Your band bio is SOOOOO boring!

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Why your band bio is boringAre most musician bios really “a mine of useless information,” the term arts critic David Lister used to describe the biography of virtuoso violinist Julia Fischer that was printed in a concert program?

That’s the conclusion of Anastasia Tsioulcas in her piece for NPR called Why Can’t Artist Bios be BetterThough the article is primarily concerned with the world of classical music, many of the lessons apply no matter what genre you perform.

Here’s what Tsioulcas has to say about bad musician bios:

To me, it’s not just an issue of trite phrasing or poor grammar, though those problems exist. It’s a larger matter of conception and approach. Even soloists and groups who go to great lengths to project a bleeding edge artistic image fall, all too often, into the tropes Lister mentions. Here’s a typical (and real) example from one such ensemble, a group that’s far more innovative and unusual than their bio would suggest:

Paragraph 1: six quotes praising their brilliance from major American critics, crammed together then lightly glazed with enough subjects and verbs to form sentences.

Paragraph 2: a list of their awards and international venues where they’ve played.

Paragraph 3: a long list of composers who have written for them (most of whom very few people would be familiar with, unless the reader were also a composer or performer).

Paragraph 4: a list of academic institutions they’ve worked with.

Paragraph 5: a list of other performers they’ve played with.

Snooze.

As Lister observes, should we be particularly surprised, or impressed, that accomplished artists have performed in prestigious venues? Or that they have collaborated with other top-flight people? Instead of making these endless lists of locations and names, why not spend a few sentences in a bio on topics more engaging, more human, more connected?

So identifying the problem is simple. Your bio might be boring because:

— You’re bragging too much about your achievements or other artists you’ve performed with

— It’s too long, with too much pointless backstory; you’re spending too much time talking about your youth, hometown, or family when it has little to do with your music

— You’re name-dropping at every turn

— It focuses too much on theoretical or process-oriented aspects of your music, and not enough on the person or people behind the music

— There’s no emotional hook, no drama, no struggle, no triumph

— It doesn’t create a sense of urgency in the reader (to either hear the music, or read further details)

But how do you create a memorable story around your music? Something that will capture the imagination of anyone that reads it regardless of whether they enjoy your music or genre?

Here are six articles to help you craft and tell a better artist story

1. how to create and tell your band’s “story”

2. How to write a website bio that rocks

3. Crafting a story for your music the fans and media won’t forget

4. Start with the assumption that the person listening to your music is going to hate it

5. The Art of Tasteful Boasting: how to write a great band bio

6. The fundamentals of your artist bio

What’s your artist story? Have you come up with an undeniable hook? We’d love to read your bios in the comments below.

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  • Kadmium

    The artist bio is not intended to be an intriguing narrative, it’s typically a promoter-targeted one-sheet demonstrating why the artist will make them money. Complaining that it doesn’t capture the imagination is like complaining that the nutritional information for your soda doesn’t have a colourful cast of characters.

    • bodytech

      Thank you…

    • That’s one version of a bio. The other is the part that’s on a fan-facing website or, as the NPR story mentions, in a concert program. In those cases you’re trying to make a non-musical connection with the listener so they’ll listen closer and become a fan.

    • Melissa

      I agree. The problem is bands need multiple bios written for different purposes. For most artists this is more than they can realistically keep on top of and or afford to hire so they just use the one that goes in their one-sheet… which of course is targeted at sales, not existing fans. Ultimately if this guy is already at the concert, he should sit back & enjoy the music and stop fretting about the bands bio.

  • 3000 Records

    Great article. This is so true, and shows exactly why hiring someone to write a good bio is crucial if a band wants an outside perspective with a professional touch. When someone writes their own bio, it’s too easy to literally talk about themselves in a way that is egotistical, and clearly boring. Fans need to be connected with in a way that touches the senses, and a bio with a bunch of boring info. doesn’t do that.

    Warm Regards,

    Terrance D. Schemansky
    http://www.musicbusinessconnection.com

  • bodytech

    Yeah, I personally have to disagree with this article a little bit. Yes, grammar and spelling and the basics of writing are often lacking in artist bios. But there’s nothing wrong with a short bio that lists achievements and notable people you’ve worked with. It tells me much more about whether you’re a reliable person to work with than something dreamy and “entertaining” like, “…Sarah-Jane loved climbing the gum tree in her family’s yard until a tragic fall left her bedridden for the whole summer. As fate would have it, her favorite uncle gifted her with his beloved National guitar and an old Coke bottle to fill her lonely hours. The rest is history…”. I mean, c’mon.

