Last month, we created a five part series about branding and musicians: What it is, why you need it and how you go about branding yourself if you are a musician or band. I’ve decided to put all the parts into one ultimate guide. Enjoy and feel free to pass it onto your friends
What Exactly Is A Brand?
A brand is just the name, design, symbol or feature that identifies something as being different from everything else. The term ‘branding’ was initially used to differentiate cattle by the use of a distinctive symbol on the animal’s skin. Makes sense when you put it like that doesn’t it.
A brand is also the ‘promise of an experience’ and it assures people as to the quality of the product or service that they will receive when they buy it. For example, if you visit a popular fast food chain you can be certain that no matter which branch you visit of the quality of the food will be the same and you will more often than not enjoy yourself whilst you are there.
This experience and quality can generate ‘value’, in other words it is worth paying more for and that in turn can lead to customer loyalty. On the whole people love brands. Nearly all the consumer goods we buy are branded.
Why You Need To Become A Brand
Now think about the world of music today. There are thousands of DIY artists similar to yourselves all vying for people’s attention. People can listen to music for free on YouTube and other free platforms and today digital music has little to no value. If however you incorporate elements of branding into your music marketing you can
- Help to differentiate yourself from other musicians.
- Become ‘more’ than just music.
- Increase the value of what you are selling.
Branding is not so much about ‘commoditising’ your music, it is about defining who and what you are, differentiating yourself from the other musical acts in your field and doing so in a way that will make your music of value to people. People will actually want to give you money for it. We could all do with more of that.
The visuals and the imagery that you use for your music marketing is incredibly important. You can regard these visuals as your ‘packaging’. All of the elements below will incrementally contribute to help you build that brand.
Your logo is perhaps the most important visual aspect of any band or artist. Never underestimate the power of a good logo and if you have a good one it can last a lifetime. Through merchandise it can also make you a lot of money!
A logo is something that represents you, it’s a signifier for your music and your values. Get a designer to create a good one which and use it on EVERYTHING.
Are there specific design tropes that you have to adhere to for your genre of music? Metal bands for example have their own way of doing things.
A picture speaks a thousand words and how you come across in your photography will say a lot about you. How you stand, the looks that you give, the colours in the lighting or the digital proessing, your shooting location…all these send signifiers to an audience. Using these is a great way of ‘getting the message across’ about who you are.
Ultimately, your photography should ‘sell and tell’ who you are. Having instruments in shot in band photographs may seem cliched however they are there to give ‘signs’ to an audience so they don’t have to think too much. Here’s a publicity photo for the folk group Show of Hands.
We can see their instruments and there is a natural, nice organic setting . Here’s a publicity image for DJ Fresh
He is stood in a futuristic neon space with his turntable controller. In summary, people don’t like confusion when confronted with visuals. Use clarity in your images to say exactly who you are. Don’t be afraid to help ‘tell’ the audience what you do and what you sound like.
The clothing that you wear in your publicity photo shoots and the clothing you wear when performing is important, Certain genres of music have design tropes which tell people ‘this is the type of music I make’. Do you conform to these?
As we’ve discussed before in this blog, if you’re in a cool rock band, should you be wearing a striped t-shirt?
Have you noticed how similar sounding bands look and dress in a similar way.
When Coldplay released their Mylo Xyloto album their clothing and their stage production matched their album imagery. They ‘became’ the music.
- Ensure you have a strong band logo.
- Make sure your promotional and external imagery tells people who you are and what music you make.
You might not realise it, but most consumer brands (the branded items that you buy each and every day) have human characteristics attributed to them by their marketing people. The idea is that by giving a product a set of characteristics, people with those same characteristics will have a greater affinity for that item.
People will be able to relate to and identify with that brand because they feel that brand “is just like me”.
These personality traits could be
Happy / Angry / Rebellious / Maverick / Serious / Sexy / Down To Earth / Introvert / Extrovert / Aggressive / Gangsta / Funny / Excitable / Party Starter / Kooky
Beer brands are perfect examples of this. Here are some examples
Brewdog is marketed as a brand with attitude. It’s a beer for rebels, for people with a disregard for authority.
Carlsberg has a funny, witty ‘jack the lad’ personality. One of the boys.
Stella Artois’ personality is that of a sophisticated, cultured European. It’s a brand which reflects and respects history and tradition.
Ultimately, people like brands and musical artists not only for the music or products they make but also in part because those brands mirror “someone who I am”, “someone who I respect” or “someone who I aspire to be”. You want your general audience to have a greater affinity towards you because of the fact that your personality matches theirs. By being able to see their personality in yourself they become bigger fans.
