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Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

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Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby Petros_K » Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:13 pm

I'm a fairly private person. I don't like to brag, and I don't like people who brag. I don't even want to show my face on the Internet (because of data mining and face recognition technology). Yet, if you're going to try selling your music through streaming websites whoever you manage to reach will likely want to know something about the person who created the music.

But what? What really matters?

So, I'm finding all these websites that make suggestions how to go about it and I just think the advice generally sucks. First, there's this notion that as a musician you are out there COMPETING for attention and you NEED to make yourself look and sound better than the rest. That's a bunch of capitalist/social Darwinistic shite. Having someone find your music is one thing, but there's no great fact about how my music and your music is in some kind of competition to see who can get the most clicks and views and downloads and fans. An audience has preferences, and I seriously doubt what I say in a musician bio is going to make them like my music if they don't hear something they like. In fact, the bio is more likely to turn someone off if they like the music but then I say the wrong thing.

Secondly, I'm reading in so many places that to "play up" yourself (as if you're some kind of product) you need to talk about your past musical accomplishments --as if someone starting out SHOULD already have accomplished something so great that your music deserves nothing but praise. What is that if not a lie? Nobody knows who I am, and telling them I was a genius in high school who won an award for musical excellence says nothing about what I can do. Only listening to the music can do this.

Third, include things like "Strange things you do before a show," or "What you do for fun" etc. to humanize your image as an artist? Who the heck would care about such things?

So, you're a musician with a bunch of songs nobody has heard. You think you have a solid, honed style, decent recordings ready to go, but you can't wrap your head around this foolishness that's supposed to be so key for getting people to like you. You don't want to lie about yourself (I've read about musicians doing this too), you can't even explain why exactly you're a songwriter ("His love of music led him to eventually write his own songs." Duh! What musician does not love music?). I definitely didn't get interested in songwriting anticipating the need to create a cover letter like this is a freakin' job interview. Am I really going to convince someone I'm worthy of someone liking the music?

I just want the music released so others can hear it. But I'm faced with yet another obstacle. Is there nothing but failure awaiting the person who will not create a stellar musician bio?
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby blinddrew » Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:27 pm

I don't think you're alone in struggling with this, for all of the reasons you mention.
I think there is something in making yourself relatable/accessible/human for your (future) fans, no-one likes an egotist, but as you say, at this point who really cares?
So another option is to use it as a different opportunity to show off a bit of your creativeness and personality.
For our band we have a 'bio' as follows:
"You may have heard that The Southern Wild were found hanging from a tree outside Warakurna, raw and untamed. Roped and branded, they were boxed and shipped to northern England to be displayed to cheering crowds at freak shows and other music festivals.
You may know this not to be true. You may know that The Southern Wild sprang, full-grown, from the belly of a bison just outside Little Rock, Arkansas.
Some say it wasn't a bison, but a big, dead dog. And that it was by the side of the road leading out of Marseilles and east down the coast.
Some, all or none of the above may be true. But in a world made drab and dreary by the tedium of everyday existence, here you may choose to believe an alternative exists. And why wouldn't you?"

I don't know if it's ever got us any gigs but it's certainly never lost us any and it was much more fun to write.
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby RichardT » Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:40 pm

I’m with you!

I would keep it straight-forward and factual. That stuff about ‘strange things you do before a gig’ - forget it. Describe yourself and your music in simple terms. That will be fine.

Or take Drew’s approach!
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby Petros_K » Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:44 pm

blinddrew wrote:"You may have heard that The Southern Wild were found hanging from a tree outside Warakurna, raw and untamed. Roped and branded, they were boxed and shipped to northern England to be displayed to cheering crowds at freak shows and other music festivals.
You may know this not to be true. You may know that The Southern Wild sprang, full-grown, from the belly of a bison just outside Little Rock, Arkansas.
Some say it wasn't a bison, but a big, dead dog. And that it was by the side of the road leading out of Marseilles and east down the coast.
Some, all or none of the above may be true. But in a world made drab and dreary by the tedium of everyday existence, here you may choose to believe an alternative exists. And why wouldn't you?"

--That's very creative, but it's not really a bio, right? What do I learn about the band or it's members from this?

