Musicians: ten phrases to avoid in your bio

once upon a time

I’ve been a music journalist for years and I’ve read enough lifeless bios to wallpaper Mar-a-Lago. Are potential fans, bookers, and media snoozing through your bio? Rewrite it and avoid these mistakes:

1. Susie Blahblah writes songs from the heart. Where else would they come from? Your right arm? Avoid the cliché and offer something more descriptive. Do you write engaging songs about being a single mom? Offer warm lyrics about the comfort of the road?

kid pianist2. Patrick Yadayada has played the piano since the age of three. No one cares. Try a more engaging narrative: “After watching his mother play Bach sonatas, he crawled up on the piano bench and improvised his own melodic parts — great for a teen but he was only three.”

3. Grunge Band Number Three has played here, and here, and here, and here. A lengthy list is boring. Consider a range of venues – “Grunge Band Number Three has played venues on three continents, from Carnegie Hall to their friend Patrick’s basement.”

polka band4. Hometown Polka Band has shared the stage with this band, and this band, and this band. Yawn. Again, avoid a long-winded list. It’s good to have a few artists but put it toward the end of the bio and make it brief. This information doesn’t tell us much about your sound anyway and for all we know, you may have opened for Bruno Mars because your father is his barber.

5. The New York Times says this, Billboard says this, Springfield Hometown Paper says this, and Juan’s mama said this. One or two quotes is good but don’t put them back to back. Include anything that’s exceptionally descriptive, even if it’s a local blogger. Juan’s mama, not so much, unless she writes for Rolling Stone.

6. You’ll love this reggae/metal/Bollywood singer-songwriter. First, avoid “you’ll love.” It’s been said a bajillion times. Second, do you really play all those styles? One song with power chords does not a metal writer make and smoking a lot of ganja does not make you a reggae star. Be honest. Ask fans. Ask your best friend who’s been to all your gigs. Ask the music reviewer who loves your work.

unique7. What he does is unique. Wrong. We all sound like someone, even if it’s a faint resemblance. If your music might appeal to a Drake fan, say so. You don’t have to cover “One Dance” to give potential fans an idea of your sound. If you want to show you’re different, combine styles – “He’s like Elvis fronting Green Day, after ten years of classical piano lessons.”

8. This fado, freakbeat, or whatever band … Does the average music fan know what these genres sound like? Consider this your opportunity to educate them. They’ll be interested to find that fado is from Portugal and that freakbeat is sixties Brit rock that leans toward R&B. Forget the long lectures, a one or two sentence description is enough.

grande latte9. They’re rapidly rising, celebrated, hot, best thing since grande lattes. Avoid the usual superlatives. And please, please, please, we don’t want to hear about the next Dylan, Beyonce or Miranda Lambert. There’s already one of each and I doubt you could fill Beyonce’s heels. (This is different than a comparison. It’s okay to say you sound like them — don’t think you are them.)

10. Bass player Ron went to high school with drummer Barbara who was in a class with singer Mario who played with Band XYZ who … asleep yet? I am. We don’t need the novel-length story of how you met each other unless it makes for a remarkable tale like you were all jello wrestlers at the local frat bar. Forget long lists of previous bands, too, unless you played with The Beatles or at least, a popular local band. Background is good, however, make it concise and entertaining. “Ron and Barbara were playing in a goth metal band when they opened for Mario’s polka band and it was love at first listen.”

Now wrap those talented musician hands around a hot keyboard and make your bio worth reading. Not sure you can do it on your own? Hire me. I’ve written a plethora of bios, punk bands to singer-songwriters, and you won’t have to sell your vintage amp to pay for it. Contact me here.

Find more tips about writing musician bios here.

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About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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4 Responses to Musicians: ten phrases to avoid in your bio

  1. jono51 says:

    But I DID play with the Beatles. Well, maybe it was a dream or drug-induced haze, but it felt so real at the time. These are good tips in general, not just for band bios.

  2. Stuart says:

    And I played with Jamie 🙂 Granted it was really … Jamie provided a bit more depth for what I was playing at two of her class recitals. 🙂

    • jamiebobamie says:

      Great to hear from you, Stuart. Thanks for the opportunity to tell folks that I also teach guitar, mandolin, ukulele and songwriting — in person in Ottawa, Ontario, or via Skype from anywhere in the world.

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