Collected here are a number of resources to help you produce a bio that will aid you the most in your pursuits. First is a reprint of an article by writer and music industry publicist Dan Kimpel, which suggests what you should and should not include when writing your bio. Next are several samples of clean, concise page layouts that we think work well. Finally, one example of "how not to write your bio," followed by two examples of far more pleasing pieces.
bio is the cement that holds a press kit together. It should:
1. Create an identity.
2. Define a musical style.
3. Lead the reader directly to the music.
Who needs bios?
Recording artists, songwriters, performers and producers all benefit from well-written bios. "Send your tape, bio and picture," is usually the first request from someone interested in your talents.
What if I don't have major credits?
Unsigned artist bios often spotlight personalities, histories and creative processes. The bio must be honest, but the truth should also sound as good as possible. Never mistake hype for substance.
Can I write my own bio?
Maybe. Some people can take their own pictures and design their own logos, too. But if you're an artist, you probably know how difficult it is to be objective about your music and career.
How long should a bio be?
Usually one page. If you've got a fascinating history--and it's extremely well-written--a one and a half to two page bio is permissible.
How much should I pay a professional to write my bio?
$150-$350 is the standard rate in Los Angeles. Be involved: you can ask for drafts and rewrites.
Beware the hackneyed cliche, the imprecise metaphor, the goofy, strained adjective. "Joe Jones is a brilliant artist," doesn't show--it tells. "Sue Smith is destined for stardom," is lame and off-putting. The bio must lead the reader to his own conclusions. Telling a reader what to feel or think may lead to the exact opposite impression. Double check for proper punctuation, grammar and spelling.
In constructing recording artist Harold Payne's bio I used the global themes in his music to set the stage:
One hundred years ago Harold Payne would have jumped freight trains or stowed away on tramp steamers. He would have written novels like Jack London, painted portraits of exotic womanhood like Paul Gaugin and been a guide through steaming jungles from the furthest outposts of civilization.
In these days of the jet plane, Harold Payne uses songs, his voice and a guitar to traverse a global road from Chiang Mai to Moscow, from Bali to Bora-Bora. He's sung in Singapore, strummed in Samoa, dreamed in Hindu temples and jammed with itinerant street musicians in Ireland. He shares it all on his new Affinity Records release, Pass It On.
Do not include facts which don't impact the music. For instance, it may be pertinent to say you ride horses if you have songs about horses, or have written songs while riding horses or can draw some correlation between horses and music. Otherwise, leave those horses in the pasture. Information about your educational background, work experience, broken marriage, prison term or dysfunctional childhood should be referenced only as it relates to the music.
Vocalist Suzanne Palache wanted a bio which would make the reader say, " I have to meet this woman!" So I began:
Suzanne Palache has enough energy to power a small fleet of motor vehicles. It's a fuel that burns full-throttle, ignited by the heat of her soulful voice and the power and passion of her performance.
For an intimate singer/songwriter:
Tim Gales writes simple songs about complex things: love, family, home, heaven. Phrases turn, emotions connect, melodies soar. You sing along even though you've never heard the tune before. Tim writes from a perspective of distances, of interludes between lovers and lives and the roads that lead from small towns to big cities.
As a journalist, I receive an average of fifteen to twenty major/indie label press kits weekly. There is no singular bio style which is appropriate for all of these artists. A seething, pierced neo-punk aggregation and a soothing, cerebral new-age artist can't possibly share the same metaphors. Your bio must speak in the same voice as your music.
My name is John Smith. I have been writing songs for over twenty years, though I'm just getting serious about it now. I have about 450 songs recorded and ready to go. I make a good living as a computer system analyst which keeps me very busy, but I've never been able to give up my dream of becoming a songwriter. I'm 41 years old and happily married with two great kids, so I'm no longer interested in touring. I do want to make records, though, because I feel my songs are great and they don't sound like any of that hum drum garbage on the radio. My style is unique and doesn't fit in any one genre of music.
I have quite an education in music. In high school, I was in band for all four years and in college, I took three years of music theory. I'm a highly trained pianist, guitarist, and violinist, though I'm also an excellent player of all other major instruments. In fact, rather than messing with coordinating band members that are flaky, I play all the instruments on my demo. I use a Tascam 4 track recorder, but I would like to upgrade to an ADAT some day (I need a record deal first!).
Please call me once you hear these tunes. I know I write great songs and hopefully you can recognize quality work (unlike many of your colleagues). I would appreciate any feedback you can give me, so don't forget to call (although I know you are busy).
A far more interesting bio . . .
My name is Dennis Ray Watts. I was raised in a small town that clings to the western border of West Virginia, separated by a muddy river from the somewhat greener pastures and smoother roads of the state of Kentucky. Many years ago my town was known as "Cassville" until repeated desecration of the letter "C" on the sign leading into town by local wiseacres inspired the founding fathers to approve a change of name to something happy sounding and innocuous and sure never to bring the village into a position of ridicule again. The name they chose? Fort Gay. I spent 23 years there.
