The Dreaded DJ Bio: Six Tips to Make A Good One

So you just got booked to play a new club night starting up in your town. You’re on top of your game in preparation for this gig: the playlists are sorted, you synced the back-up USB sticks, hell you even knocked together a couple re-edits to test out. Then the inevitable happens: the promoter hits you up with a dreaded request: “Can you send me your bio ASAP?”

Yes folks, the elusive DJ bio. If you’re like a lot of artists, that three-letter B-word will strike fear in your heart. The mere thought of talking about ourselves in the third person, trying to reduce every music-related thing we’ve ever done to a paragraph can be migraine-inducing. C’mon, how many of us are even writers by nature?

In my own case, I’ve been running a music blog for five years and have no problem knocking together a piece on a local DJ or producer in a half hour. Yet when recently tasked with having to submit my own bio for an upcoming show, it took a few hours just to cough up four measly sentences. Which immediately led me to thinking about putting this post together, as I know it’s a common problem.

A NECESSARY EVIL

Full-Profile

As both a journalist and DJ I’m always trying to find new music to write about. Part of this involves digging to discover local, lesser-known DJs, reaching out to them to record podcast mixes for my blog. Soundcloud is obviously at the top of my hit-list here. When I go there, there are three things I subconsciously look at within the first second of visiting someone’s page:

  • 1) Avatar photo
  • 2) Follower count
  • 3) Bio

Intentional or not, the fact that these three things are on the top left of the page (where our eyes are conditioned to start reading) speak volumes. I know this stuff sounds a little superficial on the surface, but the point is that a well-written bio is the easiest way for an un-informed listener to learn about someone new in a short period of time. The good news is writing one doesn’t have to be painful and once it’s kick-ass we can get back to focusing on what obviously matters most: THE MUSIC.

“Claude VonStroke does not scowl and look mean while he DJs. He does not pretend to know everything and he will be nice to you and your friends. He is grateful to be doing music for a living and he knows that the reason people go to parties is to shake their ass and have fun. If you want to act cool and not have any fun then please do not book him.”

-The opening to Claude Von Stroke’s bio and a clever use of natural selection

Tip 1: Focus On What Makes You Unique

question

So you’ve spun tech house for a couple of years and land the occasional club gig once every few months. There’s probably a few dozen others in your backyard doing just the same – so where do you begin?

The first step is to focus on what makes you different from the rest of the pack. Think of the details about your experience as a DJ that could tell an interesting story. Where are you from? How long have you been playing? Where do you discover and buy your music? What kind of crowd is your music tailored towards? Do you find yourself more comfortable playing opening sets as opposed to the peak hour? Do you prefer playing smaller, humbler venues over larger ones? Do you have a specific target audience you’re catering towards?

DJTT’s Ean Golden suggests:

“We call this your “core competency” in business lingo. It’s the one thing that you are really, really good at and hopefully some what uniquely so”

Once you’ve put some thought into these and similar questions, eliminate the trivial details, culling down your story to just the facts that people will find interesting. One way to find out:

“Ask an objective friend, ‘what do you think is interesting about my work as a DJ?’ The results may surprise you.”

Tip 2: Keep It Simple If You’re Unknown; Make Two Versions (Long/Short) If You’re Known

KISS

I’m sure you’ve seen them a million times: DJ bios from local unknowns that go on

and on.

and on.

It tells their whole life story, much of which does pertain to DJ’ing. What music their parents listened to. What instrument they played for two years in their high school band.

“Newcomer bios should be 5-6 sentences (at most) and focused on a few key details people can relate to, like ‘Friday night resident at Sankey’s’”

If you’re gigging regularly promoters and press may require a longer version for reference. Some artists maintain two versions of the bio: the standard, one-paragraph version, and a longer version to provide only if people ask.

Longer versions are usually tailored towards accomplishments. Details on releases you’ve put out which include label and compilation info. Events you’ve thrown. Record labels you run. Number of copies sold. Radio shows or podcasts you’re a part of. Noteworthy parties or festivals you’ve played at.

“Dubfire has always been a risk taker, and his decision to go solo in 2006 at the height of Deep Dish’s success was a precarious one.”  – excerpt from Dubfire’s bio, good example of revealing the human side and tells an interesting story

Tip 3: Avoid Clichés + Unnecessary Details

brostep

Ahh yes, the classic stereotypical bio cliches. “I discovered music at the tender age of 5”, “I’ve been murdering dancefloors and transcending minds since 2011”, “I’ve shared the spotlight with Hardwell, Tiesto, and Armin Van Buuren”, and don’t forget the obligatory “My biggest influence is Kraftwerk”.

