You might be able to write some killer lyrics, but writing a creative and effective bio is a totally different beast. Just because you haven’t written one before doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Having a bio for you as an individual musician or as a band is an essential component of any promotional plan, especially as you begin releasing music. A band bio is a communication tool that shows why people should care about you and your music. It should get someone interested in your music, even if they’ve never heard of you.
You need a couple different bios for a few different purposes. One would be pretty short for your social media channels while another version would be much longer for festival applications or part of your EPK website. Regardless, consider it another opportunity to create a fan. Let’s break it down into a step-by-step process and check out a few examples to give you a bio worthy of the front row.
Make an outline
To start out, simply write down as many interesting facts about your band as you can. These should be bullet points and don’t need to be in any particular order. Right now you are just brainstorming and generating ideas. Use what’s comfortable for you. Maybe it’s a whiteboard, a notebook, Google Docs/MS Word or the Notes app on your phone. This entire process doesn’t need to be done all at once. This would be a great opportunity to discuss this with your band at practice. You need to break up your rehearsal like we talked about in 21 Simple Rehearsal Tips You Might Not Be Thinking About anyways.
Some points to think about are below, but there are going to be some things unique to you or your band that should be included. Some of these sound basic, but don’t worry, we’re going to work on jazzing them up a little bit to keep the reader as interested as possible. We aren’t interested in embellishment or exaggeration; just use the facts and simply present them in a positive way. For this first step, you can’t have too many points of interest. More is better.
- What genre do you put yourselves in, if any? If not, why?
- Describe the sound of your band using some specific examples.
- What artist(s) influenced you the most?
- What awards have you won or achievements you are proud of?
- What music have you released so far?
- When did the band form?
- Did you jump straight into original music as a band, play live shows, release music, etc.?
- What music have you released? Included EPs, remixes and albums.
- What is your band up to right now?
- What other artists have you played with?
- What are some notable shows you’ve played?
Transform the basics
Now that you have some highlights to get you started, choose the best 50% and use only those. For each bullet point, expound on the subject matter but keep it no longer than a couple of sentences. Keep the information fact-based and avoid superlatives like insanely talented and wildly successful. It’s ok to use some descriptive words to describe a hit song, but don’t use your opinions to sell yourselves. Let the fans decide if you are truly what you think you are.
If you’re having trouble getting started, ask a friend or family with writing experience to turn one of your bullet points into a well thought out sentence. If you like that style, adopt it or have them run with the remaining ones if they’re up for it. Make sure to have them listen to a few of your songs so they understand what you’re trying to portray. Unless you want to load everyone up and give them a personal performance, pay them accordingly or buy them a case of beer for their efforts.
Read it aloud to hear if it makes sense the same way you wrote it. Make sure it conveys the message you’re trying to send with facts presented in a positive way. Everyone deserves a bio; you don’t have to be a chart-topping success to need one. It might just help you get there though.
Don’t forget to mention what you are currently working on. Even if you truly don’t have an album about to drop next week, it’s important to let your audience know that you are still “in the game” by keeping it generic, like Robin’s Heroes is currently rehearsing for upcoming gigs and working on new original material.
Editing – Choose a format
Decide on what format you’re writing for. Remember, the context of your platform should choose a number of choices you’ll be faced with.
- Short; Destination is social media platforms and other quick-glance media. This is typically always in 1st person and can be the most informal and personal. Don’t give this one too much thought, but it does say a lot about your brand directly to your fans. Your Short Bio should be no longer than one sentence.
- Medium; destinations are event-based magazines, newspapers or other promotional media. Here you need to switch over to 3rd person by describing your band as if a stranger was reading it. Instead of using I/me/we use they/he/she. It should contain most of the essential and biographic information about your band. The Medium Bio should be about one well-structured paragraph.
