Bragging With Class: How to Write the Perfect DJ Bio

One of the most uncomfortable things for me when I started getting booked for gigs was when promoters started asking for my “bio”.  The first time someone asked me for this, I went into an immediate panic.  Was this something I was supposed to have?  How do I go about bragging about myself?  Have I even accomplished enough to warrant a bio?  Do I write it in first person or third person?  Is someone else supposed to write it?  Where do I even begin?

I recently realized that I’ve been doing this for years, and I don’t feel any less comfortable with handing out a bio.  But, it’s something that promoters ask for.  So, rather than continuing to ignore the problem, I decided to do some research on the subject and re-visit my own promotional blurb.  In this post, I will teach you what I learned, and we will go through the process of re-writing my bio together.

My Existing Bio

For the longest time, I simply avoided it altogether… but I kept getting asked for it.  I decided I should have something to give promoters when asked.  So, here’s the half-hearted attempt I originally came up with.

Musician, producer, DJ, pianist, promoter, and electronic music enthusiast alike, David Michael hails out of Dayton, Ohio.  When not performing, he spends his time in the studio creating his own music… aided by over a decade of piano lessons and an upbringing in a very musically-influenced home.  Having spent many years playing at all of the major local night clubs (alongside local hard-hitters and national acts alike), holding multiple residencies, DJing special events and promoting his own shows, David has had a lot of time to develop his sound.  For him, it’s all about mood and a deep, hypnotic groove… playing those tracks that get you tapping your feet and nodding your head without you realizing it, regardless of genre, tempo, style, or release date.  Don’t be surprised when you suddenly find yourself dancing.

I suppose it could be worse, but this is far from what I would consider a stellar piece of work.  I find myself a bit embarrassed to post it here, which is funny considering the fact that it’s what I have available for people to blast on flyers and social media.

So, let’s figure out how we can do this better.

First or Third Person?

One of the things I didn’t like about writing DJ bios was trying to decide whether I should write in first or third person.  Writing it in third person seemed too pretentious and fake, as if I were playing the role of journalist pretending to review the work of someone else.  Yet, writing one in first person seemed too intimate and awkward.

According to Chris Robley (Marketing Coordinator & Blog Editor at CD Baby), third-person bios are easier, more flexible, and more usable.  However, that’s not to say that first-person can’t work… if you’re an amazing and confident writer.  Also, it’s easy to make first-person bios sound too aggressive.  Thinking back… as strange as it is to write my own bio as if someone else were writing it, I think it would be even stranger to read some other DJ’s bio written in first-person.  So, let’s stick with the safe route and go with third-person.  After all, the last thing I want to do is make the person reading it feel uncomfortable!

How Long?

Let’s think of what the purpose of our bio is.

Typically, for DJs (the kind who hope to get booked as guests at night clubs and festivals, at least), what we need is a short “blurb” to use on flyers, Facebook event pages, websites, or other forms of promotion.  The idea is to have this available on your homepage so that, when asked, you can simply link them to your bio.  (You do have a website, right?)

Chris Robley says that two small paragraphs, or about 250-300 words, should be about right.  Looking at my own bio above, it’s a little over 130 words.  I’m surprised to find that it’s a little short.  Perhaps I have a little wiggle room to add some info… but only if it’s info worth adding.  We’ll get to that later.  We also need to realize that Chris is referring to musicians and bands, and in this post we’re talking specifically about DJs (who may or may not also be producers, live performers, etc.)

For my own bio, I think I’m going to shoot for about 200-250 words… that feels about right.  And I want to make sure that they are 200-250 words that count.  The idea is to not bore people with mundane details that they don’t care about, but to give them a quick-and-dirty explanation of who you are and what they might expect when coming to see you play or listening to your productions.

But what if you want to give more info than that?  Maybe some people are interested in all that extraneous information.

