Build Your Brand as an Artist
If you’re an artist trying to break into today’s music industry, it doesn’t take much research to see the music world is incredibly saturated by aspiring singers, songwriters, musicians, and producers. In order to have a fighting chance at success, you need to consider one of the most important business-related aspects of being an artist – building your brand.
So what’s a brand? The short answer: A brand is what you’re known for. It’s your identity as an artist.
If you think of all the biggest names in music history, you’ll see they’re all branded. Elvis had his sideburns, Michael Jackson had his glittered glove, the Rolling Stones have the set of lips with a tongue sticking out, Prince has his “love symbol,” and Mariah Carey has her butterflies. A strong brand is what sets someone apart from other artists; and it makes all the difference between disposability and longevity. Here are five ways to start building your own brand as an artist.
Determine your artistic point of view.
What is it you’re trying to offer your listeners? What do you stand for? What message are you trying to get across via your music? This doesn’t mean pigeonholing yourself into one topic or theme for every song you ever release, but there needs to be some cohesion between them. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for Kenny Rogers to suddenly start rapping about being a pimp in Compton. On the other hand, Jay-Z wouldn’t be singing a ballad about crying into his pillow after his high school sweetheart dumped him. Aim for consistency.
Keep it short.
Don’t confuse your brand with a corporate-style mission statement. If someone asked you what your brand is as an artist, you should be able to answer them in one sentence – two, at the absolute most. One mistake to avoid, however, is being too vague. Calling yourself “the best rapper from Brooklyn” doesn’t mean anything. Something more along the lines of “rapping for the voiceless” would be a better bet.
Every artist is the product of different upbringings, beliefs, values, cultural backgrounds, and life experiences. The key is to consolidate everything that makes you unique, in order to create a clear artist identity.
Define your style.
Unless you’re Madonna, who is perhaps the greatest artistic chameleon in the game, you need to pinpoint your visual style. Even though your music is the focus, your physical appearance plays directly into your brand.
Have you noticed how many celebrity Halloween costumes go on sale every year, from Snooki ensembles to Lady Gaga getups? That’s just an example of how strong their brands are. This doesn’t mean you have to dye yourself orange or wear a dress made out of meat, but figure out a look that is representative of who you are – both, as an artist and a person.
Understand your target audience.
There isn’t a single song or genre of music that’s going to appeal to every single person in the world. While your music should be a reflection of yourself, you’re still going to have to market it to the right audience. You won’t see any boy bands dressing up or releasing tracks that will appeal to middle-aged men, because their target audience is young females. The more you understand exactly who is listening to your music and which demographics tend to relate most to your work, the bigger the impact you’ll have.
Pay attention to all aesthetics and collaborations.
Again, this includes to your look and image as an artist, but it also involves seemingly minor details such as your album artwork. You are branded by anything and anyone associated with your name, from the cover of your album to the featured singers on your tracks.
How many times have rappers been called “sellouts” after collaborating with mainstream, bubblegum pop singers, thus losing some of their lifelong fans? Collaborations are crucial in the industry, but not all partnerships will be beneficial to your brand. Therefore, be mindful of everyone you work with and how every piece of your music and image is presented.