Decoded

How to write the perfect artist bio

How to write the perfect artist bio for fans, press and A&R

Creating the perfect bio is a vital part of how you present as an artist. Many of us make the mistake of thinking “hey, why should I take time out of my busy schedule to draft a piece of copy hardly anyone is going to read? I’m far too busy crafting songs here,” right?

The truth is that a pitch perfect bio isn’t going to make you famous on its own but a bad one will almost certainly put some people off. And at this stage of your music career, you simply don’t have the luxury of risking that. Not even slightly.

To help you tackle the sticky topic, we’ve put together this quick and easy guide to writing the perfect artist bio (aka biography).

We’re going to cover the following topics:
  • How to approach writing an artist bio
  • What is the perfect structure for an artist bio?
  • The difference between writing for print and the web
  • Cool hacks, tools and tips

How to approach writing an artist bio

It’s vital to approach your artist bio with the same kind of professionalism that you would a recording session or photoshoot.

It’s one of the first points of contact you will have with new fans, demanding A&Rs and those busy, ‘heard-it-all-before’ music journalists.

In the age of streaming, people’s first introduction to you will often be via your artist page on stores like Spotify, Apple and Deezer. These pages provide little other information about you compared to say, your Facebook page, so the artist bio here is more important than ever.

All professional writers start-out by thinking carefully about who they are writing for; defining that all-important ‘target-audience’. This is the cornerstone of good writing.

Have a long think about who you would most like to read your bio. It could be a successful artist, a producer you greatly admire, or the boss of a particular label. Prepare to write your bio as if you are speaking to them personally.

One of the key things to keep in mind is that people who read your bio at this stage are likely to be real music fans, much more than general members of the public. So, it’s vital that you come across as authentic, genuine and deeply passionate about what you do.

Industry professionals and ‘early-adopter’ fans tend to know their music scene like the back of their hands. They’ll know their history, references, and have their own strong opinions about what’s going on out there.

They aren’t going to be impressed with silly jokes, big-headed claims about being the ‘best fookin’ band in the fookin’ world’ or loudmouthed attacks on other artists.

Keep it real and very focussed. Be prepared to spend time thinking deeply about what drives you as an artist, jotting down notes on a piece of paper.

Above all, don’t start writing until you are 100% clear in your mind about what you intend to say.

What is the perfect structure for an artist bio?

The key here is to keep it nice and short. Aim for 200 – 300 words, max.

Don’t preamble. Start off with a 25-word intro that gets everything you care about across. Think about it like writing your introduction as a summary of everything you are going to say.

Aim for one thought per sentence. One sentence per paragraph.

Get the most important stuff up first, least important last. And don’t forget to include all your key information at the end.

“For me, the most important thing is the story of your music: what does it mean, what made you create it, what are you trying to say or achieve? That is what people will want to write about.”

Joe Zadeh, a professional copywriter who has been enlisted by labels such as Universal Music, Warner, Sony, PMR, and Disturbing London says, “The best advice I would give to an independent artist writing their bio is to really think about what the story of their music is.

Quite often, bios become crowded in where someone grew up, how they learned to play music, who their influences are, and what genres they are. For me, the most important thing is the story of your music: what does it mean, what made you create it, what are you trying to say or achieve? That is what people will want to write about.”

Journalists want names, dates, places, and your bio is where they’ll look for these details if they are writing about you. It’s probably best not to irritate them by not including it at this stage (don’t worry, you can irritate them as much as you like once you’ve gone triple platinum!).

In short, think about it like this:
  • Intro/Summary – think who, what, why, where, how
  • A couple of short, snappy one sentence paragraphs
  • Core band/artist names, achievements, dates at the end

Try and make your intro stand alone. If all someone read were the first 25 words, would that give them a true sense of who you are as an artist?

The sentences that follow should be all about your music and what inspires you. Remember that influences don’t just have to be other artists – although this is important; you can be just as inspired by the people around you and the landscape where you grew up.

Try and give people an angle, something unique and interesting that they can hang their hat on. You have to show them why you are unique.

Pro tip:

“It’s a really good idea to start your bio with a great quote about you, if you’ve got one. No-one’s going to care if you tell them you’re amazing, but they might if somebody else does.”

The difference between writing for print and the web

It’s worth thinking about this. In general people read much slower on the web than they do in print.

This is because of the way our vision has evolved. We are used to seeing things with light projecting onto the surface from behind us, rather than having light coming from behind the words into our eyes.

This is why reading on a laptop or mobile device makes people feel tired faster, giving them much shorter attention spans online.

A good way around this is to break up your text with short sentences, quotes, sub-headings and bullet points.

Above all, just remember that nothing puts online readers off more than seeing a huge block of text.

Cool hacks, tools and tips for writing your bio

1: Hemmingway App

Named after the famous writer who pioneered a minimalist style of writing – paste your article in here and it’ll show you where you are going wrong.

2: Answer the Public

Another great free tool. Stick any topic you like in and see what people all over the world are asking about it.

3: Friends and bandmates

A newspaper article is typically read by at least three different people before it gets published. Ask a few people to read through your bio before you publish it.

4: A good night’s sleep

Always have a break between finishing any writing and publishing it. It’s always best to come back to it with fresh eyes to spot any typos or mistakes.

5: Read old record sleeves

Back when records generated vast sums of money, a record sleeve could be a thing of majesty. Get into some old sleeves of artists that inspire you and see if you can recapture that unmistakeable tone of voice.

Summary

It may seem a small thing to write a few hundred words on your bio page, but to industry experts and real music fans these are the small things that build a picture of you. They matter.

Of course, it’s your music that has to do the talking but don’t let that stop you from using this space to tell your story and really put across what it is about making music that makes you different.

Be passionate, be earnest and show you care. It’s your chance to pique some interest and could be the difference between a journalist or A&R hitting the back-button or getting in touch.