This is an updated version of a post I wrote a couple of years back after chatting with my friend Michael Kornfeld, who is an award-winning public relations strategist and writer and whose clients include a variety of talented singer-songwriters. Mike also is editor and publisher of AcousticMusicScene.com.
If you’re looking to get your songwriting out in the universe in any way, your efforts are, essentially, marketing. And whether you just want to get a gig in your town, put your songs up for sale on the Interwebs or try to make it “big,” you’ll want to let people know about you.
That means you need a great bio.
Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s hard to write about yourself. It’s tough to be all about “me, me, me!”
But according to Kornfeld, good bios are really an introduction, not a narcissistic ploy. “Good bios are away for singer-songwriters to introduce themselves to the media, concert presenters and venue bookers, songwriting competition judges, potential fans, and other target audiences,” he says. ” Although well-crafted and well-delivered songs are vital, a well-written bio that captures people’s attention also is critical to making a good first impression.”
Think about it: A well-written bio might prompt someone to check out your music and affect the way she or he listens to it. Would you like to make that as positive an experience as possible?
There’s no doubt that writing about yourself isn’t easy. Being objective about your own music and career and avoiding hyperbole can be challenging, says Kornfeld. Still, he says there are ways to make it painless. “A lot of people view bios as resumes and seek to be overly comprehensive and include irrelevant information. Bios don’t have to be extensive and replete with detail.,” he explains. “Singer-songwriters should avoid that temptation, while sharing interesting and relevant tidbits about themselves, their inspirations or muses, their creative processes, and their music.”
The qualities of a really good bio
“I’m not sure there is a hard-and-fast definition of what constitutes a really good bio, although I know one when I see it. I suppose a bio that sings with the same voice as your music might stand out. A good bio conveys who you are and does so in a clear, concise, compelling, creative and interesting way. It is written in such a way that someone doesn’t have to delve too deeply into it to understand who you are and what you’re about.”
Don’t do this in your bio, please
According to Kornfeld, these are some big pet peeves when it comes to artist bios — as in, don’ts — as well as some must-dos:
Don’t write in the first person. [Sharon's note: I'm not sure I agree with this one. Sometimes I think first-person works. But for many situations, you might want more of an objective, third-person angle.]
Don’t use boring language and cliches. Come on…don’t just write that you are “unique” — think about what distinguishes you from others. Allow yourself to be imaginative in your approach, without being overly clever or cute.
Don’t include errors. Yes, folks. Punctuation is important, as is good grammar and spelling. Check it!
Think objectively. Use meaningful subjective descriptions sparingly and only in the form of attributable quotes from others. Don’t just write that you are “unique;” convey what it is that distinguishes you from others.
Brand yourself as an individual. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Be clear. Oh, and while you’re at it, be concise, compelling and creative.
Top words to stay away from in your songwriter bio
According to Kornfeld, vague cliches and flowery prose should be avoided like the plague: Words such as “unique style,” “true professional,” “a real talent,” “amazingly gifted,” “masterful guitarist.” And, “Be leery of using any phrase that starts with the word ‘most’ or ‘best’ in describing yourself, be it skilled, unique, creative, gifted or unusual,” he explains. “It’s okay if someone of note uses ‘most’ or ‘best’ in describing you or your songs as part of quote. But it doesn’t really convey much about you.”
How to use your bio for publicity and marketing
On your website
Those of venues and festivals where you perform
In social media profiles
In news releases prepared by you, your publicist or venues
In applying for gigs, festivals or songwriting contests
As part of one-sheets and electronic press kits (EPKs)
In fliers or posters
Other bio-writing tips from Michael:
1. One size does not fit all. Prepare bios of varying lengths that can be posted on your website and used by various people for varied purposes. Think in terms of three different-sized bios – perhaps 50-60 words, 125-150 words and 200-250 words — and prepare the longest version first.
2. Don’t allow your bio to become stale. Refresh and keep it up-to-date with new achievements, awards, albums, career milestones, and – possibly — meaningful quotes.
3. Get some feedback. If you opt to write your own bio, have your friends or others whose opinions you value review it and make suggestions.
4. Shake things up for social media. On social media sites, it is particularly important to convey your personality You also might want to think about search engine optimization (SEO) and use keywords to draw your target audience(s).