Image: A Divine Humour (Creative Commons)

Here is the last of our mini bio series before we move on to other topics. Here are 2 perspectives on bio writing I found especially helpful:

1. From Michael Gallant, in his excellent Discmakers piece “How to Write a Killer Artist Bio“: 

“As a longtime music journalist myself, I’ve received countless press packages containing bios that didn’t grab my attention one bit. Why? They were too vague. A statement like ‘Artist X has recorded a career-defining album, meshing genres into a sound all his own,’ tells me literally nothing. Much more intriguing, vivid, and informative, is something like ‘Artist X has recorded the first all-kazoo album of his career, combining speed metal and Zydeco influences into a pummeling sound that has rocked the San Fernando Valley.’ “ 

“A simple test is to ask yourself, with each phrase, could this describe any number of artists, or only the music that I’m writing about? The closer to the latter you can come on a consistent basis, the more compelling your artist bio will be.”

Note: this test, “could this description apply to a number of other artists?” is equally relevant when you are working on your resume or CV or teaching philosophy statement—make sure you use distinctive and specific details that help readers distinguish you from all the others. 

2. And this final piece of Bio advice is from Chris Bolton’s piece “How to Write a Website Bio that Rocks.” Chris identifies the two key components of an effective bio: the facts, and your story.

By facts, he refers to the basic info that we need: what you do, your mission, how long your band has been together, a few key accomplishments, and a quote or two if you have them.  

But facts by themselves don’t move us to action, don’t help make a human connection. For that we need story. Chris writes:

“At the heart of any great bio is a story. A good story is something that both your fans and reviewers will be compelled to pass along. It’s not only valuable for your bio, it’s something that should always be on the tip of your tongue when someone asks you about what you do.

Hint: Your story already exists. You just need to find it.

Another Hint: Many of your facts may be part of your story. Feel free to sprinkle them in.

Finding Your Story

A story, in its simplest form, is simply a problem and a resolution. Here’s a made-up example:

“We wanted to start a bluegrass band but there were no fiddle players in our town. So, we paid for my little brother to take fiddle lessons, and a year later the Tweed Brothers were born.”

Pretty simple, right?

Problem: Need fiddle player
Resolution: Trained little brother to play fiddle.

What problem, issue, or conflict is at the heart of your project and how are you endeavoring to find resolution? This can be approached from many different angles. Here are a few examples:

“We formed ‘The Forgotten Ones’ because we were appalled by what we saw going on in the welfare system.”

“I needed a way to express my views on the universe and music proved the perfect medium.”

“I was in love with a computer programmer who broke my heart. ‘Computer Love’ was a project that allowed me to create and heal at the same time.”

“We wanted to address post-modern dilemmas in a lighthearted way. So we created a cast of fictional comedic characters to populate our songs.”

Hint: If you can describe your story in a sentence, then it should be a piece-of-cake to expand it to a paragraph. Just fill in the details.”

This brings us full circle to Dallas Travers’ advice in pt. 1 of our series: she suggested your bio should answer a key question—that’s another way of understanding story as problem and its resolution.

Ultimately, a great bio reveals your authentic self. Think about what you are motivated or fascinated by—what specifically drives your work.

Write Your Truth.

Want more ideas? Check out:

Edna Landau’s excellent piece on bios (from her Ask Edna series)

And in my book “Beyond Talent” there a whole section on writing bios.

Plus: here’s a quick video: The 4×6 of How to Write a Great Musicians’ Bio

This week: Pay attention to bios you come across and look for opening lines and paragraphs that grab you—that make you want to keep reading. I’d love to see what you come up with and why the bio works for you!

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