Anyone who’s been a promoter or part of the music press for more than a few months can bullshit-detect bio cliches like these from a mile away.

Some advise over use of genre labels to describe what you play. For example, when someone says something like “DJ X spins everything the deepest of progressive electro-house to the hardest of broken-beat trance”, it’s kind of hard to be taken serious. Instead, consider using common attributes that describe the music you play, such as the fact many of your songs have synths and guitars, or a level of energy, cater to a specific demographic, or many of them just so happen to be produced in one specific city, say Detroit, Berlin, or London.

As journalists, we learn to avoid using clichés or depending on genre labels to write about music at all costs. Along with other cringeworthy words such as “epic”, “killed”, or “banging”.

Tip 4: If You Can’t Write To Save Your Life, Find Someone Who Can

Writer

As I said earlier, not all of us who DJ are also accomplished writers. Similar to how many of us aren’t graphic designers or photographers either. But it’s common practice to hire the latter to make new logos or take photos for us to use in our press kits, so there shouldn’t be any shame in reaching out to a writer if needed as well.

Think about this for a sec; you wouldn’t want your press photo to be poorly lit, or your logo to use crappy fonts, filters, or effects, right? The same holds true for the bio, so at least have them look it over and provide some objective feedback.

Local music bloggers and journalists in your community are great people to hit up for unsolicited advice. They’ve literally read thousands of bios in promo emails and press releases and can accurately judge a good from a poor one.

Yes – do offer them some form of compensation for their effort upfront. Remember, writers and journalists are busy and often awash in a sea of deadlines. The more well-known they are, the tougher they will be to get in contact with, so limit your search to independent ones in your backyard.

Tip 5: Update It At Least Once A Year

Updated

Want to know my biggest pet peeve with DJ bios? Ones that are NEVER updated! I can’t tell you how often I read one where the last paragraph opens with something along the lines of “2011 is shaping up to be a big year for DJ X”…in 2014.

Promoters and booking agents are usually looking for any reason to say no, not a detail that inspires yes! Big errors and dated information are a fast-track to the trash bin.

If you’re a local DJ who isn’t touring the world year round, it’s inexcusable to not find an hour each year to bring your bio up to date. You wouldn’t bring a resume from 2011 into a job interview in 2014, would you?

When updating, keep the length roughly the same as what you had it before. This means the recent and stronger accomplishments replace older and weaker ones. The last thing you want people to think is you haven’t done squat in the last few years!

IN SUMMARY

Hopefully this article gives you a bit of insight into the importance of a well-written bio. Obviously it’s one piece to the promotion puzzle, which should also involve a strong online presence, involvement in the local scene, Soundcloud and Mixcloud accounts, a business card, website, and press kit (if you’re gigging frequently). But it’s a piece that shouldn’t be ignored, because as people have likely pounded in your head for all your life, first impressions are everything.

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  • James Watt

    I am looking for most reliable bio writing services although there are many companies providing writing services but they all are not focusing on quality usually.

  • Bertie B.

    The one thing I really struggled with when writing my bio was to make it sound neutral. I’m sure I’m not the only person who hates trying to sell themselves. I always remember a club owner in London saying he hated unprofessional bios. That got me really worried, he described it like someone who does their own website to someone who pays for it. Anyway, I used these guys, they even advertise DJ bios – http://www.bio-writer.com/dj-bio.htm. Not sure if anyone else has used them, but they did a good job with mine

  • Bertie B.

    The one thing I really struggled with when writing my bio was to make it sound neutral. I’m sure I’m not the only person who hates trying to sell themselves. I always remember a club owner in London saying he hated unprofessional bios. That got me really worried, he described it like someone who does their own website to someone who pays for it. Anyway, I used http://www.bio-writer.com, not sure if anyone else has, but they did a good job with mine

  • Mark Goertzen

    My favorite ones are when they forget which perspective they’re writing from and switch from third to first person.

  • Lux

    Maybe even have a friend of your write a biography for you and then you just add upon it. I know for some, myself included, it can be hard to judge yourself. You don’t want to make things sound corny and sarcastic. Having a friend write a letter of recommendation and then take out snippets from it definitely helps!

