Your music always comes first – it’s the contact point for new fans and it’s the whole reason you’re here. But beyond the music, your story is a huge part of your artistry. It’s what gives context to the music and what can turn a casual fan into a long term listener. A compelling story is also a great way to get press, influencers, and industry connectors hooked into your band. So when my musician friends ask, “How do I get press?”, I tell them to lead with a great song and a better story.
As an important aside, remember that your story is different than your band bio. The bio has facts about the band and can include elements of the story, but your band’s story is much bigger than this.
When thinking about your own story it might be easier to think of it as the culture of your band. I’ve seen that culture represented in many ways. It could be an anecdote, a manifesto, or a rule to live by that informs the music and a world view. The story comes from your life and experiences, and doesn’t always have to be centered around a major life event if that’s not your style. It could be about an album, a song, or a dream.
Look to your own heroes for inspiration on what your story could be. Kanye had his car accident, 50 Cent was shot nine times, Bon Iver holed up in a remote log cabin in the middle of winter after a break-up. Each artist story gives another anchor for fans to connect with. In genres like Punk and Hip Hop, the back story of the artist is critical. The story solidifies the artist’s place within the larger genre culture.
But a great story isn’t limited to a genre and it’s not always about sharing content. When The Weeknd originally appeared, his story was essentially a no-story. There was no social media content, no photos of the artist…just the music. The lack of a story was the story, leaving the lyrics and the limited album art to provide the narrative and the buzz.
Your story is only limited by your own ability to weave a compelling narrative. As long as it works for your artistry, your story can be as real or imagined or ridiculous as you want it to be. As long as you make sure it’s your own and authentic to you.
So how do you find your compelling band story?
Examine your life, music, and experiences. But this time try and see them with new eyes. Use a beginner’s mind to take a look at your style, your sound, and your motivations. Look for a thread that unites it all. Easy, right? It’s probably a lot more obvious than you think. Ask trusted friends and fellow musicians if they see a narrative within your life if you’re having problems.
Ultimately the point with any story is that you’re looking to get people interested even before they’ve heard the music. Get them to take a moment to check out your music next time you come across their radar. With a compelling story you can get them hooked and move them up the fan experience to be true believers in your music and career.
Matt Voyno is the Editor of NueAgency’s Beats + Bytes Music Tech Newsletter that includes over 10,000 music industry insiders like Lyor Cohen and Bob Lefsetz.