’s embarrassing and so not YOU.
Look, I know you hate promoting yourself, but I just can’t take it. Either you upgrade your damn bio, or I’m serious . . . I’m gonna question your commitment to your own work!
As a music career consultant, I love working with musicians on their bios. It’s fascinating: helping creative people uncover and articulate their stories. It’s part detective work and part investigative journalism. With clients, I listen and learn about their work, projects, backgrounds, and goals. It’s about finding the real story—the connective thread that helps shape and give meaning to experience and intention. Together, we work to reveal the artist’s truth and communicate it through their promotional materials: their websites, program notes, and online profiles.
But I get it, most musicians find that writing a bio ranks right up there with getting a root canal. Writing about yourself is hard, writing about music is ridiculous, and writing about your own music can be excruciating.
Popular Excuses for Having a Crappy Bio
‘Who Cares?’ Excuses
Hey, my friend wrote mine using my résumé. What, it lists what I’ve done—what’s wrong with that? Covers all the bases and I come across as “professional,” like all the other musicians I know.
No one reads bios anyway—they’re just there to fill up space on the program or on my website. It’s not about the person: it’s about the music.
‘Too Shy’ Excuses
It’s uncomfortable to brag about myself. It feels too “sales-y.” Self-promotion is awkward, and I’m not about any of that.
Writing my bio unleashes all my self-esteem demons so I just keep using my same crap version with occasional updates.
‘Up Yours’ Excuse
I really don’t care if anyone hears my music: I write for me and my cats.
‘Too Busy’ Excuse
I don’t have time to work on it. I’m too busy complaining about how hard it is to get my music out there.
My Personal All-Time Fav Excuse
I want my music to speak for itself.
To be brutally honest, most musician bios are cliché-ridden boredom fests of performances, awards, and degrees. Composers and improvisers have the added challenge of describing their music. That’s where things usually go from soporific to seriously awkward. Descriptions of music are often word fogs. They come in two varieties: incomprehensibly poetic or analytic jargon-filled academic-ese.
As a field, we can do better.
You may still be thinking, “So what? My bio doesn’t impact who comes out to hear my music or who gets involved in my projects.”
REASONS YOU NEED A BETTER BIO
With a more human, personal connection, an effective bio can enhance:
To get a feature story, an interview, or even just a highlighted “pick of the week” for your upcoming premier, a journalist or blogger has to find something newsworthy about you and your music. Your bio is key to the press release: it needs to be a compelling read for non-musicians.
Your Fan Base
Your friends and family will come to your next performance, and they’ve agreed to each bring two friends to the concert. They send invites with links to your site so people can read about you and the upcoming event. Especially for people new to new music, an engaging bio and description of the work—written with non-musicians in mind—can motivate people to attend. Make sure you offer material that is FB, Twitter, and Instagram-friendly so that your supporters can help enlist new fans.
The people who donate or commission works are those who have first become fans of you and your music. That means they need to get to know you. What helps strangers want to come meet you after a performance? It’s how you come across in the program (or online before the concert), along with how you introduce the work verbally from the stage. Do you come across in print, online, and in person as an engaging human being with a story a non-musician can relate to?
How do performers find out about you and your music? They too are influenced by what they find out about you online. Does your bio help make connections by revealing your personality and perspective? With a more reader-friendly, direct, and personable bio, you make it easier for people to want to work with you.
In working with musicians on their bios, the ultimate focus is on their mission. When musicians become clear about why they do what they do, and can articulate it in words and convey it in their promotional materials, it has a marvelous effect: they become more centered, more confident, and more productive. It enriches their networking and their everyday behavior. As a result, their projects and careers start to move forward with new energy.
This may seem counter-intuitive. A bio is simply a marketing tool and who cares about words—it’s all about the music, right?
Actually, what I’ve found is that working with musicians on their bio helps them clarify their purpose. Then it’s easier to align their mindset with their actions, and for their careers to gain traction.
A bio is just words, but these words are gateways for your music. Words can motivate people to click and listen, to attend, to collaborate, to promote, book, and fund your music. Words can also help you clarify your values and goals—as both an artist and a person.
I found my favorite response to the “I want my music to speak for itself” rationale on CDBaby’s DIY Musician site: “Sometimes your music only gets to speak for itself AFTER you’ve spoken on its behalf.”
Most musicians are confused about who they’re writing the bio for and why.
So let’s start with the ideal: an effective bio conveys a vibrant, distinct impression of you and your work. It communicates who you really are as a person and what your aesthetic sensibility is. As a marketing tool, bios need to pique readers’ interest, motivating them to click, listen, and connect with you.
The good news is that there are examples and tools that can help you write a better bio. I want to leave you with an example of a terrific mini bio (a perfect introduction for a website landing page):
A jazz singer and new music composer of eclectic tastes and prodigious gifts, GRAMMY®NOMINATED Theo Bleckmann makes music that is accessibly sophisticated, unsentimentally emotional, and seriously playful. His work provokes the mind to wonder, but connects immediately with the heart.
I love the description of his music. It’s humanizing: no clichés or jargon in sight. The three contradictory descriptive phrases help us imagine the sense of layered meaning in his work. And the last line describes how his music affects listeners. This isn’t hype. His recordings, full bio, and press quotes make clear he’s the real deal as described. This bio is more than accurate: it piques my curiosity and makes me want to click play. It works as a call to action.
Admit it, your bio could use an upgrade, right? Don’t be part of the problem: we all want more people getting turned on to new music and it can start with your own bio.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment with the first of the seven keys to writing a better bio.
Music career consultant Angela Myles Beeching helps musicians book more work so they can live the life they desire. Author of Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music, Angela also writes the popular weekly blog Monday Bytes. In her sordid past, she directed career and entrepreneurship programs at Manhattan School of Music, Indiana University, and New England Conservatory. Comments, complaints, questions, career coaching needs? Reach her directly at [email protected]