Promoting your music career starts with your Bio. It’s the essential foundation needed to tell the world who you are and what you have to offer.
Having a compelling musician Bio is important because whether it’s on your website, your social profiles, in a press release, or in a concert program, your Bio is what people typically read BEFORE hearing your music—and you can’t un-do a first impression.
An effective online musician Bio activates your readers’ curiosity and gets them to take action so that they click “play” and listen to your music. That’s the crucial step needed to get someone to buy a ticket or a recording, to sign up for your newsletter, or to hire you.
The problem is most musician Bios AREN’T effective, let alone amazing. Most musician Bios are deadly boring lists of venues, ensembles, awards, and clichés—stuff your readers don’t really care about.
To help, I’ve put together this guide based on my 30+ years of running career and entrepreneurship programs at Manhattan School of Music, Indiana University, and New England Conservatory. My aim here is to help you write a Bio that actually works to help you book more performances.
In this guide I clarify what an effective musician Bio includes, tips to make the writing easier, and templates and examples to illustrate what can make a Bio amazing. Let’s start with the basics:
What IS a musician Bio?
First, it’s NOT your biography: it’s not a detailed chronological account of your life and career. Instead, think of it as your highlight reel designed with your reader’s needs in mind.
To be clear, your Bio is a MARKETING piece. That doesn’t mean using lots of impressive-sounding adjectives and trying to “sell” yourself. It means your Bio needs to convey a real sense of who you are and what it is you offer audiences—what’s in it for THEM.
This is key: your Bio isn’t for YOU. An effective musician Bio is all about connecting with your intended reader—and conveying how you can meet THEIR needs and interests.
Who is your intended reader?
Know who you’re writing for. Your Bio should NOT be aimed at “everybody.” Nor should it be (secretly) written to impress your family or to shore up your own ego.
You’ll need different versions and different lengths of your Bio depending on the situation. Each should be geared toward the needs and interest of the intended reader.
In terms of length, for . . .
- Your site’s “About” page: 250-350 words
- Presenters’ season brochures: a concise single paragraph (100-200 words)
- Your email pitches: a two-sentence version with just the relevant highlights
- Social platforms: a one-line “Micro Bio” blurb (Instagram limit is 150 characters)
- Teaching: a teaching-focused 200–300 words for your site and/or school’s faculty page
What your reader wants . . .
It’s not just about length. Each Bio version should prioritize what’s relevant to that intended reader. For instance, if your goal is to book more performances, write your website Bio with concert presenters in mind. Prioritize what THEY need to know to consider booking you.
6-Step Process: How to Write an Amazing Musician Bio
1. Gather your potential Bio content
Write a long single column list of items and details you might use in your website Bio. Be inclusive. List whatever you have in the following categories.
- Venues where you’ve performed (or where your music has been performed)
- A description of your sound, original music, or your performances (how others describe these)
- Noteworthy programming or projects (collaborations, tours, etc.), recent or upcoming
- Testimonials / quotes from presenters, well-known mentors, or reviews
- Any community engagement / education offerings (AKA outreach work)
(These are what concert presenters in general care most about.)
Other content to consider . . .
Awards, grants, or competitions you’ve won (if relevant and notable)
Premiers of new works
Range of your repertoire
Noteworthy ensembles/individuals you’ve performed with
Schools you’ve attended and degrees received (these are optional)
2. Get real: include your WHY
Make an emotional connection with your readers. It’s not enough to say you are passionate about music: tell us WHY. People want to know what motivates you, what inspires you.
This can be done several ways, in just a sentence or two you can tell readers, for example how . . .
- you first fell in love with music (an “ah-ha” moment).
- you overcame obstacles to make your career in music possible.
- social issues have informed your concert programming or the projects you take on.
- the places you’ve lived and key influences have shaped your original music.
- your ensemble first met and came together as a group.
Add whatever you come up with to your growing list of potential Bio content.
3. Lead with a great hook
Effective bios grab readers’ attention immediately and keep them reading.
Look over your list and select 1-3 items that might make a good lead. Maybe it’s your mission or what your performances or your music is like, or a noteworthy recent project. Here are . . .
Musician Bio examples of first lines
“Dubbed one of a coterie of “favorite Brazilian guitarists” by Villa-Lobos magazine, Alvaro Henrique’s mission is to connect audiences with a world of emotions and stories that spark ideas, conversation, and meaning.”
[What’s conveyed? The quote establishes credibility plus we get his Mission and what’s in it for the audience.]
“Katherine Bergman is a Minnesota-based composer who draws on literature, environmentalism, and found materials to create music that has been described as hypnotic and visceral.”