- Long; destinations are festival applications, EPK promo material and similar in-depth publications. Again, keep using 3rd person here to describe your band. Your Long Bio is going to include pretty much all of your Top 50% bullet points from Step 1. It should paint the picture of who you are as a band that includes some background on the bandmates and other insider information that a non-fan would be intrigued by. Include a favorite part of a tour or something special from your band that you’d like to share with your fans. You can even include another artist that you played with or shared the stage with (more on these below). This should be about 3-4 paragraphs.
For your Long Bio you might need to brush up on your writing skills. Find some band bios from bands that you’re a fan of to see if they have something similar to say. Remember, you are your own and unique band so you’re only looking for style and writing examples; not content (don’t steal!).
This Long Bio from Dallas-based Northern National does a great job of painting the picture of who they are while keeping you reading for more by displaying their significance (e.g. “toured with acts such as” and “Featured on Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist”) and describing some of their music as “a foot stomping beat.”
We Are Northern National
Alternative Band Northern National released their debut EP, The New Age, in the fall of 2016 and have never looked back. The Dallas, TX based 3 piece has toured with acts such as Blue October, The Unlikely Candidates and The Band Camino and shared the stage with more. The New Age features 5 indie-rock gems, including their debut single, Love is Fire, and their heartfelt love song Dallas which caught the attention of Spotify.
Love is Fire was featured on Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist and charted on Spotify’s Viral 50 worldwide. Music curators such as Topsify, Filtr, and even Coca-Cola, have also featured the song on their playlists. Since the release of The New Age, Northern National’s songs have been streamed over 1.8 million times and counting. You might have even heard them while watching TBS or MTV.
Fresh off of their tour with Blue October, Northern National partnered with producer Dwight Baker (Missio) in Austin, TX. Together they crafted their second EP titled D.A.R.K. which released in June of 2018.
Their single Slow Down might be their most radio friendly song to date. It’s been featured on New Noise and Alternative Generation and is climbing in streams daily. Opening with a chorus of “Woahs” and a foot stomping beat that’s sure to get stuck in your head, you will be singing along before the first verse even starts. If there is a band to watch in 2018, Northern National is at the top of that list.Northern National website
Once you think you have some good drafts, spell check them once and then spell check them again. Then, give it to 3 or 4 friends for their opinion on it and have them also check for spelling and grammatical errors. Remember that this is going to represent you and your band, so you want to get it right the first time. As your band evolves, you’ll need to keep your band bio updated as well. When you have a notable event, consider adding it to your bio. Over time, you’ll have an epic bio that will turn a casual reader into an avid fan.
Tips and Tricks
- Always write your bio in an active voice rather than a passive voice. Make your subject the focus of the sentence.
- Active Voice: Robin’s Heroes has a distinct and concurrent melodic and trippy sound to their music.
- Passive Voice: There is a distinct sound to the music of Robin’s Heroes, which is melodic and trippy all at the same time.
- If you anticipate having an international or bilingual audience, consider having your bio written in more than one language. And please don’t use Google Translate or some other automated translation app. Music has many colloquialisms that often only a native speaker can translate. It’s also helpful to make sure your translator has a background in music, if possible. There are many online translation services that offer professional translations. Don’t embarrass yourselves with an automated translation.
- This should be a highlight reel of your band. There’s no need to include every gig, track or review over your career. Stick to the stuff that matters most. It’s what fans are most interested in.
- When writing your band bio, it’s important to know the music industry’s jargon. You don’t want to say you wrote a song when you actually composed it.
- Shared the stage with – You were an opening act. Usually in a one-off situation (as opposed to touring with someone as their opening act)
- Performed with – You were on stage with that artist while they performed, usually in their band, or as a featured performer during their show.
- Toured with – You were the opening act for another band while on tour (as opposed to a one-off situation).
- Compose – You wrote the instrumental portion of a song.
- Write – You wrote the lyrics.
- Produce – Here’s where it can get tricky. If you’re speaking about hip hop and electronic music, produce means you were essentially the “beat-maker”—the person who created the instrumental track. But if you’re speaking about country, folk, rock, or other kinds of more organic music, produce means you were the record producer—more of a creative manager during a recording session, which is more of a traditional role for a producer.
