If you are a working musician – or aspire to be a working musician – you need to be able to sell yourself and your music. At some point you may have to present your work to a record label or publishing company and you will be competing against many other artists for a label representative’s attention. Believe it or not, it is very similar to applying for a job: your band needs a resume and it needs to stand out. This is accomplished with two key pieces of information – a bio and a factsheet.
A bio and factsheet are useful for many different reasons. A record labels A&R representative will use your bio and factsheet to determine if your band is a good fit for their label – likewise radio stations look at your bio/factsheet before they bother to listen to your music, there’s only so much time in the day and if your bio doesn’t sound like you fit with the station then they won’t even crack the case on your album. The bio/factsheet combination is also critically important for editors and bloggers to write about you and your music. You want to have control over your image – a normal music blogger will heavily rely on your bio rather than try to dig up the information if it is available. This is a good way to influence what is said about your band and your work; it’s good to have a consistent image across different websites and blogs. Bottom line – a bio and factsheet are important parts of controlling your image and getting your music to the masses.
There are two primary ways to go about creating a bio and factsheet. First, you could be interviewed by a publicist or a professional writer. The advantage to this is that a publicist should know the inside scoop on what different music professionals are looking for – they should know how to sell you. The other option is that you can take a swing at selling yourself. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but you should know that research will pay off. Take the time to look at other bio/factsheets and work on a couple different drafts before you finally decide on something. You need to take careful and honest inventory of your professional accomplishments (both individually and as a band) and choose facts that you think would be appealing to different music industry professionals. If you know anyone or can meet anyone that works in the music industry be sure to take the time to get to know more about their job. The more you can “walk in their shoes” while you write the better! Keep in mind that your goal is to be noticed and remembered as well as honestly describing your music.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to start getting some material for a bio. The answers are not meant to be a part of the bio as they stand, but are good talking-points and can help you craft your ideas:
- What is your background? This applies for members and the band as a whole, tell the story behind your band in a few sentences.
- What is your motivation to record and release your music? You want to highlight what is unique about your music and why people would want to listen to it. You can follow this up with a brief explanation of the song writing process, or other musical influences.
- How do you describe your music to people? This should be the “elevator-pitch” for your music – concise but accurate. Everyone would describe their own music as “good” – think of more adjectives to help get your uniqueness across.
- What live performance experience have you had? The audience response to your stage presence is a huge aspect of live performance, what do people say about your shows? Do you headline? What would someone remember from your performance?
- Have you recorded any other material (CD’s, demo, single etc)?
- What are your short and long-term music goals? This applies for both the business side and the artist side. Be as specific as you can be and outline the steps you think you need to take (with a timeline) to reach your goals.
- How is your band’s website and social-media presence? This is important – a bio and factsheet are static in many ways, your website and social media work (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace) are more dynamic – how do you use them? How do you think you should/could be using them? Do you release music through your website (if so, how often)?
- If you’re writing this bio/factsheet to go along with an upcoming album release, there are some business points you should consider: copyrights, trademarked band names, band partnership agreements, financial activity tracking structure, band managers, record managers, label contracts… the list keeps going, but it will pay off to have all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted when you start making money with your music.
Now that you’ve taken some time to explore your motivations and preparation as a musician, the question becomes how should you go about writing the bio? Keep the resume analogy in your mind: industry pros will potentially read dozens of bios per week – yours needs to stand out: be energetic and excited about your music, and be very informative and honest. Break your bio down into logical sections and do not exceed a single page! If you’re distributing this electronically make sure you save it as a pdf. The bio doesn’t have to be flashy, but it should look professional – a photo of you band or logo (or album cover) is appropriate. Here is a sample template of how you could lay out your writing:
First Section: The opening sentence is very important, you want to grab the readers’ attention but do not be gimmicky. Clearly give your band’s name and the genre of music you perform and include a little bit of the band’s background (where you’re from, where you’ve played). If you have a positive quote from a previous release or a blog post include it as well. This paragraph is meant to be the 30 second grabber-speech for your band.
Second Section: Now we get to the purpose of this bio – why is it being released? Do you have a huge headlining show coming up? Are you kicking off a tour? A new album? This paragraph should focus on your band’s current activities and drop hints about any upcoming promotional events or competitions that may be running along with the reason for release e.g. ticket giveaways, fan competitions, VIP passes.
Third Section: This is where you can give some more info on each of the band members. Introduce everyone with their primary instrument. You also want to explain how the band came together, how long you’ve been playing as a group, accomplishments so far (such as appearing on radio talk shows, playing at festivals, touring with bigger names), and any other big experiences that formed how you make your music. Be sure to include how and where people can get your music (online, in which stores, local promotions etc) and how you keep in touch with fans. List your social media contact points and give people an incentive to stay in touch.
Fourth Section: This is your closing statement – make it count! You can briefly summarize the points from the second section, or include yet another positive quote about your music or band from a review or blog. Be sure to include all your contact information – phone number, mailing address, website, and email.
The factsheet is a little more cookie-cutter in its layout; it is a list of useful facts about your band. If you had difficulty producing your bio try making the factsheet first, it can act as a working outline for what you should include. A factsheet should also be a single page in length, can be bulleted items rather than complete sentences, and should include the following:
- Band or Artist Name
- Musical Style
- Name of members and respective instruments
- Background information – this should include any other interesting facts as well in a bulleted list e.g. “released CD’s in 2007 and 2008, aired on 5 radio stations with hit single…”
- Current promotional activities and upcoming events – such as new tours, releases on the website, or promo competitions.
- Contact information
There you have it! Now that you have a great bio and factsheet you can start putting together your press-pack and promo-kits for your album releases, radio applications, and festivals. Creating these documents will also help you nail down your focus as a band. They should be updated frequently – or at least for every new event that requires them (of course you want them to be as up to date as possible). Be sure to include downloadable versions on your website that go along with your releases and use them as much as possible – any time you hand out a demo it should come with both of these documents.