Bio or bust: 6 tips for writing a better musician biography

A good biography is a must for any musician looking to make their big break.

For promoters and broadcasters, the bio is what they read while deciding whether or not to press “play.” For potential fans, a good bio can make the difference between a single listen and heading to iTunes to click “buy.”

Emily Smart is a publicist at Six Shooter Records, a label representing acts like Whitehorse, Amelia Curran and Danny Michel. Here are her tips for writing a bio that won’t bomb.

1. Keep it short and sweet.

You’re lucky if someone reads a full paragraph of your bio, so keep it short. Smart suggests making your bio as easy to read as possible. Provide one or two track highlights with a quick sonic or lyrical description to encourage the reader to start listening — it’s way more likely for someone to hit “play” on a song that’s recommended than to start wading through a full album.

Always lead with your strongest work, musical or otherwise. And don’t weigh down your bio with all of the producer and player specifics on your album; you can include a link to that information if someone is really keen to check it out.

2. Talk about what Google doesn’t know about you.

Giving basic, meaningless facts and stats like radio chart standings isn’t going to encourage someone to take a listen to your music. Smart says that unless you’re ranking number one, it’s not worth mentioning, and certainly not what should lead your bio.

“It doesn’t tell me about your music, it doesn’t tell me about who you are as an artist," says Smart. “Lead instead with something about the music, something about who you are, something about why you’re doing what you’re doing. The other stuff is easy to find on Google.”

3. Keep those names to yourself.

All too often, bands start their bios with a list of other acts they’ve shared the stage with. Smart says, as much as you might care about whom you’ve opened for, your listeners probably don’t.

“People don’t care who you’ve opened for, unless you’ve opened for the Rolling Stones or something," she says. "It has to be so big that it’s worth talking about, because otherwise it just makes you look sort of desperate and you’re just riding coattails.”

4. Earn your superlatives.

Especially when you’re starting out, Smart suggests toning down the overly positive statements. “You can tell people who you are and what you do without words that you can’t justify on your own. Let other people give you those terms like ‘best ever!’”

5. Avoid negativity.

As the old expression goes, you always get more flies with honey. Don’t insult other acts, producers or genres of music. “You’re not going to get press by putting other people down,” says Smart. “Unless, you know, you’re huge and you’re taking on someone else who is huge.”

Keep things positive, and people will be more positive about you.

6. Focus on the music you’re making now.

So, you were in a previous band that had some success. That’s awesome, but that shouldn’t be the focus of your bio — and certainly not how it should start. Make sure the focus is on what you’re doing now and why it’s great.

“I know it’s important to convey that you have a history, but you need to find a way to balance that with what you’re doing in the here and now,” says Smart.

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