The Power of Three

The beauty of living in our technological age is that nothing says we can’t have the best of both worlds, here.  Why not write the blurb for the sake of utility, and if you’re so-inclined, also write a more in-depth bio that people can seek out on your website should they choose to take that much interest?  On top of that, let’s appeal to those with very short attention spans and come up with a tagline.

So, to recap, your full bio “package” might contain the following:

1. Your name and tagline – The tagline is a very small one-liner.  This is your first shot at grabbing someone’s attention, so make it count.  Write the main point you want to convey, and maybe one other thing.  Don’t over-complicate it so that people move on, but rather, keep it simple.  You can mention genres here if you want, but for accessibility, use words that are universally understood (not just understood by other DJs in your circle).  You may be proud that you’re the “king of uplifting progressive psy-polka tech-step”, but there’s approximately zero other people in the world that are going to resonate with that.

Think in terms of keywords, here.  Twitter has the “short and sweet” thing pretty much cornered, so let’s go with their traditional limit of 140 characters.  This could be used for various things, such as the tagline on your website or business card… or simply as an “intro line” to your bio.

For myself, I tend to think in terms of emotions and adjectives rather than genres so that I don’t pigeonhole myself one way or the other (especially since I play a lot of different types of gigs).  But I do have some recurring themes: I like music that is deep, atmospheric, funky, and hypnotic.  I also like playing summery, uplifting tunes like you might want to hear on a patio while holding a beer.  So, here’s the simple line I came up with:

Purveyor of deep, infectious dance grooves and a feel-good atmosphere.

2. Your promotional “blurb” – This is what we traditionally refer to as our “bio” and is the main focus of this post.  This is where it’s important to cram a few key bits of relevant info into a small amount of space in order to give an idea of what you do.  As mentioned above, I’m going to cap my word limit at 250 words and write it in third-person.    The bio “blurb” is what we will be focused on in the sections below.

3. Your in-depth personal story – While you don’t want to give all the personal, in-depth details of your story in your main bio, that doesn’t mean you can’t still write about it for those who want it.  Nothing says you can’t put your full, first-person story with all the intimate details on your website.  That way, those who want to get down to the nitty gritty (these people make  killer fans) are able to do so, but you’re not cramming it down anyone’s throat.  Embellish all you want, here.

DJ Bio Don’ts

In my research on how to write a good bio, I compiled a list of “don’ts”.  Let’s go over them and then see how guilty I am of using them in my old bio.

Don’t: name drop people who are not relevant to your creative process or are only known on a local level.

(Guilt level: none.  I didn’t drop any names outside of my own, so I’m good here.)

Don’t: use very specific sub-sub-sub-genres or terminology, unless you want to pigeonhole yourself into serving a very small audience.

(Guilt level: none.  This is something I feel like I actually did pretty well… I attempt to describe my sound using universally understood terms.)

Don’t: fluff your bio up with hype… stick to the facts as much as possible, and don’t pad your bio with tasteless boasting.

(Guilt level: mild.  Not too bad here, though that last line is a bit corny.)

Don’t be surprised when you suddenly find yourself dancing.

Don’t: over-exaggerate.  We live in a world of transparency these days, and you will be found out.  Keep your bio factual, but celebratory.

(Guilt level: moderate.  I didn’t intentionally exaggerate, but I did notice some things that sound that way which I could’ve written better.  For example, I write that I’ve played in “all of the major local night clubs”.  That’s a bit of a subjective claim, and what does ‘local’ mean anyway?)

Having spent many years playing at all of the major local night clubs (alongside local hard-hitters and national acts alike), holding multiple residencies, DJing special events and promoting his own shows, David has had a lot of time to develop his sound.  

Don’t: start at childhood, unless you were truly a 13 year veteran by the time you were 16.  There is no shortage of “from an early age” bios out there, and we’ve heard it all before.  Nobody cares — what are you doing now?  How has your talent developed as an adult?

(Guilt level: high.  My “decade of piano lessons” bit is a touch over the top and somewhat irrelevant to my DJ skills.  Though, I don’t hate the idea of mentioning the piano as it does relate to me as a producer.)