- Composer – This most frequently refers to someone who writes music for TV and film, but also refers to someone who writes orchestral or symphonic music.
- Songwriter – This generally refers to someone who writes pop songs that contain lyrics and instrumental accompaniment.
- When describing your genre or sound, be specific. Don’t use generic descriptions like Rock or Metal. Try using some adjectives like mystical, upbeat or dirty to help the reader know what to expect when they listen to you for the first time.
Here are a few examples of some artist bios. These are all Long Bios in which a journalist might select just the first paragraph for an article. Often enough, the first paragraph will tell the need-to-know info while everything after that gives some background on the artist and can be used as needed. Depending on what you want to communicate to the world, you might just have one well thought out paragraph. All of these work for their intended purpose.
El-P, aka El Producto, is one of hip-hop’s most obstinate and adventurous pioneers, combining a lo-fi old-school aesthetic with a progressive rock musician’s inclination to push boundaries. He has never succumbed to the demands of corporate rap, instead choosing to pursue his own decidedly non-commercial direction. In the mid-’90s, he developed a strong reputation with the groundbreaking trio Company Flow, a band whose achievements include El-P-produced LP Funcrusher Plus on Rawkus Records, a label considered by many one of the best for intelligent hip-hop. Over the group’s auspicious stint together, he proved he was himself capable of intense lyricism as well as sonic production so powerful it could stand on its own. In the latter part of the ’90s, El-P was also a collaborator with Blackalicious, Mos Def, and Dilated Peoples.
In 2001, after releasing one last album with Harlem rappers Cannibal Ox, the group chose to amicably pursue their own directions. El-P then started his own label, Def Jux — later renamed Definitive Jux to avoid a suit from Def Jam. Between label operations and work on a proposed solo album from former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha, he found the time to work on his own solo release, Fantastic Damage, which saw the light of day in May 2002. A critical masterpiece, it was followed by a real change-up, 2004′s High Water, which was part of the Matthew Shipp-curated Blue Series and teamed the producer with Shipp, William Parker, and others from the fringe of jazz. Collecting the Kid, a collection of unreleased and hard-to-find tracks, appeared later that year. After nearly four years of work, El-P released his second proper production album, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, featuring contributions from the Mars Volta, Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, and even Cat Power. In 2010, he declared Def Jux to be “on hiatus” and while the back catalog would remain in print, the lack of new releases meant El-P would have time to focus on his artistic work. The payoff came in 2012 with the release of two El-P associated full-lengths; R.A.P. Music, his collaboration with rapper Killer Mike, along with his own release, Cancer4Cure, which appeared on the Fat Possum label. The latter featured guest appearances from Danny Brown, Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, and Killer Mike.
Mosa Wild is Jim Rubaduka (Lead Vocal/Guitar/Keys), Alex Stevens (Guitar), Edwin Ireland (Bass), and Charlie Campbell (Drums).
Jim and Alex began making music together at school and on coming to the end of their studies they formed The Intermission Project, which was just that, a project of making music while deciding whether or not to go to university.
After that year, Jim & Alex serendipitously picked up Charlie & Edwin. The intermission would soon be over, making way for something different with a new focus. The four guys – based around Ashford, UK – were now a new collective called Mosa Wild and headed in a fresh direction.
At the end of 2016, Mosa Wild released their debut track “Smoke” with a premiere by Gold Flake Paint who described how it “…positively bristles with potential; not to mention a shed load of heart and soul.” Earmilk characterized the track as “rich, ethereal, raw…” and a “fantastic display of artistry and emotion” while Line of Best Fit called out Jim’s “effortlessly powerful vocal” and the song’s “fist clenching climax.”
The band name Mosa Wild is derived from Jimʼs Grandfather, whose name is Mosa, and putting his name next to wild simply felt right. Mosa Wild reflects the band as being both personal and connective, experimental and expansive.
Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand met through a mutual friend in 2004. Beach House formed in the late spring of 2005 (the year of the rooster) after both parties realized that they had a preternatural musical vinculum.