Are you suggesting to take the musician bio in a direction in which rather than just writing about yourself there's something to be learned about the artist through a piece of creative writing? That's somewhat brilliant to me, but I'm thinking about the process in which someone hears your music, then they want to know something about the artist and they read something interesting but it doesn't quite provide the answer for who is the artist. I like it in a way because it avoids the pedantic and contrived nature of what is supposed to be in a musician bio.
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby James Perrett » Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:47 pm

As far as I know, there was only one review of a band that I played with in the national music papers and a good part of that review was the bio that we sent. We took an approach a bit like Drew's. I'm not sure that they would have bothered to write the review if we had a normal bio but I guess they couldn't resist finding out whether our sax player really did sound like a constipated chicken.

In a different band we had an agent and the bio that the agent wrote sounded far more interesting than the typical bio. He created a story around the band which journalists could use.
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:57 pm

I like Drew's approach, it's all bullsh1t and embracing that BS is something I approve of. The initial 'bio' is simply a way to get people to click 'play' on the track so the more outrageous the better on the principle of 'there's no such thing as bad publicity*'

If you manage to get a substantial number of listens then maybe it's time to consider how much of yourself you are prepared to share with your fans but until then anything that get's the buggers to click 'play' is good.

* Unless you are an insurance company when, apparently, the opposite applies.
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby Watchmaker » Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:53 pm

There is more information on the internet than there is information.

Back in the day* musicians had companies with marketing teams who would write bio's. Personally, I only ever look at bio's to see if the writer bother to include production and craft credits. Either I like the music or I don't and if I do, I'm curious to know who helped you create it. Who you are will come across through your music whether you try to hide it or not, and it sounds like you're not trying to hide anything, which is a huge plus in my book.

The bio will not make or break you, live performance will. Oh and schwag. stickers, matchbooks, coasters, beer cozies, t-shirts..that stuff will do way more for you than a paragraph of heartfelt gobbledee-gook, including a much higher profit margin than actual music sales.

With one important caveat, mentioned above. The press kit. Very few journo's actually want to write copy, so put together something for them that will accompany your review. Assuming you killed the live gig, that's the only conceivable time it'll matter.
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby ManFromGlass » Tue Apr 27, 2021 2:19 am

When I get stuck on this stuff I try to imagine what I would like to read.
If the bio is for a specific place or purpose then I will tailor it. Also a bio is constantly evolving and version 1 is the first of many variations.

The funniest one I ever read was by a film composer who hadn’t accomplished much but he had all these famous actors and directors names in his bio. But if you read closely he would have said things like “ So and so has never actually worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Daniel Craig and he definitely didn’t teach John Williams
how to play piano . . . Etc etc.

Good tip about the press kit version. In this cut and paste world you can take good advantage of that.
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby MOF » Tue Apr 27, 2021 4:23 am

Perhaps the most important thing for potential fans searching for new music are your musical influences.
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby Arpangel » Tue Apr 27, 2021 8:43 am

MOF wrote:Perhaps the most important thing for potential fans searching for new music are your musical influences.

That’s interesting, do you mean to use as tags, or actual influences?
I’m not aware of anyone I like quoting actual influences, a lot don’t like doing it, and actively avoid mentioning any.
I don’t mention mine, it’s never been an issue, I have no photos, just a brief biog, and my music.
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That would be an ecumenical matter.

Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby Mike Stranks » Tue Apr 27, 2021 9:44 am

I am not a musician so have zero-need to do any of this stuff myself...

... but I do listen to music so have an opinion.

If I hear something I like then I do like to know a bit more about them. F'r instance there's a singer/songwriter whose songs and voice I really admire. First time I heard them I wanted to know why I hadn't come across them before, so to the Interweb...

I found a simple website which gave some standard bio: where from, musical background etc., but included the phrase, "... stopped studying at Oxford because the commitment to music was such a strong passion...". That tells me something about the person and their commitment to their craft.

Like it or not, musicians are part of the entertainment industry. If you don't want to be caught up in the (sic) "capitalist/social Darwinistic shite" then write your songs and sell them to someone else to perform. You can't have it both ways.
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby Petros_K » Tue Apr 27, 2021 5:30 pm

Mike Stranks wrote:I am not a musician...

Like it or not, musicians are part of the entertainment industry. If you don't want to be caught up in the (sic) "capitalist/social Darwinistic shite" then write your songs and sell them to someone else to perform. You can't have it both ways.

Sounds a bit disgruntled to me. The problem is that I am the songwriter, and the performer, and the producer, and the promoter, and the person who has to live with the decisions I make because nobody else is going to make them for me. Enter this issue of how important is a musician's bio?

