Tips on how to write a band biography
BBC 6 Music presenter
Most normal human beings find writing about themselves excruciatingly painful - whether it's a CV, job application or a band biog. Which is why many emerging artists avoid writing anything about themselves at all. Time and time again I fall in love with particular tunes, decide to play them on the radio - and then find the artist's Facebook or Soundcloud contains no information whatsoever.
Imagine someone sending you music on a plain unmarked CD. Or emailing you an MP3 with the words "check us out" and nothing else. And now imagine a hundred people doing that. Every week. Well, luckily they don't. When record companies and pluggers send us records they understand how helpful it is to set the music in some kind of context, and even the simplest story can catch people's interest:
*Here's an early demo by David Bowie before he got famous. *This is the latest underground hit with clubgoers in Mumbai. *This was written by a Scottish 13 year old in her bedroom and has had 50,000 plays on YouTube... that sort of thing.
But since writing about ourselves is so hard, many bands type something like "four-piece indie trash from the UK" and leave it at that. After all, the thinking goes, our music's so great it can speak for itself. The trouble is, you're not the only great band out there.
Every week thousands of artists are vying for the attention of fans, managers, bookers, bloggers, journalists, record companies and radio stations. We're spolt for choice: and if you don't tell us clearly and loudly what's special / interesting / different / funny / loveable / unique about your particular group, we'll click away in seconds to some other artist who does.
Some bands fill the "about" section on their website with reviews, imagining they've then got a biog. But think about it: these quotes are just descriptions of your music. They don't tell us anything about who made it, or where, or when, or why. If you've gone to the trouble of making wonderful music, then why not take the trouble to give us some backstory to that music. The easiest way is to provide a few basic facts:
This is my first bedroom demo. This is the lead track on our forthcoming EP. This got used on a VW commercial in Latvia last year. The whole band are still at school. Three of us are retired jazz musicians. We're based in Rotherham. We formed in early 2012. This is the title track of our EP released in May. Here's the tracklist. Here's a list of our upcoming gigs. We've just released our first album in 9 years. It's on heavyweight vinyl and available from...
Some bands - and some low-budget publicists - imagine that having "a story" means loads of pretentious waffle about said band's wonderful music. See my original blog post about this at Fresh On The Net for a few outstanding examples. But what's the point? We only need to click "play" to hear for ourselves how wonderful - or otherwise - your music actually is.
As interactivity guru Steve Lawson puts it: 'Don't tell us how great you are - tell us how interesting you are.' Is one of you a bilingual Bengali bellydancer, a part-time piano tuner, or a forty-something Danish quantity surveyor? Are you collectively on a mission from God, plotting to end to capitalism as we know it - or just hoping to get rich, famous and laid as quickly as possible?
And do bear in mind that something being true isn't the same thing as it being interesting - nobody wants to read every tedious detail of how and when you all first met. In his memoir, Christopher Isherwood claimed that 'anything you choose to invent about yourself is part of your personal myth and therefore, in a sense, true'. As an artist you have full license to exaggerate or even rewrite the facts if it'll make for a more interesting story.
Personally I'd much rather read out a load of entertaining lies on the radio than a series of dull, boring facts. So long as your early Bowie demo sounds great, who cares if it later turns out to have been made by that Scottish 13 year old after all?
Needless to say this blog post is entire my own invention and no warrenty is offered as to its factual accuracy. Decide for yourself how much of it is interesting, helpful or even true.
A version of this post first appeared on Tom's Fresh On The Net blog. Click here to read the original post and see some of Tom's favourite and least favourite band bios. Don't forget to download his BBC Introducing Mixtape too.