While spending a good deal of time together playing and recording music Alex and Victoria enjoy not dating, not being related and not having grown up together. As such questions are tossed at them often the duo also shares the common interest of explaining to people that they are not dating, not related and did not grow up together.
Oddly enough, they both existed separately before meeting one another. They had adorable little childhoods. Alex was born and bred in Baltimore City, and Victoria grew up just about everywhere. She was born in Paris (France) where she lived until she was 6, and she remains fluent in French. She then hustled it on over to Baltimore, but somehow in the era of chicken pox their ships missed each other in the night, and Victoria soon moved on to the glamorously rural Cecil County, Maryland. She then moved north to Philadelphia before she hopped back to Paris for a stint and finally returned once again to and settled in Baltimore. Alex was…still living in Baltimore and when Victoria returned to Baltimore the two experienced the aforementioned meeting. It was thrilling for all participants involved.
Both members of the band have long-standing relationships with playing and learning about music. Alex began tickling the ivories in elementary school and picked up (and played) other instruments in his early high school years. This is also when he first began recording music. Similarly, Victoria was classically trained in piano from the age of 7 and began formally training her voice at the age of 14. She also studied theatre formally at the International School of Jacques Lecoq. Victoria started writing her own songs at the age of 18, after deciding that she’d rather play her own music than mouthing other poets, as they say. A lot of the lyrics and songs she currently composes find their seeds in the piano and organ playing she does.
The pair agrees that their influences are too numerous to list. Fortunately, they both like listening to music and right now they like listening to The Zombies, Neil Young, Emitt Rhodes, Dusty Springfield, The Supremes, Nirvana, Earth, Ann Peebles, The Beach Boys, Hank Williams, Ravel, John Cale, Velvet Underground, Elliott Smith, Tony, Caro & John, The Beatles, and Daniel Johnston amongst others.
The band recorded their first, self-titled album in February of 2006 and the second, Devotion, in August of 2007, the year of our Lord. They have toured with Arbouretum, Clientele, and Grizzly Bear. When they’re not touring about and playing music Victoria and Alex support themselves by working within the sidewalk jobs. Alex slings a hammer as a carpenter and Victoria slings booze as a bartender.
Seer, Producer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter and vocalist Devonté Hynes is a globetrotting polymath for our times. The four albums he has recorded as Blood Orange have gained an international audience and the admiration of his peers. Hynes’ songwriting has helped essay the subjects of gender fluidity, twenty-first century vulnerability and the ennui of permanently-on connectedness into the modern lexicon. His lyrics act as a beacon to the vulnerable or temporally dispossessed, ensuring each Blood Orange release is a source of energy and solace in these confused times.
Frankie Reyes is the alias of Gabriel Reyes-Whittaker who also records as GB (Gifted & Blessed). Boleros Valses y Mas, his Stones Throw debut, is an album comprised of popular Latin standards, reworked by Reyes with an Oberheim synthesizer. The inspiration for Boleros Valses y Mas formed when Los Angeles radio collective Dublab invited Gabriel to participate in an event themed specifically around Latin American modernism. “I thought about how I might capture the essence of this theme using my instrument of choice, the synthesizer. What came to mind was to cover some of the classic Latin American compositions that I grew up hearing around me and have grown to love as I’ve gotten older, most of them in the bolero style but a few in the waltz, son, and even mariachi style.” By using audio-to-MIDI and sheet music-to-MIDI processing Gabriel has re-contextualized these popular tracks easily overheard while visiting any of Los Angeles’ predominantly Latino neighborhoods with a single Oberheim synth. By removing the lyrics, the emphasis remains on the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic aspects of these classics, many still sung by Latin American artists today.
The Dropkick Murphys song “I’m Shipping Up To Boston”, off the album The Warrior’s Code, is featured prominently, several times in the new hit film by Martin Scorsese:The Departed!
