As an arts marketer, I have seen a huge variety of artist biographies. I love the ones that need no editing from me and can go straight to the printer for our programs. I cringe when I see bios that are full of spelling and grammar mistakes, missing italics or appropriate quote marks, too many words, etc. Whether you’re an artist or a professional, we all need a bio at some time in our career. Earlier this year I taught a Bio-Writing 101 class for a group of local artists and performers. Here was my advice on how to write an appropriate bio.
Who needs a bio?
- Performers, artists
- Blog writers, authors, columnists
- Subject experts, adjudicators, speakers
- Teachers, instructors, facilitators
Why do I need a bio?
- To let people know who I am
- To convince others why they should listen/watch/read/observe me or my work
- To get people to hire me
What are different types of bios that I might need?
- Social Media – one sentence or several words
- Brief – less than 200 words
- To go with blog or print article
- Accompany a work or an exhibit
- Performance programs with others listed
- Employee recognition on website or organizational materials
- Short – 300-500 words
- Performance or event programs as soloist/featured artist/speaker
- Event/Venue websites where you’re performing/teaching/speaking
- Long Bio – 700-1000 words
- Professional/Agent websites
- Press Kits
What do I include in a bio?
- Performances/Exhibits/Published Works/Etc. (if you’re an artist)
- Current and most recent jobs in your field
- Other Projects/Collaborations/Board posts
- Upcoming Projects/Performances/Speaking Engagements
How do I structure the bio?
- Outline the details above separately.
- Open with a sentence that encompasses who you are.
- Related to your audience
- Get the reader interested to learn more
- Put your most important/pertinent information in first one or two paragraphs in case of editing.
- Add supplemental information in subsequent paragraphs (so that it’s easily editable for size).
- End with a touch of the personal.
What are some other tips for writing a bio?
- Use third person voice.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread!
- Use appropriate grammar.
- Alternate between full name, last name, first name, and pronouns.
- Group like items in one paragraph.
- Italicize main works or titles, use quotes for pieces from a larger work (if listing performance info.)
- Keep it dynamic but humble.
- Know your audience and write for them (i.e. professional vs. quirky/humorous)
2 thoughts on “Bio-Writing 101”
I couldn’t agree more. I ghostwrite memoirs or bios. A bio should really be a great piece of journalism, providing color, background, good quotes etc.
The worst thing about most artist bios is that they’re mainly a list of performances, current and past, not bios at all. “This season, Mr. X will be performing with the orchestras of A,B,C,D. Last season he performed with the orchestra s of E,F,G,H. He has also appeared with the orchestras of I,J,K, and L.” Very boring!