My [sic] "capitalist/social Darwinistic shite" label and how it relates to a musician's bio came from a large number of people telling me at another forum that a musician's bio NEEDS to be crafted like you're in a popularity contest. Someone called musicians trying to promote their music through the internet "a capitalist money grab." You know what capitalism does? It exploits a person and his or her music for monetary gain converting it into forms that are no longer about music. That's not my aim. Selling the music for download is one thing, but I'm not interested in advertising myself through a musician bio because that's a way to maximize profit.

The assumption that nobody will ever hear your music UNLESS you devise a strategy to out-compete the other musicians trying to do what you're doing has no great fact behind it. That's a good way to develop a psychological illness. Life is not a big game of winners and losers. Of course, I won't try to tell that to the social Darwinists.

I think what I read above about being creative and indirectly explaining who you are through the musician bio is the way to go for me. Something like explaining my philosophy of music while at the same time adding parts of the story about how I got to where I'm at. It's just very hard if you don't approach it cold and calculating like an advertiser. I can't respect such a mechanistic method, and I fear it's responsible for actually burying too many artists.

I don't mean to offend anyone.

Is there anything wrong with keeping a musician bio very short, or would that come off as dull?
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby blinddrew » Tue Apr 27, 2021 6:12 pm

I don't think Mike's disgruntled, quite the opposite in fact, I've always found him to be particularly well gruntled. ;)
But I think the point is that whilst musicians and their fans might not want to engage in a massive money-making, profit-first environment, an awful lot of the music business is still driven like this; whether that's music venues, promoters, A&R or producers. The larger the organisation you're working with then the more likely this becomes a driver. Once you introduce any shareholders then it becomes a legal obligation.
So I guess my point is that there's an awful lot we'd all like to change about the world, but you have to engage with it how it is sometimes, not how we'd like it to be. And when we're selling into a saturated market then we don't have a lot of clout to call the shots.
If it makes it easier to write, don't think about it as writing a piece for advertising. Picture one fan, or a keen music blogger maybe, who's only just discovered your music, and who's just sent you an email wanting to know a bit more about your background. Write to them.
That will probably come out much more easily, and it'll be a bit more personal and feel less like advertising.
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby MOF » Tue Apr 27, 2021 6:20 pm

I'm a fairly private person. I don't like to brag, and I don't like people who brag. I don't even want to show my face on the Internet (because of data mining and face recognition technology). Yet, if you're going to try selling your music through streaming websites whoever you manage to reach will likely want to know something about the person who created the music.

But what? What really matters?

You sound like not only a private person but a paranoid person - "because of data mining and face recognition technology".
If you're trying to sell your tracks and you're the performer (Live? If so then people will take photo's of you and put them on the internet, anonymity blown).
To stay private I think all you can do is put your material out there and get active on sites where you critique other people's tracks in return for their critiques and hope to get enough likes and shares so that your music's profile is raised.
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Re: Musician Bios: How to Not Ruin Your Career?

Postby MOF » Tue Apr 27, 2021 6:43 pm

MOF wrote:
Perhaps the most important thing for potential fans searching for new music are your musical influences.

That’s interesting, do you mean to use as tags, or actual influences?
I’m not aware of anyone I like quoting actual influences, a lot don’t like doing it, and actively avoid mentioning any.

Both I would say Arpangel. I would say that the use of covers by bands e.g. The Corrs' version of Fleetwood Mac's 'Dreams' brought them to the attention of the record buying public, it said this is the kind of music we like so check out our original material.
Although pigeon holing can be thought of as lazy music journalism it is a handy way of describing new acts the music press have discovered and that's true of web based music discovery too.
The ability to put out a broad range of genres can really only come after initial success e.g. The Beatles were very rock/pop at first but the licence (they were so very popular) to do other styles and experimental tracks came later, and even then they were album tracks initially, not singles. Gradually as their public accepted the new styles the singles could reflect their musical maturity too.
There's just so much stuff out there that you have to filter down and the OP has to accept that calling attention to your music, if not you as an individual, is a prerequisite to achieving some success. The music instrument industry has to do the same for us to buy their products, they have to let us know that they exist and create a buzz about their products' uniqueness, technology etc.
I think the fact that iTunes et al have daily recommendations suggests that referencing is worth doing e.g.' you liked the Carpenters you might like Rumer'.
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