The disc bows with tributes to the fallen: written for and dedicated to the band’s friend Greg ‘Chickenman’ Riley, “Your Spirit’s Alive” also remembers Boston Bruin great Ace Bailey and hockey standout Mark Bavis who perished on United Airlines flight 175 on Sept. 11, 2001. “Last Letter Home,” salutes American serviceman and Dropkick Murphys fan Sgt. Andrew Farrar, who died on his 31st birthday January 28th, 2005. Shortly before his death in a letter he sent home, Farrar requested the Dropkick Murphys’ version of “Fields of Athenry” be played at his funeral should anything happen to him while he was in Iraq. In addition to blending excerpts from that very letter into “Last Letter Home,” the band was present at Farrar’s funeral and played “The Fields Of Athenry” on the pipes as the casket entered the church.
The Warrior’s Code also marks the second time the Dropkick Murphys have set a previously unused Woody Guthrie lyric to music. Approached three years ago by Guthrie’s daughter, Nora (whose son is a Dropkicks fan), with the prospect of putting some of her legendary father’s unpublished lyrics to music, the band produced the hard-charging “Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight,” from which the title of 2003’s Blackout was taken. The Warrior’s Code features “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” written around a whimsical lyric about a sailor who lost his wooden leg in Boston. “When Nora gave us the green light to go through the archives and take we wanted,” says vocalist/bassist and founding member Ken Casey, “we looked through thousands of his songs. Obviously, there were a lot of deep songs about World War II and labor stuff, but randomly in the middle of all these serious lyrics was this silly song, which seemed kind of cool. When other people do Woody’s stuff, you normally don’t see that light-hearted side of his work.”
As perfect a coda as any is the band’s revival of the early 1900s Boston Red Sox fan song “Tessie,” featuring backing vocals from Red Sox players Bronson Arroyo, Lenny DiNardo & Johnny Damon. Approached by the new regime in the Red Sox’s front office last summer to come up with an anthem to help spur the team to victory, the band issued the song as a single just months before the team was crowned world champs for the first time in 86 years and were given some of the credit for ‘breaking the curse’. “The thought of the old Red Sox owners that I grew up with ever having a punk band involved with the team was an impossibility,” says Casey. “So to get a call from the new owners was like hitting the lottery. To be able work with the team in any capacity was a tremendous honor but as a lifelong, diehard fan to be involved the year they actually won the World Series was indescribable.”
The musical depth on this album shows just how far the Dropkick Murphys have come. Rooted in the sounds of The Clash, The Pogues, AC/DC, Swingin’ Utters and Stiff Little Fingers, The Murphys formed in 1996, first playing together in the basement of a friend’s Quincy barbershop. With old timey songs by the likes of The Clancy Brothers ingrained in them and a mutual love of punk rock the band members quickly drew the parallel between the new and the old:
“The brand of punk rock that I was accustomed to was very sing-along and anthemic, some of these old traditional songs were anthemic but not in a wild electric guitar way,” says Casey. “But it was the same effect, big choruses coupled with topics that people wanted to sing about. The two went hand in hand. The Pogues had done it before us, but they weren’t punk rock, they were a traditional band with a punk rock attitude. We have traditional influences but we always want to be a punk rock band first and foremost, you know, leaving your ears bleeding.”
Starting with humble but enthusiastic means, self-releasing early recordings and touring to support them, the band’s hard work yielded a phone call from Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, who was eager to sign the Murphys to his Epitaph imprint Hellcat. The resulting Do or Die lit the musical fuse that would soon explode inside the punk community. Chronicling Dropkick Murphys innovative fusion of blistering rock & roll, melodic folk, and a deep loyalty to the working class, Do or Die rendered sales in excess of 200,000 largely due to word of mouth in the underground. The album forged a path in punk rock that turned a whole new generation of kids onto Celtic & traditional folk. “Before Do or Die came out, you couldn’t find a teenage punk rock kid into bagpipe music to save your life,” says Casey, “and then after the record came out and we toured for a couple of years, all of a sudden, there was this army of kids saying “Hey, I play bagpipes,” or, “Hey, I play mandolin, can I be in your band?”
