One of the hardest things when performing is to do your own PR. We performers are bashful, retiring types – believe it or not – and one thing that fills us with horror is being asked to write a bio! Yet ask us for promo pics and we can pose like a pro! So, inspired by a post in the burlesque Big Sister / Brother project on Facebook, here’s Lilly Laudanum’s guide to bio writing… Working as a music journo for 20+ years, she’s had plenty of experience writing bios for bands, artists and record and PR companies and has even helped a few fellow burlesque and cabaret artists along the way…
What is a bio?
You’ve probably already written a bio of yourself without realising! Most social media sites have an ‘about me’ section and if you’ve filled this in, you’ve written a bio! A bio is basically your biography in a nutshell – like the actual word bio, it is a written history designed to advertise yourself/what you do. It’s like a personal advert designed to get you bookings and to audience, make you sound like one they need to see.
What it is not…
…Is your whole life story – leave that for when you become famous and have a book deal!
Bios are often called ‘one sheets’ in the industry, as basically one one sheet of paper will tell the reader (usually a producer, booker, journalist, agent, publicist – anyone that needs to know anything about you) important facts about you as a performer. Mostly in the cabaret world, your bio will be shorter – to just around 100 words of less, so the reader can grasp you in a nutshell.
What will the reader want to know?
Usually, a bio in an email is the first thing a booker/producer will read before they’ve seen pictures or clicked through your video links so it needs to be punchy, to the point and above all make the reader want to learn more about your beautiful self!
A good bio will make the reader want to find out more
A bad bio will turn the reader off/bore the reader
So it is crucial you sell yourself in those 100 words! Okay, think of this as what you would think important to know about a performer if you were booking them just on their bio. Things you might want to know include: what style of performer (comedy/character/pin up /retro/ultra glam/showgirl etc), how much experience, any important (and crucially, viable) awards, a mention of a prominent act or routine or character you do, and that all-important tagline/buy-line (eg: mine is ‘Making the historical hysterical’ – other good ones I’ve seen include ‘Rock ‘n’ roll redhead’ (Scarlett Daggers), ‘Gin drinking cabaret darling, musical comedy misfit, drag clown and acid tongued ringmaster’ (Joe Black) and ‘96% Extrovert, 4% Polyester’ / ‘International Vaudevillian’ (both Lou Safire), ‘King of the Codpiece’ Rusty Von Chrome – basically something that is descriptive, catchy and sums up you/your character). Things you might not want to read are where and when a performer was born, what their childhood was like, a whole list of shows they’ve done, etc. Remember, this isn’t a potted history, this is an advert. That you love cabaret/burlesque (what ever genre) – the reader will probably have guessed that, as you are performing, right? You must love it to take it to that level!
The golden rule – put the most exciting statement about yourself first to draw the reader in and leave on a positive or fun note – so basically book-end your content with two very strong statements. That makes a powerful impact.
Write in the third person…
By this we mean write about yourself as if someone else is writing it. Not only is it easier (and you will feel less like you’re being big headed) but it comes across as more professional. For example here is the same statement but written in the first person and third person:
“I’m a character burlesque performer with a garter-load of character-driven acts” (following statements contain I, me, etc)
“Lilly Laudanum is a burlesque performer with a garter-load of character-driven acts” (following statements include she, her, etc)
Let’s play a game!
Make a list of five statements about yourself or your burlesque persona that you consider the most important… Make 3 of them actual fact – ie been performing for X years, is a ‘X style’ [Comedy / burlesque / character / dancer etc) performer, one of them a mission statement and one of them a buy line/punchline (as above – something fun, a pun or something that sums you up in a short playful statement). Make your statements true – don’t be tempted to give yourself a false title, eg ‘the queen of burlesque’/the best in the west’ if you haven’t actually been labelled by anything official (official means press/media, high-profile performers or reputable, high profile competitions).
Now cut and paste them in a random order – and keep playing with that order until you are happy it has a punch. This is your bio at a skeletal stage – and even if you add a few flourishes or simply some ‘ands’ etc to join the sentences, this is a good basic bio.
A few dos and don’ts:
Don’t forget your name! Seriously! You don’t want to fall flat at the first hurdle, but you’d be surprised how many forget to mention their name!
Don’t be tempted to write your whole history – a bio only needs to be 100 words or less.
Don’t be tempted to write about yourself in ‘historical order’ as that is boring for the reader
Don’t worry about sounding big-headed – remember it is an advert for your fabulous self – sell every glitter-coated bit of that!
Don’t be afraid of injecting that personality! A bio will stand out a lot more if you inject some of that in, rather than a load of seriousness!
Don’t be afraid to use play on words – they will make you stand out – eg: ‘resident of supper club, ‘x’ is a delicious slice of cheesecake burlesque’ – so describes your style, plays on words and states you are an experienced resident act – 3 strikes in one!
Do: A bio is basically your advert to the world – think of it as selling yourself, your craft and your personality
Do mention a signature act/character/routine
Do be you! If it is you to write the whole thing in the perspective of a character you perform as, then do that! A great example of this is Lilly Snatchdragon’s bio (a taster of this includes: “Lilly show western people how silly they look at Asian women, she win ‘Best Newcomer” at L.C.A 2015″ – you can read more on her Facebook)
Do ensure it matches the brand you’ve created
Do throw in something unexpected – something that will make the reader read the sentence again!
Do get a friend to read it – especially to correct any spelling, but they may also throw in a sentence about yourself that you may have forgotten!
Do pop your website address at the end!
Oooh, I’ve gone all shy now! But here’s the bio I send out to producers (sometimes I chop and change which sentences I include – and you can edit it or tailor it for certain purposes or shows – there’s nothing wrong with that!)
Winner of the British Crown, World Burlesque Games 2016, Lilly Laudanum is a burlesque and sword performer whose playful parodies are anything but routine… Combining the essence of Carry On films, a heap of Victoriana and a measure of Arabic spice, Lilly Laudanum has been making the historical hysterical since 2009, poking a cheeky finger at some of history’s most prominent figures. Her signature, award-winning act portrays Queen Victoria at her most disgruntled, while other acts unite sword balancing skills (Bloody Mary) and crowd interaction (Trial And Error). We are definitely amused!”