Sunday, October 12, 2008

Writing a Biography

Your bio. It's what greets the eyes of industry professionals, while your music, hopefully, meets their ears. It's a vital part of your press kit, and may be your first introduction to the person reading it. First impressions are important. As a freelance writer who has written bios for various Ottawa musicians, I have five tips that may help you with writing, or improving, your bio.

  • The lead - the very first words (sentence or paragraph) of your bio - is vital. This is the first thing anybody reading your bio is going to see. Hook them, tease them, grab their attention and most of all, make them want to read more.
  • Beginning your bio with something to the effect of "Band X is an Ottawa-based..." may not be the best idea. Do you want them to think about geography, or do you want them to know about you? What makes you stand apart from the other bands and musicians out there - what will blow the industry away - is what's important. Where you happen to live is secondary.
  • Be clear in your meaning. Choosing words that sound impressive by their length or number of syllables can, and very likely will, backfire. If it's a word that would only come up on the American SATs or in an academic thesis paper, it doesn't belong in your bio. If the reader's eyes have to glance at the word for a longer time than most words, or if the meaning isn't immediately clear, at least some of their interest will be lost while pausing to think about it, even if it's only for a moment. Writing with words you wouldn't normally use in everyday conversation can also come across as arrogant.
  • Words, like music, have the ability to convey a certain energy. They can evoke moods, images and atmosphere. What image are you trying to capture? What impression are you trying to make? High-energy or dark and edgy, certain words can create a lasting impact. Be conscious of this while writing a bio, or let your writer know what kind of tone you're after.
  • Simple as it seems - and this applies to Web sites and CD liner notes too - nothing comes across as less professional than spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. If you're writing your own bio and aren't absolutely clear on where something like an apostrophe goes (for example, it's vs. its, or plural vs. possessive), get someone who does know to look it over. It's all about presentation.
Jennifer Farwell is a freelance writer and Web designer. For information on writing and design services, visit her Web site at

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