Events, Entertainment & Performance Art
How to Write a Professional Artist Bio
Professional Artist Bio for a Press Kit or Proposal
I've seen even successful performing artists who are frequently booked and play regular gigs, write the worst, most unprofessional bio for their press kit or demo package. You might be surprised how often artists do not know how to write an artist bio. A lot of them get caught up in personal details of their life - something that booking managers, venue owners, or any industry professionals don't really give a crap about. The important thing to remember is who your audience is. They are not your close personal friends. They don't care if you've battled through being broke, various personal difficulties, about your childhood, etc. While it may sound harsh - an artist bio is not storytime, or a personal memoir. Personal details about what you've overcome in your life is simply not appropriate material for an artist bio.
I've drawn up a list below of what to include in your bio for a press kit or an on-site proposal for a gig or event. In addition, there's also a few checkpoints to avoid, such as the aforementioned “personal life story,” that no professional booking agent has time for.
Start by opening with your stage name, artist name, band name, etc – what genre of music or performance art you provide, your location and/or where you're from, and perhaps a short, concise positive, relevant statement or quote from a business contact or reference. Your introduction should not start out with “My name is Bobby Rob and I'm a professional accordion player” - or whatever your performance art is. It should be professional in tone, and you should consider writing it in third person (using “he, she, or they” instead of “I”).
If you're a fairly young musician with less than 5 years of experience, your bio should never be more than a page long. Don't be long-winded or wordy, or add in any kind of superfluous content. Remember, typically the people who will be reading your bio have looked at hundreds, or even thousands of others, and are very busy. After the introduction, immediately state the purpose of your bio. Have you just released a new album? Are you looking for regular gigs, or a regular, steady weekend performance slot? Maybe you've just finished putting together your demo kit and want to start performing. Whatever the case, state the purpose concisely, and be forthright. Follow the purpose of the bio by stating any kind of promotions that have supported your efforts. Next, if you have partners, band members, or anyone else involved in your performance art, write informative introductions about who they are, what they do/how they contribute, etc – again, be brief. For instance, something short and simple like - “Bill Boards is our bass player, and also contributes to writing lyrics and overall song production.”
You can include a short line or two about how the group came together, or if you are a solo act, how you got started. Again, I emphasize, when going into your history of how your act was formed, do not provide unnecessary details. Make it descriptive, positive in tone, and indicative of your goals, maintaining a professional artist bio. Here is an example:
“The four of us met at a birthday bash of a mutual friend in Stockton. Ironically, we had all brought our guitars, with individual plans to perform a birthday song for our friend. With just a set of bongo drums and some acoustic instruments, we created a fun, contagious tune for our friend on the spot, and were the hit of the party. Before long, we had formed a great sounding band, and all agreed to commit to playing gigs, recording music, and making professional music goals.”
You want to place a lot of emphasis on things like your accomplishments, your career goals, and, if you're submitting an artist bio to a label or an on-going regular gig, demonstration of commitment. Highlight any awards, all experience related, expertise, and so on. Describe how your current purpose of the bio (record release, etc) fits into your long term goals. This section is probably the most important part of the body of the bio, because it will create the biggest impression of your skill and experience.
One of the things you can use to close is to reiterate the purpose of the bio. You can also use a quote from your lyrics (if you have any) or another quote from a business reference or contact. Keep it concise and wrap things together neatly and professionally.
Now, you may consider yourself someone who couldn't write your way out of a paper envelope. If you feel like no matter what kind of strategy you follow, a four-year-old could write a better bio than you, then have someone you know write it for you (if you go this route, you're not alone - many, many artists have others write their bio). This is often a great idea, as it creates the impression that you have invested enough time and consideration to have someone write your bio professionally. Anyone can find it hard to write about themselves objectively, so consider having someone else write a professional artist bio if you are having trouble.
What NOT to Include in Your Performing Artist Bio
Don't use sob stories, or harp on adversity and problems that made/make your goals difficult. Keep your tone upbeat, descriptive, excited, and motivational. You won't win any gigs by playing the sympathy card - booking agents, and managers don't run their businesses based upon how sorry they feel for poor starving artists.
No details about your personal life that are inappropriate to the purpose, or have nothing to do with booking a show, your career goals, or marketing your performance art. A professional bio is a business document, not your autobiography.
Do not use informal, conversational tones or language (i.e. do not use the kind of language or tone I have used in this article).
Additional Tips for Writing Your Bio
You may ask a few of your most loyal fans for some quotes, but don't overdo it. Only use a couple of the absolute best, most descriptive quotes.
Make the overall bio/press kit professional in appearance. Use professional envelopes, folders and even paper. The first impression you give the people you need to impress is taken in visually (even online you can create a nice pdf kit). If you hand a booking agent a crumpled up bio with coffee stains on it, it's highly doubtful they'll look at it for longer than it takes to throw it in the trash can.
While a performing artist bio is just one part of the whole (press/marketing/demo kit), it is one of the most important. Many artists and entertainers get them wrong, and remain oblivious as to why they are not getting booked more often, or even at all. While I'm certainly not suggesting that a great artist bio is your golden ticket to the chocolate factory, you may be surprised what happens when you present your act with professionalism. What appears professional on paper is often enough to get your foot in the door for that next gig, show, event or opportunity.
Knab, Christopher. “How to Improve Your Press Kit.” Music Biz Academy. December 2001. Fourfront Media & Music. January 2, 2011. http://www.musicbizacademy.com/knab/articles/presskits.htm
Knab, Christopher. “How to Write an Artist Biography: A Bio Made Simple.” Music Biz Academy. April 2010. Fourfront Media & Music. January 2, 2011. http://www.musicbizacademy.com/knab/articles/artistbio.htm