[Here we get an engaging description of the composer’s music and a description of what audiences experience.]
“Pianist Nathaniel LaNasa discovers fresh possibilities of sonority and gesture in music—especially in music being written NOW.”
[What’s conveyed here? The artist’s WHY and his repertoire focus.]
Beyond your first line, your opening paragraph should present an overview of your top credits and a sense of your sound, or your mission, or what’s distinctive about your programming.
4. Build your Musician Bio right
Look over the remaining items on your list and group similar items together. So, if you’re a singer and your list includes opera, musical theater, and oratorio credits, you’d make three separate groupings with the details for each of these types of performance credits.
Then, use your grouped items to write draft sentences and short topic paragraphs, cherry-picking the most relevant credits to use.
For instance, a jazz guitarist might have a short paragraph on her recently released album and include the inspiration behind it, a few of the venues played on the album release tour, and a review excerpt.
Note: Don’t write in chronological order. And avoid sentences with long lists of credits. Most readers will lose interest by the 4th or 5th item, so only include what’s most relevant. Less is more.
Musician Bio Structure Template
Here’s a rough guide of what generally goes where in a musician Bio. You don’t have to have all these items. This is about inspiring you to see more possibilities.
Keep in mind that journalists typically cut from the bottom so check that your first paragraph makes an impact and can stand alone if needed.
The first paragraph
Top relevant credits
Range of what you offer (overview)
Your mission (your WHY)
Description of your sound, music, or your distinctive programming
Or what your performances are actually like (what audiences experience)
The middle paragraph(s)
Projects and collaborations
Honors and awards
Story and/or mission
Education: degrees, schools (optional)
Your workshop, masterclass, or residency offerings
5. Make your Bio credible
Beware of broad, vague statements. Without backup, generalizations come off as empty advertising. Concrete details and examples make you and your Bio believable.
Instead of “has performed throughout New England,” get specific: “Regional credits include the Portland Museum of Art (ME), the Redfern Arts Center (Keene, NH), and RealArt Ways (Hartford, CT).”
If your Bio claims you have a “wide repertoire,” make sure you have specifics to back it up like “creates programs that range from Monteverdi, Rachmaninoff, and Haydn, to Higdon, Schumann, and Harbison.”
6. Edit your Bio like a Pro
Most of the work of Bio writing is RE-writing. I’ve found effective Bios require at least 7 full rewrites: it’s a process.
Here are two free writing resource recommendations. First, the Hemingway Editor helps streamline and strengthen your language by pointing out overly complicated words, passive voice, and run-on sentences. Second, check out Grammarly which highlights grammatical errors in your writing and suggests fixes.
As you work on drafts, read it out loud: your ear will pick up many things that your eye will miss. Find and fix the typos, run-on sentences, and grammatical errors before you send out anything.
Check out this brief interview I did with flutist Meghan Shanley Alger on the Bio writing process.
How to expand your Musician Bio’s impact
To illustrate the editing process in action, here’s the “Before” and “After” Bio of one of my former clients (Thank you, Meghan!).
You’ll see the Bio that Meghan first showed me (in blue) along with my comments (in italics). And then you’ll see the final version that Meghan and I created together. Note: there were MANY drafts and conversations in between.
Bio example: the “Before”
As a prominent chamber musician and New York Times reviewed artist, Dr. Meghan Shanley Alger is a thriving independent flutist and artist-teacher in the Washington DC area. The UK Financial Times hailed her as “play[ing] sensitively” and the New York Times wrote, “Ms. Shanley sang into her flute to produce surreal, eerie timbres.”
Note: your first paragraph is the most important because many people will not get past it, so lead with your best material. It should give readers a clear idea of who you are as an artist, what you offer, and your most relevant credits. For presenters, this includes venues where you’ve performed.
These review quotes—though they’re very good—don’t have a context yet and on their own, aren’t enough to hook us and pique our curiosity. And for me, “New York Times reviewed artist” is awkward and unnecessary if you’re going to give us the actual quote.
With a passion for contemporary chamber music, Dr. Shanley Alger co-founded Balance Campaign – an ensemble dedicated to commissioning and performing new works by underrepresented composers with connections to the D.C. area. In past seasons Balance Campaign has commissioned works by Nathan Lincoln de Cusatis and Alexandra T. Bryant, been awarded a residency at Avaloch Farm Music Institute, and worked as ensemble-in-residence with District New Music Coalition and the UMBC Composition Department. They were also recently featured by the Intersections Festival 2020 at Atlas Performing Arts Center. Currently, Balance Campaign is recording their first fully commissioned album that will be released through Orpheus Classical in 2022 and working on a new commission with composer Viet Cuong. In addition to her work with Balance Campaign, Dr. Shanley Alger is a member of the Annapolis Chamber Players and has been a guest artist with the Georgetown Quintet, and featured soloist with the Romanian National Philharmonic Orchestra at the Alba Music Festival.
