5 Mistakes You’re Making in Your Artist Bio

How NOT to Write an Artist BioYou need a good artist bio. I mean, you really need one. If you expect people to write about you and your music, you’ve gotta give ’em the CliffsNotes. A journalist’s not going to search far and wide just so they can plug a few sentences into a show-preview blurb. Instead, they’ll write about someone else. So, not having a bio can really be detrimental. But having a good one can be one of the most beneficial things in your repertoire – it allows you to have a one-sided conversation with both fans and journalists, giving them the info you think is the most important.

However, having a crappy band-bio can sometimes be worse than not having one at all. Hitching your pony to something that is poorly executed is going to make you look sloppy and unprofessional by association. Here are 5 mistakes you may be making in your bio, and some ways you can fix them.

1. Your bio is too long.

Are you familiar with the internet acronym “tl;dr”? It stands for “too long; didn’t read” and is often seen as a response to lengthy posts in forums, but its applications don’t end there. And this is NOT something you want people to think/type/say when they come across your bio. Allow me to be blunt here: no one wants to read 1500 words about your band, except possibly the people in your band. People want the condensed version – an easy-to-swallow overview that doesn’t feel like homework. Give that to them.

2. Your bio is too short.

“Goat Desolation plays barnyard-themed black metal and is from Parts Unknown” isn’t going to cut it as a full bio. Yes, it’s good that they’ve got where they’re from and what kind of music they play in there, but there should be more. Tell a simple version of your backstory, give some examples of who you’ve been compared to musically, and list off some career highlights if you have any. Two or three concise, well-worded paragraphs is all you really need. And when someone sees that, they’ll take the time to read it. Because it won’t take that much time.

3. You waste space with things no one is going to care about.

I’m going to be blunt again: People might want to know how your band got together, but they aren’t going to want to know every single detail of how you all ended up in the same garage. And if they do, you can post the long version in a special place on your website. I’ve seen band bios that try and take the reader through a step-by-step account of how each member joined the band, what bands they were in before, how many practices it took for them to find their groove – something that could have been summed up with “Goat Desolation formed in the summer of 2012, drawn together by a mutual love of most things metal and all things beer. They started playing shows three months later.”

Your band’s origins are interesting to you, and maybe to your friends, but you’ve gotta think big-picture here. Along these same lines: If your bass player used to be in Stryper, mention that. If he used to be in a band that no one has heard of outside your neighborhood, do not mention that.

4. You forget to include things that everyone will care about.

These things include band members’ names, what their function is in the group, how many records you’ve put out, where you’re from, a succinct description of your musical style, etc. In other words, things that someone who is going to write about your music is going to want to know. Again: make it easy for them. They’re going to write their own piece, but your bio can steer them in a direction that will be beneficial for you, so take hold of the reins. And your drummer will thank you when he gets his name in a blurb instead of just being referred to as “the drummer.” He’s probably already had enough of that.

5. Your bio is poorly written or formatted.

Spell-check is only going to catch so much. If you’re worried that you’re not the best writer, have someone who you know is a good writer help you out, edit your copy, or do it for you. If I see a bio that isn’t separated into easy-to-read paragraphs and is riddled with grammatical and/or spelling errors, I’m not going to assume that artist is dumb, but I’m going to assume they’re lazy, and that’s even worse. Why spend all that time perfecting your music just to half-ass it when it comes to describing it?

Got any other suggestions for this list? Add them in the comments.

And be sure to check out these past articles about writing a great band bio.

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* Website Advice: Make Your Artist Bio Matter.

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3 comments to 5 Mistakes You’re Making in Your Artist Bio

  • Clark Colborn

    Good article. This is one of the two things I struggle with, constantly. While I have been told that I’m a pretty good writer, I just cannot put together a bio that I like. I have no objectivity regarding the things other people will find interesting about me or my music. So clearly, as #5 points out, I need someone else to help me with this. I’ve even hired professional writers a couple of times, but in the end their bios seemed as trite as my own attempts, so I’m still looking for help. Does anyone out there know someone that could write a really good bio? I can’t afford Robert Christgau, but I don’t expect free, either.

    Maybe they could help me with the second thing I struggle with, too, which is describing my music. If I say “Early Van Halen jamming with Joe Satriani & King Crimson” 99 out of 100 people say “You lost me after Van Halen.” I’ve asked my fans, but they all hear something different – If I ask 20 of them I get 23 different responses, ‘cuz there’s always a few people that can’t make up their mind! And often, the bands they mention are bands I’ve never even heard of, so that doesn’t help me much.

    Maybe that’s your tip #6 – when mentioning influences or similar sounding artists, try to mention someone fairly well known in addition to the obscure artists you like. Outside of my guitarist friends, I don’t know anyone that knows who Paul Gilbert is. And even most of my musician friends don’t know who Captain Beyond was, so I rarely mention them.

    Okay, gotta go stare at my current bio a bit, and hope to find that special writer that can help me out!

  • Mike O'Cull

    This is an excellent article. I am both an artist and music journalist/magazine guy and I also do bios for others. I agree with every one of these points and have made them, in my own way, to many past clients. Great job!! I think too many artists do not place enough importance on the text-based parts of their promo. If you are not good at doing it, get a pro to do it for you.

  • marycigarettes

    to hell with the facts…tell an interesting story, and make sure it gives the very essence of you…that’s all you have to do.

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