  • These are great points. The key is to remember that it’s a story, not a list of facts. If it’s ok, I’d like to offer one more resource with a step by step method for write a good interesting bio that will be read: http://www.bigwhizbang.com/music-comedy/write-effective-artist-comedian-musician-bio/

  • Tom Hendricks

    But all bands are boring – they are Beatle imitators 60 years too late, and none are as good as the Beatles. Time for a shift in music. I often ask, has music jumped the shark? It has if the only alt is more bands, that is no alt at all.

  • LMAO, literally everything you’re told NOT to do in a band bio you’re suggesting is done now? Every bio tips post I’ve ever read has warned against exactly this because no one will take you seriously if you write about yourself as some kind of struggling underdog on a path to conquer the world or some such nonsense. What a load of BS

  • Keeze

    The author is so obviously jealous! What an idiotic article! Without significant accomplishments, then most anything written is probably just going to be ordinary, unless you just make up a bunch of crap. What is interesting about ordinary?

  • This is a bio that I recently wrote for my band. Would love to get some feedback and thoughts on it. The idea was to be genuine and skip the accolades, we’ve got tons but at the end of the day… Who cares, we just want you to listen to our music.

    Last Bullet Bio

    Here’s the thing… I could use this moment to give you a cookie-cutter style, formulaic blurb about all of our accolades, accomplishments, tours and experiences, using a ton of adjectives to describe how cool we are and why you should listen to our music, but I’m not gonna insult you like that. Instead I’m just gonna shoot straight with you, assume that you’re not an idiot and that you’d like to know the truth about our band, so here goes…

    We try our absolute hardest to embody every single aspect of live rock music that people genuinely love. We are lovers of music ourselves, and we enjoy being entertained more than anything. We believe that every live show is it’s own unique experience that is governed by the setting, acoustics and energy of the crowd. We believe that every song should sound better than it does on the album, every single time, and that solely playing your instrument – no matter how well – is a massive disrespect to your audience. Sight is one of our most important senses, so as a rule of thumb we always put on the type of show that even a deaf crowd would appreciate. We put the onus of responsibility on ourselves to get your feet stomping, your hips shaking and your head banging. We live and die by that creed.

    Last Bullet is more than just a band, it’s an experience. We might play rock, but our music is for everyone. We don’t care how you look, where you’re from, or what you listen to, we will catch your attention and keep it, while raising both your pulse and the temperature of the venue. If that also happens to encourage an epidemic of stink-face, casual sexual encounters or increased bar sales, then so be it.

    With a DIY mentality and a burning passion to make a career out of what we love doing, we’ve been able to accomplish some truly amazing things in the 6 years that we’ve been together. Most recently we’ve been hard at work on our new EP, in an attempt to produce the best music we’ve ever made. As easy as it is to be biased of your own work, we truly believe in what we’ve been able to accomplish in the studio this summer with our friend Brian Moncarz, and we genuinely feel optimistic about the future of these songs and ultimately, this band.

    But you know what? Don’t take our word for it, take it from these awesome people…

    – Bryan Fontez, Frontman of Last Bullet

    “Filthy Rock N’ Roll from Toronto.”– Alan Cross, Radio Host/Personality on Indie 88.1

    “A guitar sound thicker than Rob Ford.” – Kerry Doole, Journalist at NewCanadianMusic.ca

    “Bryan Fontez is the best frontman in the Toronto music scene.” – JC Sandoval, Lead Guitarist of Die Mannequin

    “From the guitar riffs to the raspy vocals, Last Bullet are one of Canada’s finest.” – Brittany Anastacio, Radio Host on 97.7 HTZ-FM

    “There are many great live bands from Toronto, but out of the ones I have witnessed, Last Bullet are the best.” – Olivier Guillaume, Writer/Blogger at SleazeRoxx.com

    “Last Bullet live, breathe and sweat rock n’ roll from the pores of each member of the band. As the musical landscape shifts and fans crave real music played by killer musicians, I believe that Last Bullet will be at the forefront of a new wave of rock bands.” – Brian Moncarz, Producer/Engineer – Bleeker Ridge, Circa Survive, Neverending White Lights, Stone Iris, Sumo Cyco, Last Bullet

  • Melissa

    It would be infinitely helpful if David Lister would write his own version of that groups bio for us all to see as an example.

    We could then send it to a bunch of other critics and see what they think of his version …and then send it to a bunch of promoters and see if it sells the band.

  • The problem is so many popular acts all sound the same. It isn’t like the 60s, 70s and 80s where someone new and exciting came around doing their own thing, not trying to sound like everybody else. They just played the music they liked playing, not what data says people like. The Rolling Stones never made music because they wanted to make tons of money, they did it because they loved playing music.

  • Thanks for commenting, and sharing the link. Good advice there. I love the Ken Burns line.

    @ChrisRobley