If you’re a musician who wants to book more work, start by composting. Here’s what I mean: The first step to having effective promo materials — the kind that help you book more work — is to create what I call a Bio Compost list. This includes all of the items you could include in your new and improved Bio.
I love giving this assignment to clients because it’s the best antidote to the fear that so many of us have, that we “don’t have anything worthwhile to write about.”
When most musicians even think of re-working their Bios, the negative self-talk cranks up, along with their dislike of self-promotion, and all the horrible judgments we inflict on our writing, our accomplishments, and our selves.
That’s why I recommend starting with a simple list.
What’s a Bio compost list?
It’s a long list you make in a single column format, of items that COULD be included in your new BIo. This is about gathering the organic material you can use to grow your new Bio.
It’s a big mistake to skip this step because this is where you get to remember credits and experience you’ve forgotten about. And this is where you have a chance to think beyond the limitations of your current Bio, résumé, or CV, so you can start to see yourself in a new light.
Remember, we’re not putting anything into sentences yet, so there’s no worrying about grammar or syntax. We’re simply writing down the things that might be used in your new Bio.
So be inclusive — don’t censor or pre-judge: at this stage, more is better. Don’t worry over what’s “good enough” for your bio. We’re not editing: We’re composting.
To book more work, start by composting using these categories
List whatever you have in the following categories. You don’t need to have items for each of these: just list what you DO have.
Venues: List the places where you’ve performed (include name of the venue, city, state/or country). No dates needed. Don’t worry about what’s impressive. Just list where you’ve performed.
Collaborators: List the names of any well-known artists you’ve with whom you’ve performed.
Ensembles: Include noteworthy groups you’ve performed with: orchestras and conductors, bands, and/or chamber ensembles.
Projects: these can be past and/or present. Include the details that an outside reader would want to know: special repertoire, partnering organizations, and outcomes (audience size or review quotes if you have these).
Range of repertoire: List five composers whose works you perform: do NOT simply list the usual suspects. Select the most varied set from the more interesting corners of your repertoire. Try it in a single sentence: NOT in chronological order. Instead, arrange in an order that piques our curiosity. For example, “Her repertoire includes works by Walden, Wuorinen, Ravel, Navok, and Janacek.”
Commissions / Premieres: List composers and any notable partnering organizations that were involved and any notable themes or ideas the new works explored.
Community Engagement: don’t forget educational concerts (AKA “outreach”), residencies, and workshops. List the organizations where you did these and any remarkable engagement activities you used.
Description of your music: based on what audience members have told you, and any reviews you’ve received, include a short description of your sound, avoiding clichés, and/or a description of what your performances are like.
Recording projects: List the relevant details: repertoire, collaborators, and (if you have them) labels, and notable review quotes.
Publications: If you’ve written articles or books that a concert presenter would genuinely find relevant, list the title, publisher, and why it’s of interest.
Honors & Awards: these might be grants, competitions, or scholarships. Include the name of award. No dates (unless in the last 2 yrs.) and no dollar amounts, please.
Testimonials: if you have testimonials from concert presenters or recommendation letter excerpts you’d like to use, just get permission to quote these in your Bio.
Education: just schools and degrees and year of graduation.
Stories: Include a brief 2 line reminder of any compelling anecdotal material that comes up in when considering WHY you make music. This can be fleshed out later. For now, just make a note of the story essentials. These might be, as we covered last week, about how a) you got started (Origin story) or b) how you overcame adversity (Challenge story), or c) your ultimate purpose (Commitment story).
Remember, don’t concern yourself with what you don’t have: list what you DO have.
The point is to uncover material that could tell the true story of who you are as a musician and what you have to offer. Just get what you HAVE done on your list.
Next week we’ll take this further on the journey to your better Bio—YAY!
And if you’d like to find out how getting expert coaching can help you bring more of your best work into the world, let’s talk.
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well