As someone who has written a number of artist bios (including one for a major Canadian artist who has an album coming out later this month), I’ve always tried to write something that doesn’t suck. Which isn’t hard–at least compared to the vast majority of bios that clog the music industry with their awful prose.
The formula is simple: fill up a 8.5 x 11 page at 11 or 12 point font (allowing for one picture and a logo) regardless if there’s anything worth writing about. Use generic, non-specific quotes alluding to the energy/uniqueness/oddness of the artist/songs/album. Toss in a road story/studio story and then predict how this band is about to take the world by storm. Pad everything with cliches and unnecessary adjectives.
They are beyond dull. In fact, for anyone searching for any crumpet of real information about the artist will be greatly annoyed.
Over in London, the Independent‘s arts editor, David Lister, recently published a scathing commentary about the paucity of valuable or even interesting information in artist biographies. He wrote it in a fury after paying £4 to obtain the program for a Proms concert he attended, featuring the excellent German violinist Julia Fischer. (Yes, one pays for the privilege of reading about programs and performers at various international halls.)
What did he find? “A mine of useless information,” he says — a list of where Fischer had played in recent seasons, where she going to be performing over the next several months and a list of her recordings.
Sound familiar? It should. A whole lot of biographies provided by artists and their teams read exactly that way. And in the aftermath of Lister’s commentary, quite a lot of lively conversation has erupted online about his complaints, both on Facebook and Twitter.