When not performing, he spends his time in the studio creating his own music… aided by over a decade of piano lessons and an upbringing in a very musically-influenced home.

What Should We Talk About, Then?

Here are some ideas on what questions to answer in your bio.

Where did your love for music really begin?  Though I don’t want to try and convince my audience that I was a child prodigy, I do think it’s okay to mention where my love for music started and to mention some key influences.  Primarily, my musical influence came from my father’s old record collection.  I grew up on a lot of funk music, European electronica, weird 80s stuff, and video game tunes.  Apart from my father, I have always been a huge hip-hop fan, and though I’m not primarily a hip-hop DJ, I definitely throw in those nods here and there.

What are your career highlights, if any?  What have you done to stand out?  You can mention anything you’ve done that has had great success.  This is also where you make the choice of whether or not to name-drop.  I have mixed feelings on that, and I honestly haven’t played with all that many national acts, so I’m just going to leave it out on my own.

What words would you use to conjure up an image of your music?  Let’s think adjectives instead of genres.  If you had to paint a word-picture that described your music, what terms would you use?  For me, it’s words like “groove”, “deep”, “emotive”, “hypnotic”, and “feel-good”.

What is it about music that you’re passionate about?  This one is simple enough for me.  Music is my therapy.  It allows me to put my daily stress and cares on the back burner for a bit and decompress.  I love getting lost in music and the joyful feelings it stirs up in my chest.  I also like it when it has a beat that commands my feet to start moving.

One last tip: Don’t get hung up by thinking that your story isn’t interesting (i.e. – you have no “high drama”).  Be authentic and real.  Authenticity will win over being fake.

And My New Bio Is…

David Michael
“Purveyor of deep, infectious dance grooves and a feel-good atmosphere.”

That’s how David describes himself as a DJ.  Never afraid to go too deep, his emotive musical selections are his own therapy.  Having grown up on his father’s eclectic combination of funk music (George Clinton, Morris Day), European electronica (Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream), synth-infused 80s music (Depeche Mode, Gary Numan)… all which became infused with his own love for both hip-hop and video game music, David ended up with quite a mixed spectrum of musical influence.  Today, this translates into sets where he picks apart and infuses together all the pieces of this music that he loves best: beautiful synth work, ethereal backdrops, brooding basslines, and occasional vocal hooks… all on top of a pronounced foot-shuffling house beat.

A very active member of his local community, David is no stranger to the ups-and-downs of a small-town music scene.  Though he loves playing in nightclubs, patios and special events, his love for music goes beyond the spectrum of mixing tunes.  As a producer, pianist, and promoter, he has found plenty of ways to express himself musically.  He also likes to write about the subject on his blog, PassionateDJ.com – a website dedicated to helping himself and others become better DJs through passion and purpose.

“For me, it’s all about mood and a deep, hypnotic groove… playing those tracks that get you tapping your feet and nodding your head without you realizing it, regardless of genre, tempo, style, or release date. “

Much better, I think!  Some notes:

  • You’ll notice that I sort-of incorporated both a third-person and a first-person flavor to it by utilizing quotes.  I thought this was a nice way to add a personal touch without making things too awkward.
  • Notice how I mentioned where my musical influence comes from without droning on about my childhood.
  • I’m not saying this is a requirement, but you’ll notice that I didn’t even directly address my specific genres like “deep house” or “nu disco”.  I simply described my music and let the reader draw their own conclusions.  The only time I imply genre is when I mention “house beat”.
  • I also thought it would be cool to incorporate my tagline as part of my actual bio.  This makes it somewhat dual-function.  Cool!
  • You can see my bio on my personal site, dmichael.org.  I have not yet put a full in-depth bio on there, though I do mention a bit about my philosophy and approach to DJing… I feel that it helps to be clear with people when it comes to what kind of DJ I am and the services I provide.

So, there you have it!  I would love to know what you think about my rebuilt bio, and I would love to see your before-and-afters!