The artist bio: it’s a crucial element of any artist’s press kit or website. And for many it’s also one of the single hardest things to come up with. But since your bio is your statement to the public about who you are, what you’re doing, why you do it, and why you’re noteworthy – you want to do it well and get it right. But unless you’re one who considers yourself a “natural born writer” – most likely the thought of sitting down to write your own biography doesn’t exactly excite you. However, it doesn’t have to be as painful as you might think. I’ve compiled a list of ten tips and strategies that will hopefully make writing your artist bio a little bit easier.
1) Interview yourself
Feeling like you’re not quite sure how to start? A great technique to get yourself talking (or typing) is to come up with a list of questions you would ask another artist were you giving them an interview. Keep in mind that the more creative you are with your questions, most likely the more interesting your answers will be. Type your answers into a word document or, if speaking comes more naturally to you, record yourself and then transcribe your spoken words later on.
2) Take inventory
Make a list of the obvious things you might include, such as degrees, most notable performances, awards, recordings, or reviews. You may not end up including the entire list in your finished piece (and hopefully not), but it’s helpful to have this information in front of you while you plan out what to write.
3) Don’t tell your life story
One thing you don’t want your bio to be is a fact sheet. You don’t have to tell your audience everything. For each sentence in your bio, ask yourself: Why should my audience care? If you can’t come up with a good answer to that question, chances are your bio will be better off without that particular bit. Another tip: leave birth and childhood out of it completely and get to the good stuff – after all, this is an artist bio, not an encyclopedia entry.
4) Quote yourself
Don’t be afraid to use quotations! If you used the interview idea mentioned above, you should have plenty of material to source from. Use quotes that you think will give readers a real “piece of you” or let them in on why you do what you do as an artist. Quotes will pique your reader’s interest and give an otherwise flat bio a flare of personality. Also experiment with using a quote for either the opening or closing sentence in your bio.
5) Put your best stuff first
Obviously you’d prefer for readers to read your entire bio, and not give up after the first few sentences. But just in case they don’t make it past that first paragraph, you want to make sure they’ve learned something useful – and not just where you went to school. Accomplish this by putting some exceptional facts right up in your first few sentences. What have you done that has turned heads, so to speak? These are the things you’ll want to mention first. This doesn’t however mean that you should show all your cards at the get-go. After that first paragraph, try spreading out your most interesting bits throughout the remainder of your piece.
6) Make an outline
If sitting down and writing from nothing makes you feel uncomfortable, sometimes an outline can be a big help. Make a bullet-pointed list of what you’ll mention in each paragraph, for example “talk about latest CD” or “mention US tour in 2008”. This way when you do start writing, you’ll have a rough guide of what to write about next.
7) Just start writing
The hardest part of any writing process is getting those first words out. But often you’ll find that once you start writing, the words will just come to you. So my challenge to you: for your first draft, try to turn off the critic in your mind that might be saying “that sounds dumb” or “that’s worded very awkwardly” and just get that first draft on paper. Remember, it’s called a rough draft for a reason. And after you’ve got that first draft down on paper, I think you’ll find that editing and revising it is the easier part.
8) Read it aloud
After you’ve come up with your first draft, read your bio aloud to yourself. And I don’t mean mutter it or whisper it – I mean read it out loud in a confident speaking voice. I personally find this to be one of the most helpful strategies when I’m writing a bio – or anything else for that matter. If sentences sound awkward, you’ll hear it. You’ll also be a lot more likely to catch typos this way. But most importantly, this method will help you to realize whether or not your bio has flow – meaning if the paragraphs transition effortlessly into one another – or if it sounds choppy or strange. Make notes after you’ve read it aloud, make those edits, and then read it again.
9) Get feedback
Sometimes asking for other’s thoughts on your writing can be scary. I suggest you pick a few people whose opinions’ you trust and whom you know will be constructive but not mean. My general experience with receiving feedback on my writing is that I’m always terrified before, but then I’m so glad I asked afterward. Other people will always think of things that you never would have, and often it will be a tremendous help.
10) Keep it transitory
Just as your career is progressing and changing all the time, your bio is going to be changing along with it. So as you write, keep in mind that it’s going to be transitory – sometimes you’ll add new things and sometimes you’ll take old things out. Try and keep the format flexible, so that it won’t be too much of a headache to substitute one bit for another in the future. This will guarantee that you’ll be able to keep your bio updated and current for many years to come.