In an industry where the first thing the public sees before you walk out on stage, your biography has to be your best foot forward. Writing a biography is always a difficult matter because unless you are some sort of pathological narcissist, it is pretty hard to sell who you are and what you do on paper.
Here are five things to consider when crafting your next biography:
A biography is delightful. A biography is endearing. A biography gives me a round picture of who you are as an artist. A curriculum vitae is a cold unfeeling list. It shows me that you have a ton of education and history. Also, sending a CV in place of a biography is just plain irritating for the person designing the program. An audience does not want to read a CV… frankly, I don’t want to read your CV, now I have to create a biography for someone I don’t know based off of a list of cold facts. It’s time consuming and irritating.
Advice: sit down and write a small narrative of who you are as an artist.
Your biography is like a blind speed date and I don’t need to know about the five kids you have from four baby-mommas. It scares me and I want to stop reading. If this is the first sentence, I’m already scoping out my exit through the bathroom window.
Advice: pretend you are meeting someone for the first time in an elevator. What are the most important points about you as a person and an artist?
Just like the inconsiderate people who send a CV instead of a narrative biography, people who send PDF biographies are also an irritation for program designers. The magical function known as COPY & PASTE is not a friend of the PDF. When you send a PDF of your biography it means that somebody has to sit down and reformat your whole biography. If you have some fancy font which messes with the spacing of letters, reformatting your biography is basically a fire-fueled task from hell.
Advice: upload a .doc, .docx, .rtf or other plain text document and the person designing the concert program will adore you! Organizations often include the PDF option because they don’t want to bother with a sea of people who “can’t figure out how to attach” their biography to a submission.
Word counts are important because programs have limited space. Ink and paper are expensive, and unless you are lucky enough to have parents in the copier/printer business you don’t have an unlimited access to program printing supplies. Word counts are not arbitrary and you should remember that.
Advice: take time to create three to four versions of your biography –a blurb (100 words or less), short (150-200 words), medium (250-300 words), and long (500 words or more). Do the work now and save it for later. Pay close attention to what the organization is asking you to provide.
Keep your biography up to date! This is important to remember, especially if you have chosen to include points about where you are actively studying.
Advice: plan to update your biography every four to six months. When you have a down moment take the time to update your résumé or biography. Don’t wait until you are applying for a job or submitting your work for consideration to work on polishing your biography. It will make the process easier and less stressful.
Find at least three people to read your biography before you commit it to the archive or publish it. You should seek to have your biography proofed by people from varying experiences, recall that your biography will be read by many audiences and should appeal to a mass-audience as well as academics.