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?

  • žPerformers, artists
  • žBlog writers, authors, columnists
  • žSubject experts, adjudicators, speakers
  • žProfessionals
  • žTeachers, instructors, facilitators

Why do I need a bio?

  • žTo let people know who I am
  • To convince others why they should listen/watch/read/observe me or my work
  • žTo get people to hire me

What are different types of bios that I might need?

  • žSocial Media – one sentence or several words
  • žBrief – 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
  • žShort – 300-500 words
    • Performance or event programs as soloist/featured artist/speaker
    • Event/Venue websites where you’re performing/teaching/speaking
  • žLong Bio – 700-1000 words
    • Professional/Agent websites
    • Press Kits

What do I include in a bio?

  • žPerformances/Exhibits/Published Works/Etc. (if you’re an artist)
  • Current and most recent jobs in your field
  • žEducation
  • žTeachers/Mentors
  • žžAwards/Recognitions
  • žAccomplishments/Successes
  • žReviews
  • žOther Projects/Collaborations/Board posts
  • žPersonal/Hobbies/Family
  • žUpcoming Projects/Performances/Speaking Engagements

How do I structure the bio?

  • žOutline the details above separately.
  • žOpen with a sentence that encompasses who you are.
    • Related to your audience
    • Get the reader interested to learn more
  • žPut your most important/pertinent information in first one or two paragraphs in case of editing.
  • žAdd supplemental information in subsequent paragraphs (so that it’s easily editable for size).
  • žEnd with a touch of the personal.

What are some other tips for writing a bio?

  • žUse third person voice.
  • žProofread, proofread, proofread!
  • žUse appropriate grammar.
  • žAlternate between full name, last name, first name, and pronouns.
  • žGroup like items in one paragraph.
  • žItalicize main works or titles, use quotes for pieces from a larger work (if listing performance info.)
  • žKeep it dynamic but humble.
  • Know your audience and write for them (i.e. professional vs. quirky/humorous)

Bio-Writing 101

 

About Samantha Teter

Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Executive Director Samantha Teter has over 15 years of experience in arts and non-profit marketing, public relations, and sales. She moved to the Chattanooga area in 2012 for the position of Director of Marketing with the CSO, and was promoted to Executive Director in 2016. She previously hailed from Denver, where she was Director of Marketing and Sales for the Colorado Symphony. Prior to that, she was Director of Marketing and PR for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic in Indiana. Other arts and non-profit experience includes Director of Marketing and Auditorium Events for the Scottish Rite Center in Fort Wayne and Marketing Specialist for Indiana Tech.

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2 thoughts on “Bio-Writing 101

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

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