Expressing Your Personality – Social Media
The best and easiest way to express your personality is through your social media channels. The posts, videos and blog entries you create and the content you share should act as continual reminders to people.
If your personality is that of a ‘party starter’ there should be lots of images of you rocking out in the band, having a blast when you are ‘out on the town’, you should be sharing memes which look forward to and then celebrate the weekend. You should be creating playlists of the biggest weekend party tunes to show people what gets you fired up etc.
A folk artist with a more introverted and reflective personality might write longer blog posts about the art that influences them, might share more news articles about culture and arts and share songs which inspires their own muse.
Expressing Your Personality – Photography
Does your band photography reflect your personality? Is your character visible in your band/artist images?
- Define your personality and exaggerate it so it is plain for all to see.
- Use your social media channels to create and share content which highlights this personality.
You might not realise it, but most many consumer brands (the branded items that you buy each and every day) have human characteristics attributed to them by their marketing people. One of these characteristics is ‘values’ a set of beliefs and ideologies about how the world should be.
These ‘what we stand for’ values often originate from the founders of the company and are embedded into how a company operates.
The non dairy milk ‘Oat-Ly’ recently ran a print advert to promote their brand values. They believe that everybody is of equal worth, that humans should come before profit and that “companies have as much responsibility as politicians to build a good society”.
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream also have a set a core values which they promote.
If a product is seen to exhibit a set of values, people with those same values and beliefs will have a greater affinity for that product. This creates ‘loyalty’ for that brand and hopefully will increase long-term sales.
Musicians With Values
Here are two examples of musicians whose values are evident in their social media postings.
Left wing musician Billy Bragg tweets and comments upon the issues of the day which impact on his politics.
Queen guitarist Brian May is a vocal advocate for animal rights.
Social media is an ideal place to tell your followers about your own personal beliefs and give a platform for the things that are important to you. You can be quite vocal in your opinions perhaps writing ‘thought pieces’ on your website or just RT news stories without comment which highlight topics which have great importance in your life.
I think this is the hardest part of brand building as it may put you in ‘opposition’ to some of your audience. If you choose to exhibit your values you may push some people away but you will also draw more people closer towards you and I think creating a stronger connection with an audience is a good thing.
Tips On Sharing Your Values
- Use your social media channels to help define your own values and ideologies.
- Sharing and comment on news stories which highlight your values is the easiest way to achieve this.
Putting It All Together: The Band As A Brand
Let’s conclude by by examining how branding can work for a band in practice by using the classic Guns & Roses lineup as an example of a ‘brand’.
We have the classic rock and roll iconography on display. Leather, denim, shades, tattoos, bandanas…this visual tells you exactly what sort of music they’re going to be making before you hear a note.
The visuals on their classic album covers help reinforce this hard ‘live fast, die young’ ethos.
Their hard partying reputation precedes them. Stand offish, brash…the ultimate rock and roll hell raisers.
GnR portray the ultimate rock and roll values: sex, drugs and rock and roll.
Consider their clasic album/song titles: Appetite for Destruction, Anything Goes, Mr Brownstone. The ‘brand values’ are embedded in their music and their song writing. They sing about the brand. It’s a holistic venture, all parts of the brand are interconnected reinforcing each other.
Let’s examine my own band The Lancashire Hotpots.
From the off, even if you have never heard a note of our music, our visual identity conveys a bright and breezy disposition with laughter firmly at the forefront.
This personality is evident not only in our photography but also the content we make and share on social media (see below).
Our brand values celebrate the culture and region where we are based. Our brand ethos is good times, food, beer, forgetting your troubles and having fun.
Our biggest hits reflect our brand values including songs about fish & chips (Chippy Tea), drinking in pubs (Thirsty Thursday) and celebrating our place of birth (We Love The North).
As a practical exercise, examine some of your favourite artists. Describe their image, personality and values. Are these values portrayed in their music? Now do the same exercise for your own music.
Final Thoughts On Branding For Musicians
One of the biggest challenges a musician faces is defining themselves and their music in the minds of their audience. A strong brand will not only help cement ‘who you are’ in the eyes of your followers it should help guide your creative process.
When embarking on any aspect of creativity you can ask yourself ‘will this fit into and enhance my brand?’. A strong brand should be embedded into the DNA of your music and used as a ‘tone’ benchmark.
- Building your brand adds value to the music that you create meaning that your creativity will be worth more to other people. In a world of free music, branding is one of the best ways to get more money for what you are selling.
- Social media should be less about ‘selling’ and more about ‘brand building’: showing people who you are.
Got any questions about this post or how you can better market yourself?