The Right (and Wrong) Way to Write a Bio

by Dan Kimpel

Below is an exerpt from an article on written by Dan Kimpel. [Dan Kimpel, a Los Angeles-based publicity and PR consultant, is the author of Networking in the Music Business (Mix Books). He writes a bi-weekly column, SongWorks, for Music Connection magazine and Song Book for Grammy magazine. You can read the full article, including examples of bios, good and bad, at]

The bio is the cement that holds a press kit together. It should:

  1. Create an
  2. Define a musical
  3. Lead the reader directly to the

Who needs bios?
Recording artists, songwriters, performers and producers all benefit from well-written bios. “Send your tape, bio and picture,” is usually the first request from someone interested in your talents.

What if I don’t have major credits?
Unsigned artist bios often spotlight personalities, histories and creative processes. The bio must be honest, but the truth should also sound as good as possible. Never mistake hype for substance.

Can I write my own bio?
Maybe. Some people can take their own pictures and design their own logos, too. But if you’re an artist, you probably know how difficult it is to be objective about your music and career.

How long should a bio be?
Usually one page. If you’ve got a fascinating history–and it’s extremely well-written–a one and a half to two page bio is permissible.

How much should I pay a professional to write my bio?
$150-$350 is the standard rate in Los Angeles. Be involved: you can ask for drafts and rewrites.

Beware the hackneyed cliche, the imprecise metaphor, the goofy, strained adjective. “Joe Jones is a brilliant artist,” doesn’t show–it tells. “Sue Smith is destined for stardom,” is lame and off-putting. The bio must lead the reader to his own conclusions. Telling a reader what to feel or think may lead to the exact opposite impression. Double check for proper punctuation, grammar and spelling.

In constructing recording artist Harold Payne’s bio I used the global themes in his music to set the stage:

One hundred years ago Harold Payne would have jumped freight trains or stowed away on tramp steamers. He would have written novels like Jack London, painted portraits of exotic womanhood like Paul Gaugin and been a guide through steaming jungles from the furthest outposts of civilization. In these days of the jet plane, Harold Payne uses songs, his voice and a guitar to traverse a global road from Chiang Mai to Moscow, from Bali to Bora-Bora. He’s sung in Singapore, strummed in Samoa, dreamed in Hindu temples and jammed with itinerant street musicians in Ireland. He shares it all on his new Affinity Records release, Pass It On.

Do not include facts which don’t impact the music. For instance, it may be pertinent to say you ride horses if you have songs about horses, or have written songs while riding horses or can draw some correlation between horses and music. Otherwise, leave those horses in the pasture. Information about your educational background, work experience, broken marriage, prison term or dysfunctional childhood should be referenced only as it relates to the music.

Vocalist Suzanne Palache wanted a bio which would make the reader say, “ I have to meet this woman!” So I began:

Suzanne Palache has enough energy to power a small fleet of motor vehicles. It’s a fuel that burns full-throttle, ignited by the heat of her soulful voice and the power and passion of her performance.

For an intimate singer/songwriter:

Tim Gales writes simple songs about complex things: love, family, home, heaven. Phrases turn, emotions connect, melodies soar. You sing along even though you’ve never heard the tune before. Tim writes from a perspective of distances, of interludes between lovers and lives and the roads that lead from small towns to big cities.

As a journalist, I receive an average of fifteen to twenty major/indie label press kits weekly. There is no singular bio style which is appropriate for all of these artists. A seething, pierced neo-punk aggregation and a soothing, cerebral new-age artist can’t possibly share the same metaphors. Your bio must speak in the same voice as your music.

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