This paragraph is so full of impressive details that the reader would easily get the impression that you ONLY play chamber music. If you want to be considered for more solo recitals, I’d recommend for the first paragraph adding some impressive venues where you’ve performed and then slimming down the Balance Campaign material so that it doesn’t dominate the bio.
Also, I’d avoid having links to other people and ensembles in your Bio. This is where you want to have people NOT be distracted or pulled away. Instead, create a clear call to action so they check out YOUR music.
And a pet peeve of mine: the word “passion” is such a cliché that I’d remove it from ALL your promo materials.
Dr. Shanley Alger maintains a dynamic and diverse private lesson studio. Her students have successfully auditioned for collegiate level music degrees, local youth orchestras, All State, All County, and honors ensembles, and her flute choirs have performed at venues such as Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and the Katzen Arts Center. She is also Adjunct Faculty at International School of Music and Norwood School, and held an Adjunct Faculty position at Holton-Arms School.
I recommend NOT trying to do an “all in one” performance/teaching Bio. Instead, have two separate Bios on your website. That way, on your teaching pages you can have a focused bio tailored to attract your ideal students.
And for your performance Bio, I’d suggest at the end of it focusing on the educational concerts, master classes, or workshops you offer as part of performance residencies—because that IS something presenters want to know about.
Beyond performing and teaching, Dr. Shanley Alger is also a member of the Leadership Team for District New Music Coalition, an organization dedicated to promoting the performance and appreciation of contemporary music in the Washington, DC area.
Dr. Shanley holds a DMA in Flute Performance from the University of Maryland. Her primary teachers have been Aaron Goldman, Dr. Tara Helen O’Connor, Kathleen Nester, and Sue Ann Kahn.
These last two paragraphs are a bit “academic.” They might work in a faculty Bio for the school where you teach, but for your own website and for pitches, I’d trim this information. And I’d only use the “Dr.” in your teaching Bio, not here.
This Bio version is 351 words and it feels long—it could be more concise and energizing. See final version below.
Final musician Bio example: the “After”
Flutist Meghan Shanley Alger explores sounds on everything from harmonica and beer bottles to live electronics, knitting needles, and pencils. With an uncanny ability to create specific atmospheres, even the New York Times has noted her “singing into her flute to produce surreal and eerie timbres.” Meghan’s performance credits include the Kennedy Center, AMP by Strathmore and Peabody Library, Baltimore, as well as Symphony Space and Carnegie Hall.
Shanley Alger uses commissioning and programming to advance social change, designing concerts that provoke reflection and audience participation. Current projects include a debut album of living women composers highlighting the power of the archetypal feminine energy, with works by Pamela Z, Lunon, Socolofsky, and Nourbakhsh. Other projects include a participatory concert in which audiences honor lost loved ones by co-creating a temporary memorial flower wall at the venue, using paper remembrance notes to write messages.
The ensemble she co-founded, Balance Campaign, (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion) is a laboratory for sound experimentation. Balance Campaign collaborates with composers to reimagine the concert experience and surprise listeners. The ensemble’s debut recording features a work by Nathan Lincoln de Cusatis that highlights human evolution and our impact on the planet. Upcoming collaborations include works by Alexandra T Bryant and Ashi Day that focus on everything from moms and mice to the Salem Witch Trials.
As a teaching artist, Meghan has presented workshops and residencies in Italy at the Alba Music Festival as well as University of Maryland and Catholic University. Committed to connecting with students and audiences through shared experience and insight, Meghan regularly presents community engagement performances at schools, universities, and festivals.
Words in this version = 270
Note: We shaved 81 words off the original Bio and the new version (in my estimation) is far more engaging. It provides a clear sense of Meghan’s purpose and brings her to life with vivid project descriptions referencing everything from archetypal feminine energy to the Salem Witch Trials. Also, I don’t know how a reader could NOT keep reading after Meghan’s revised opening sentence.
The Bottom Line
In the end, to be effective, your musician Bio needs to capture and hold your intended reader’s attention so that presenters click “play,” check out your music, and eventually hire you.
Use these tips and strategies to write a Bio that helps you make more connections so you can get more of your best work out into the world.
And if, like Meghan, you realize that you’d like personalized help and are curious about working with an expert music career coach, contact me HERE.