This is a series of articles I’ve been thinking about for a while now. As a music journalist, a big part of my job is receiving and responding to publicists about music artists. Granted, I am not a PR professional, but I’ve seen a lot of publicity materials in my time. While these articles are geared more toward musicians who do their own PR, they also include tips to help publicists do better when contacting writers like me. Let’s start with the number one rule for music PR: have an interesting bio.
A typical music bio begins something like “Harry Tongue and The Palmlickers is a band from Olympia, Washington, that cut its teeth…” Let me stop right there. If you’re planning on using that phrase, don’t. It is a cliche that pops up in a lot of music bios. That is reason enough to leave it out of yours. You can do better than that.
“…that cut its teeth in clubs like…” blah blah blah. Look, I’m not here to downplay the clubs you’ve played. Frankly, any gig is a good gig. However, the clubs you list might not mean anything to whomever is reading your bio. So while you can list some of those clubs, you might want to keep the number to a minimum. Besides, you can find something more interesting than venue names to include in your bio. For example, did your band once get stranded in Casper, Wyoming, or some other outpost on a random winter Tuesday? Did your lead singer once pee next to Billie Joe Armstrong or some other rock star? Did you and your bassist meet in middle school?
I’ll give you a rather extreme example. Before interviewing Jimbo Mathus, I read in his bio that he was kicked out of his hometown for writing a song called “Chokin on a ‘Lude”. That’s interesting, and that is the sort of thing you want to include in your bio because any good writer will pick up on those things. If there’s nothing interesting in your bio, when you are interviewed, you’ll get questions like “What are your influences?” and “how do you describe your music?” Frankly, nobody — not the band, the writer, or the audience — should be subjected to that.
Maybe no one is writing about your band yet, but the reason you need a bio is to entice potential writers. Keep that in mind when you write your bio.
Yes, the bio requires that you brag about yourself. Put aside what your mama taught you about being humble. This is YOUR music. If you don’t brag about it, who will. And you know what else? If you’re not comfortable writing your own bio, you probably know a writer (why yes, I am available to help you with that and you can contact me via the Comments section) that will write it — for a reasonable fee. After all, creative people should get paid for their work, right?
Once you have a working draft of your bio (whether it was written by you or some writer you know), here’s what you do: let some people read it. Then have them tell you honestly if they found it interesting. If they say no, then you know you still have some work to do. It’s better to take a little more time to get it right than to send out a subpar bio.
So that’s lesson number one in Music PR 101. More articles like this are coming. Make sure you pass it along to all of your musician friends.