What is a good biography and how to write it?
By Irma de Jong
A good biography is nothing more than making an appealing story out of your curriculum vitae. I know for many people this stresses them out. It’s something they don’t like to do, wait until the very last second and sometimes the biography comes out messy or too long, because they don’t really know what to write, or they think not to have the talent to write.
What’s your story?
To work on a complete, clear and attractive biography is crucial for you. It is part of your branding!
I’ve seen in my life, a lot, a lot of biographies. When I started to work as a PR and marketing trainee at the orchestra, one of the very first things they gave me to do was to edit biographies. This is not so simple as you might think. First of all, it had to fit in the concert program booklet, which meant I had to cut at least half of the text, then I needed to be careful not to cut out important things, something that the artist or orchestra finds precious. I also had to make sure it was attractive enough to the audience. For example, one of the things many people do is to make a summary list of all the halls and countries they’ve performed, what could be really boring to read. It takes away the attention of more important things and it takes too much space in the booklet.
How can we build an interesting and appealing biography?
First of all, for what purpose are you going to use your biography? To apply for a position at an orchestra? Or for a competition? Do you have a concert and the promoter asked you for a biography? You want to write to a festival, or promoter, to present yourself?
For each purpose, you have to write in a different way and mix your “ingredients” magical
Your biography is built out of a couple of elements that according to what purpose, is mixed and reconstructed. We have:
• FACTS > the base for your biography, build on the dry facts
• A STORY > the story that comes with the facts
• FLAVORS > what are the colours that light up your biography, or you want to put in the front?
• IMPRESSION MAKERS > what impresses people? Did you perform with a famous orchestra? Have you won an exceptional price? In what way are you unique in your performing?
Long and short biography
Make sure you have a biography of no more than 700 words, distract a smaller version of 350 words, and an elevator pitch of 3 phrases. Use headlines and paragraphs to make your biography “scannable” on your website. If you have, use positive quotes from the press as a headliner. Add some personal texts, or a personal quote, or your personal life mission.
Last but not least: be consequent in writing, find your own style and be authentic.
Irma de Jong is an Artists and Project Manager, and the owner of agency Cicerone Music & Art. She works in the classical music field for more than 25 years and has collaborated with many renowned artists and orchestras. Irma created an online self-management course for musicians, to empower and encourage artists to be in charge of their own career. How to write a good biography is a part of this course which includes a three-step step plan to create the perfect base biography for all activities.