    Tucson DJ
    http://www.luxentertainment.com

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  • KMD

    Might want to have this post edited…I spotted a few pretty obvious errors, especially since “journalist” is claimed as a skill.

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  • Hana Sheala

    I was very shy and socially awkward as a teen because I was different. So I though thats the reason I cant get my bio done. Social phobia, fear of being judged or that stuff. And now I read this. And I feel like… weird. You know I started to appreciate my difference and now I read that all DJs struggle with their bios?

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  • anonDJ

    fiverr best place for bios & logos

  • good read 🙂

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  • CUSP

    Generally, this works:

    If you can explain roughly what styles/genres you play, the promoters will know by a few keywords whether they want to hear your “mix set recordings.” If they like that, they may move on to hearing your mix. Your mix sets are what’s going to impress the Promoters, by (PRIMARILY) song selection, and (SECONDARILY) your transition work/layering.

    Ultimately, your Bio should reflect what works for you getting work, make it the written equivalent of what works in conversations. Give them a little bit more than a vague description of what you play like and always leave them wanting more.

    No one wants to hear you describe how great you think you are… that’s a Rookie mistake, they will (on the otherhand) be interested in why you’re motivated to play each song.

  • FireUrEngine

    Just be yourself who cares what others think but don’t over do it. I have seen one profile from a local dj who runs one of the most popular sites on the planet, and his bio goes off the wall to explain his track selection for arranging his mixes it makes me want to puke from my arse or chit from my mouth! If djs say they represent the underground please maintain this integrity, no radio or pop music.

  • Andy Kershaw

    I’ve edited over 500 bios for a label group I work for. It’s best to leave years off the bio and use links for recent discography, mixes, etc. It’s best to leave number of years off the bio (i.e. how long you’ve been DJing or producing) as this needs to be updated every year. Instead, you can say what year you began DJing/producing and just leave it at that.

  • Max One

    Here’s a big DJ agency. Each artist has a bio http://www.elitemm.co.uk/artists/ they’re the long kind but maybe good inspiration

  • Dean Zulueta

    I always find the simple bios to be much more effective than the over-hyped, spam style bios. Also, most of the time the people who have simple bio have more unique music than the ones trying to be the next Avicii.

  • Toontown

    Bonus Tip: have somebody you trust proofread and edit your bio for typographical or grammatical errors.

  • Adam Arthur

    Does anyone have any links to, what they would see as, top-notch DJ/Artist BIOs? I recently needed to create my BIO for a radio appearance opportunity but when searching Google I found hardly any decent BIOs. I wish I would have had this article at the time, but hey now I can better update what I have!

    • alfredo otero

      not sure if all of those bios are top notch, but in resident advisor you can literally find thousands of them, I would check the bigger names first… good luck!

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  • Chris Alker

    Excellent piece. So glad someone said it! As a writer myself, reading bad DJ bios is a huge pet peeve of mine. If I see another “I began drumming at the tender age of…” one more time, I’m going to lose it!

    • shlerner

      With a background in classical piano playing I soon started to take out my grandparents edison phonograph to make scratches on my self glued tape recorder mixes. At the age of 2 I never listened to any kind of uncool music and Kraftwerk was by far my biggest influence ever. Digging trough my parents record collection I soon realized that my dream is to take people on a journey. Soon afterwards to legendary 1200s were bought to get into the deep basics of turntablism and beatmatching. Just recently I thought about getting to the next level and dived into the world of pro controllerism by buying a mixtrack pro. Mind boggling, epic bangers are soon to be produced.

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  • Jason Black

    Um I think you skipped #5 or am I missing something?

    • CUSP

      #5 or #6… but yeah, you’re right.

  • noxxi

    aw man i hate writing bios, all of mine are super cringey,i never know what to write that isnt bragging or sad!

    • CUSP

      Yeah, I keep seeing Bios with words that are ultra-hypey, (desperately) wanting to convince you to listen to them because they’re telling you how much they’re awesome, OR I get see these ultra-eclectic bios that make hipsters cringe at how nitchey their DJ sets are.

      • noxxi

        nice tips! i just need to get around to doing it now…

      • noxxi

        also, fuck hipsters! haha!

  • killmedj

    Oh boy do I need this advice =/

  • chris

    in german we had the word Arschkriecher, this means someone penetrates you to be forced.
    to give music to the people, is, to give a nice time

    • Isaac Smile

      sounds dodgey.