Despite having worked with hundreds of bands through Indie Panda, I can probably count the number of truly effective band biographies I’ve seen on one hand. As always, I’ve found that many of the mistakes bands tend to make stem from a poor mindset towards marketing themselves combined with a limited understanding of what audience & industry are actually looking for. Here are 14 actionable tips for writing a band biography which effectively entices both audience & industry to take an active interest in your band.
1. Understand The Purpose & Use Of A Biography
The sole purpose of a band biography is to succinctly provide both audience & industry with context to the music you create. This context serves two primary purposes:
- To entice potential fans who feel they may connect with both your project
- To help industry effectively promote and categorize you (placing you on the right lineup for a gig, promoting you on the correct radio station etc).
Context is provided through the following:
- Your sonic identity (genre, influences, signature traits etc.)
- Your visual identity (location, member personalities, member lifestyles etc.)
- Your formation & development
- Current events & future goals
Context is NOT provided through:
- A single sentence stating your genre & location (Such as ‘4-piece rock band from San Diego’; there are hundreds of 4-piece rock bands from San Diego.)
- An extensive, self-centered list of achievements, such as gigs you’ve played and producers you’ve worked with (no one cares about what you’ve achieved, they care about how you can add value to their lives)
2. Include Your Band Name, Location & Formation Date
It’s surprising how many bands fail to include this basic information because it’s already readily available on their social media channels. Understand that your biography will frequently be copied and pasted by members of industry, so it’s important to make sure this basic information is included.
3. Write In The Third Person
This point follows on from the previous one. Whilst I fully accept that writing about yourself in the third person sounds ridiculous, your biography will often be used by industry operators when promoting your band. Make it easy for them by writing in the third person so your biography can simply be copied and pasted.
4. Leverage Your Visual Identity Through A Well-Chosen Theme Or Story
Visual identity is absolutely central to successful music marketing; it allows both audience & industry to connect with you on a personal level in a matter of seconds and intrigue them enough to give your music a fair shot. I’d thoroughly recommend basing your biography around a recurring theme or a story that gradually unfolds and develops. This has several advantages:
- Allows the reader to connect with you quickly
- Encourages the reader to keep reading to resolve the theme or story
- Makes the biography easy to follow
Here are some starter ideas for a theme or a story:
- Day of a monumental event (such as your formation or a large gig)
- Member personality types
- Member history (previous bands etc.)
- An overriding theme of your lyrical content (sarcasm, frustration etc.)
5. Keep It Succinct
Whilst you’ll want to include all relevant information in your biography, understand that most people won’t want to spend more than about 60 seconds reading it. For this reason, I’d advocate having the longest version of your biography capped at 300 words. This has two primary advantages:
- Ensures your biography can be read quickly
- Ensures only the most relevant information is included
No one needs to know your entire musical background starting from the age of three, don’t waste their time by including it.
6. Include A ‘Hook’
With thousands upon thousands of other bands vying for the attention of both audience & industry, I can’t stress the importance of capturing the attention of the reader within the first sentence enough. This can mean the difference between audience & industry giving your band a chance and being thrown in the independent music scrapheap. Your hook should:
- Communicate a core aspect of your visual identity
- Initiate the theme or story that is resolved or expanded on later in the biography
This will effectively:
- Connect with your target audience
- Encourage audience & industry to continue reading in order to resolve the topic or theme
7. Structure & Flow
I’d recommend planning the structure of your biography before you begin writing it. This will ensure the biography has a good sense of flow and includes all relevant information. Here’s a sample structure template:
- Hook: Introduction of main theme/question/story
- History/Formation: Founding members, recruiting process, how the members interacted with each other, early days of the group etc.
- Sound: Genre, influences etc.
- Goals & Current Focus: Upcoming shows, releases etc.
- Industry Quotes: Blog/magazine/radio quotes
8. Use Your Influences To Describe Your Sound
Instead of relying on over-the-top adjectives, I’d advocate simply comparing your sound to other well-known bands. This effectively describes your sound and entices potential fans who may already be familiar with the work of your noted influences; ‘Ramones-esque guitar sound’ is a lot more accurate and humble than ‘rip-roaring guitar sound’.
9. Write In A Personable Tone
Employing a personable tone is one of the strongest ways to both stand out from the crowd and effectively showcase your visual identity. If you’re a moody indie rock band, write in a slightly sarcastic tone. If you’re a throwback pop punk band, write with energy and optimism.
It’s worth noting that whilst writing in a personable tone can be incredibly effective, it’s also not easy. There’s a fine line between showcasing your unique personality and coming across as unprofessional. Get a few people to proofread your biography and give you honest feedback on the tone before sending it off to industry operators.
10. Make Sure It’s Well-Written
Having a well-written biography communicates professionalism and good attention-to-detail. Additionally, it has the practical advantage of allowing for a much better overall reading experience. Keep in mind that people will often judge harshly if your biography is littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, so make sure it’s well-written.
11. Include Legitimate Quotes From Industry, But Don’t Over-Rely On Them
Whilst positive quotes and testimonials from industry operators are certainly worth including, many bands make the mistake of basing their entire biography around them. Remember that no one’s interested in how great everyone else thinks you are, they’re interested in how you can leverage your sonic and visual identity to contribute value to their lives.
I’d recommend choosing your best two industry quotes and either:
- Weaving them into appropriate parts of your biography
- Tagging them on at the end of your biography
12. Don’t Over-Exaggerate
Whilst you’ll want to give the best representation of yourself possible, it’s important to remain humble and truthful about your following, reception & achievements. Both audience & industry will see straight through over-exaggeration and no one likes arrogance.
13. Have Multiple Versions To Hand
Band biographies are almost never a ‘one-size-fits-all’ affair. A gig promoter will most likely not want to feature the entirety of your 300 word biography on a social media post promoting an upcoming gig. Similarly, a management company or record label will likely be dissatisfied with a 50 word biography.
Instead of attempting to edit your biography to size on the spot, I’d recommend producing three separate versions:
- 50 word version: Commonly used for social media posts, blog blurbs, gig flyers etc.
- 150 word version: Commonly used for festival applications, streaming platforms etc.
- 300 word version: Commonly used on your own website, social media channels etc.
14. Keep It Up To Date
It’s immensely frustrating to industry operators when they stumble across a biography stating how ‘2018 is set to be a big year’. Without a good understanding of where you currently stand, it’s near-impossible to correctly promote or categorize you. Make sure you revise your biography on a regular basis and update your goals, current focus, releases etc. Additionally, keep track of every platform you’ve posted your biography on and make sure you update each copy at the same time. Bands will all-too-often update their Facebook biography on a regular basis, yet completely forget about doing the same for their Spotify page.
Whilst a band biography serves as an incredible opportunity to get industry operators and potential fans excited about your project, many bands simply leave it as an afterthought or take a self-centred approach to writing one. Taking the time to produce a well-written, unique and interesting band biography will pay off long-term and vastly increase your chances of success.