The Recipe for the juiciest Artist Biography: Alright, we kind of overdid it in the title – this is not your grandma’s super-unique pie recipe. But although there isn’t a universal formula for a successful artist biography text, there are some basic rules followed by most music journalists that will help yours look tastier.
Before we go into the nitty-gritty details, let us ask you this: What is the purpose of writing a bio? Who is going to read it? Whatever your genre is, the answers are probably similar. An artist/band biography is good to have because:
- Your fans will want to find out more about your background once they’ve gotten into your music,
- The press needs something to write about besides the sound of your songs,
- In order to create a digital buzz, your content must be easy to find on search engines (more on this below).
The story of your life: Your special flavor
People are naturally drawn to storytelling. Think of your favorite artist: Is there something in their story you can relate to? Maybe it’s their personal struggles or aspirations, the town/country they’re from, their views on certain subjects… You probably wouldn’t know about these things if there wasn’t some carefully crafted storytelling that highlights these aspects. So how do these artists (or their PR agencies/labels/etc.) put it together?
If you’ve gotten this far, it means you worked on your brand identity and identified what makes you unique or special within your genre. This will also be the essence of your artist bio. Can you sum it up in 1 – 3 words? That will be the content of your headline and introductory paragraph.
The epic opening
Save that single most special thing for the big opening. Resist the temptation to open with details of your story, such as where the band members met, or how you started playing the piano when you were five. This is not only since the title and the first few lines give people their very first impression, but also because search engines will pay a lot of attention to them (like we said, more on that later).
The main ingredient for your special sauce is now ready, but now you need to elaborate a bit. Yeah, you’re from a town in the middle of the Brazilian rain-forest, but what else is there to your music?
The second (and/or third) paragraph
Depending on how relevant these things are in your case, here are some aspects you can elaborate on after setting yourself apart from similar artists within your genre. You don’t need to write about all of them if there’s not much to say, just choose those you find convenient:
- Musical practice: The means you use to make music (Let’s say you use 12-stringed guitars or are a synthesizer geek. Maybe you can imitate tropical birds with your voice or have a soft spot for sampling Hawaiian music?)
- Your style: What do you do with those abilities?
- Examples: Which song/album demonstrates them best?
- Main subjects: You surely focus on some topics more than others when writing your songs. Is it your cat? Climate change? Your passion for gummy bears?
- Your geographical, social or cultural context: Where are you from and how does this define your music?
- Do you get inspiration from current relevant topics in your community or the world? Any pop culture references you use for your music? Do you sing in Dothraki?
Once you have your story and special features figured out, it’s time to make the text readable, which takes us to basic text composition rules.
Writing rules and search engine friendliness
We shouldn’t be telling you this, but bad spelling or punctuation can automatically give you a bad image. Spell check is your friend! Your text editor software must have some equivalent of this useful and underrated tool. Make sure your language preferences are set to English (or Spanish, Mandarin, Klingon, whatever you’re using) and get at least one or two people to proofread your text before publishing it.
On the other hand, consider that you’re writing for the Internet. This means that any content you publish needs to be easy to find on search engines. The process of making a website/page visible without deliberately paying money is called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). That’s a whole topic in itself and we won’t go into details here, but a bit of extra googling from your part wouldn’t hurt. However, it’s important that you appear high in the search results when someone is googling your artist name. Some things that will make your text SEO-friendly are:
- Quality (duh): Your text should have the best possible quality in order to get people hooked. The longer they stay on the page and keep browsing on the website, the more SEO bonus points!
- Headings and subheadings. The title of the page is really important for letting Google know what your page is about. So are the subheadings.
- Length of the text. The length is important, but it depends on context. Aim for at least 300 words. But make sure to make every word count.
- Keywords and related keywords. Your bio should include words that are very relevant to your main topic and directly connected to it, like your Artist name, Members, your influences, your musical style etc. Big names in the scene or relevant cultural references are always welcome! But be as specific you can, especially when you’re writing about a very niche subgenre or such. If you write “Pop”, no one will find you. But if your text contains “Russian indie pop with balalaika and Tula accordion”, the probability of being seen will increase.
- Context: The context and search intent is vastly important to rank on Google. Your biography is your artist, and that is probably the only thing you will be able to rank for. If you would like to rank for “Solo Indie Rock Artists in Jamaica” you need put yourself in the shoes of the searcher. What is the intent of the searcher behind that typical search? Maybe you need to create a page on your webpage listing all Solo Indie Rock artists you know about in Jamaica, link to their webpages and write a small description of each.
- Authority: Search engines have a huge bullshit thermometer! They reward trustworthy content that can be confirmed by other people. Engines like Google respect sources like Wikipedia, Billboard and such because people are referring to them. Authority is measured in several ways, but the most important factor is how many people link to your page, so make sure your friends, fans, and influencers share the link to your webpage or tag you on their channels. Last but not least, if you’re publishing your bio on your own website and mention a couple of big names as your influences, turning their name into a link to those pages will raise your SEO-friendliness. If your bio will be on Facebook and the like, tagging the artist page or other relevant people are the equivalent of this.
- Multimedia: If you accompany your bio with a good professional artist photo (or even an embedded video/playlist depending on where you share it), you’ll also get SEO-bonus points.
A final word: Some Big No-Nos
- Bragging: Journalists, bloggers, and other influencers have listened to way more music than you think and thus have a very sophisticated bullshit detector when it comes to statements such as “The MC that will change the history of Hip Hop”. Aim for providing valuable and informational texts instead of sounding like a phone salesperson.
- Laundry lists: However, it’s cool to name a couple of your accomplishments if they’re important. Don’t overdo it, though! No one has the time to read a huge list of music prices/festivals/etc. This isn’t a CV.
- Technical babbling: Remember who your audience is. Unless you’re doing a very obscure genre where your fans are into technical stuff (e.g. special plugins, studio gear, performance tricks etc.), avoid mentioning stuff the average listener will most likely not understand or relate to.
- Outdated info: There are few things that look worse on a biography (or any web content for that matter) than outdated facts. It’s the music equivalent to having an embarrassing baby picture of yourself on a dating app!