Most of the people I knew and grew up with have yet to leave. This album that I have made in the back room of my house, "The Girtys," is partially their story; the ambitions and desires they once held that finally seemed to hover and then dissipate like the smoke from the power plant across the river, apparently gone forever but invisibly managing to linger in the air. It is a record haunted by the ghosts of my dead relations; family members that seemed to go out of this life either meekly unfulfilled or defiantly unrepentant, like my grandfather, shot dead in the streets of Fort Gay only to return, a force of nature, in my most violent desires and ambitions, and also in a song called "Kin." These nine songs are also a record of me, my fear of fading into the serene fields and hills of a small town that never changes or learns, my moments of joy here, my endless confusions with the book I hold in my hands on the album cover. Yes, that's me on the far left, Easter Sunday 1981; eleven years old and so proud of my new blue suit. Everyone was sure I would grow up to be a preacher.
The music on "The Girtys" is not quite the grandchild of either Hank Williams or Bill Monroe, the sounds I alternately loved and hated growing up. It is only a cousin to the Rock music streaming out of my car windows and up and down the dirt roads of my teenage years. A touch of the melodies of the Scotch Irish who first settled in West Virginia is present in "To Stop The World" and "Ashes" and maybe Robert Johnson's delta slide guitar was intermingled in the distant past with the electric slide of "Wild To Be." These nine songs, whatever their lineage, are not exactly like anything that preceded them. They are not Country or Rock or Bluegrass or Celtic. They are only Dennis Ray Watts of Fort Gay, West Virginia.
And another good example . . .
"Doombuggy -- Punk, Power Pop, and Rock and Roll tossed into a blender and turned on high."
So mused one scribe, and he hit the nail on the head. Doombuggy cranks out yowling, souped-up "Slop Pop." You know, blistering micro-anthems embodying that basic Rock and Roll steamroller aesthetic.
Their debut CD was recorded on the cheap during two beer-addled weekends. Nevertheless, the disc has garnered loads of good press. "Not pretentious or proud; a total sweaty Rock fest!" Yeah baby!!
Since hitting the Buffalo scene three years ago, the group has continually expanded its horizons, gigging throughout the Northeast. They've played NYC, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, and numerous other locales in an attempt to become the rustbelt Beatles. They've been fortunate enough to play with lots of great groups like Buffalo Tom, The Fleshtones, Possum Dixon, The Flat Dou Jets, and the ubiquitous Marky Ramone & The Intruders.
Ultimately, it's Doombuggy's live show that generates the most enthusiastic reviews. "Like your best friend's older brother's cool band . . . A kick ass show." "Armed with three chords and a microphone, Doombuggy raced through their set, revved their engines and peeled out, leaving skid marks all the way!" Yee haa!
The following is a cheat sheet of the best Doombuggy press:
"Doombuggy drives the audience to a sweat-crazed dance extravaganza with old school Punk riffs." (Now that's a headline!) -- THE RECORD
"How much do I like the CD from this Western NY group? I played it four times in the first two days after I received it. This is the best blend of melody, power, lyrics, and simple guitar punch I've heard in awhile." -- NIGHTLIFE MAGAZINE
"The Doombuggy CD is awesome, mixing elements of '77 style Punk and straight up Rock and Roll to create some of the catchiest, well-written songs. The guitars have that dangerous, dirty sound." -- FLAVIR
"Hotrods, girls, booze, trashy guitars, speed . . . it's all here! This CD gives one the sense of what music used to be: a release of raw emotions." -- EXTREME
"Doombuggy combines fun, efficiency, and exciting originals. Their apprenticeship in Rock bars may be over, can they make the next step?" -- THE BUFFALO NEWS
"Their album rips through 16 songs and it's definitely the kind of album you listen to all the way through without extending your fingers to the remote." -- NEXT
ATTENTION! Doombuggy has also recorded a bunch of brand-spanking-new songs. While caterwauling still abounds, the group actually took the time to push its noisy little envelope a bit. Listeners will behold a bolder, sleeker, more advanced Doombuggy sound.
Everyone agrees: mmmm . . . delicious! For more information, a copy of the new Doombuggy demo, their debut CD, or merely to chew the fat, contact:
Pat Shaughnessy or Clarke Faust
or mail to:
300 Highland Parkway, #5
Buffalo, NY 14223
Final Notes on Bios
These bios aren't meant as blueprints to be followed precisely, but instead are intended to serve as examples of things that work by providing a clear and interesting representation of the artist.
A bio is not a resume, where specific information is required and a certain
format is followed. There are no hard and fast rules, though there are things
to be avoided.
Your bio is what the stranger who is listening to your demo for the first
time is holding in his or her hand. Make it reflective of who you are as an
artist. Be creative. A well-written bio can make the listener want to hear
your music. It can even affect the way someone listens, causing them to
listen a little more closely or to be more inclined to give you the benefit
of the doubt.