Inspired by the overwhelming success of their Hellcat debut, which became a must-have record for any self-respecting punk fan, the Murphys pointed their collective middle finger sky high at mainstream nay-sayers and ploughed ahead with the following year’s The Gang’s All Here. Introducing the vocal exchanges of Al Barr and Ken Casey that would go on to signify the group’s late model sound, the Murphys’ second long player also represented their maturation as songwriters. A rigorous tour schedule followed, helping to expand the outfit’s already sizable worldwide fan base.
2001’s ambitious Sing Loud Sing Proud incorporated more instrumentation than previous efforts, with the band growing into a septet. While the band had featured such instrumentation from the start (their debut single, “Barroom Hero” included bagpipes) they were finally able to recreate that fuller, studio sound on tour. Defining the Murphys’ position as leaders of a new sub-genre, the disc’s hometown anthems and whiskey soaked melodies earned the group even wider acclaim.
Dropkick Murphys’ incendiary live performances were the subject of their next release, 2002’s Live On St. Patrick’s Day From Boston, MA. It was an exhibition of the group’s infamous, annual homecoming gigs, where these events find ale-swilling hooligans standing alongside mohawked punk-rockers and grey-haired grandmothers. The concerts have become so popular that 2005 saw the Murphys move an unprecedented 12,000 tickets for six shows, shattering the venue sales record they had set themselves in 2004 and that was originally held by the legendary Ramones.
Blackout was released in 2003 to the band’s ever broadening fan-base and was their most accessible work to date. Whilst keeping the old school fans happy with “last call” bar room anthems like “Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced” the band also finally received the widespread radio play they deserved with the single “Walk Away,” a song about broken marriages and broken dreams.
On the Road with the Dropkick Murphys, a DVD released in 2004, chronicled this period and captured first hand the band’s widening success and rabid, worldwide following as well as detailing how much the band enjoys traveling, playing practical jokes on each other and hanging out with their friends around the world.
Continuously surprising industry pundits by outdrawing high profile mainstream acts as headliners on major tours around the globe, Dropkick Murphys landed high profile slots on the festival circuit and became staples at some of the premiere festival dates around the world; the US Warped tour, Reading & Leeds and Glastonbury in the UK, Fuji Rock in Japan, Roskilde in Denmark, Southside, Hurricane & Full-force in Germany, Lowlands in Holland, Pukkelpop in Belgium, Livid in Australia, Ilossiarock in Finland….the list goes on and on….and on. They also found time to achieve some personal goals like performing at the Sex Pistols’ infamous Silver Jubilee gig in London, in front of a capacity crowd at a Celtics football game in Scotland, a sold out Boston Bruins hockey game, on the steps of the Statehouse in Boston at the Governor’s request, at Senator Jack Hart’s televised St Patrick’s Day breakfast, two appearances on the Conan O’Brien Show and on the Jimmy Kimmel show just to name a few.
From the Quincy Barbershop to Fenway Park the year the Red Sox won the World Series to six sold out shows in a club they used to be barred from to The Warrior’s Code, the goal has always remained the same. Says Casey: “We always wanted to be that band that didn’t forget where it came from and we keep it in the forefront of our minds that we’re all in it together, audience and band members, as one, no one better than the other. That’s the M.O. of a lot of punk bands, but I think sometimes it gets lost the minute a band has any kind of success. We never want to let it go to our heads. We know how lucky we are to be doing this. It’s because of the people that listen to the band’s music we have this opportunity to see the world. I don’t care if we’re playing to 10 people or 10,000 people, those kids that are up front singing our songs are the reason we’re doing this.”
Once you have your band bios written out you are prepared to let them work for you. You’ll want to place them on your band’s website or EPK, your social media profiles, streaming profiles and any festival applications you submit. Again, it’s important to keep your bio updated. If you submit an application with outdated info from 4 years ago it could negatively affect your perception.
The perfect band bio will give you the chance to turn a reader into a fan. Spend some quality time to get this right and be prepared to edit this on a regular basis as you grow as an artist. Make it yours and make it awesome!
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