Authentic Branding Ideas for Artists and Producers
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Bands of the 70s and 80s knew how to use their brand. The distinctive lettering of KISS, Judas Priest, and Def Leppard or the logos of Van Halen, Night Ranger, and ACDC, their fans would draw these iconic images on their homework, their jeans, and slap stickers on their cars.
Music and branding has changed a lot since then. The musical branding of an artist is the first way to start building a persona, but where to take it from there?
Be Honest AND Different – Having a unique persona has never been more embraced than it is today. Tyler, the Creator, The Weeknd, Lil Nas X, Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish all exemplify that being different is definitely not bad. Now, does that mean you fresh out of bed or hanging in your sweats is what you want to show the world? Probably not.
From Bjork’s swan dress to Lady Gaga’s meat dress, the public persona of an artist can go a long way when it comes to creating a brand. From the Raiders gear and black jeans of N.W.A. back in the day, to the masks of Deadmau5 and Daft Punk, how you represent yourself on and off the stage goes a long way towards creating and maintaining your brand.
So, think about how to align your sound with your look in a way that resonates with you and makes you feel confident and that you’re making the right, forceful impression with those who see you. Then, toy with bringing it up a decibel or two, down a decibel or two and find what works for you and enables you to stand out from the crowd with courage. On the Red Carpet, dial it up, just like Lady Gaga does.
The Media – The tone of your voice comes into play here, too. Are you portraying yourself angry like Kanye, or nice like Dave Grohl? This includes social media as well – are you posts thoughtful or thoughtless? Do they evoke anything that shines a light on what’s going on inside of your head and heart or are they purely surface?
Be Present – Through Instagram, Twitter, or other social media, don’t let your feed go dry. How did a recording session go to today? Maybe offer a little taste of a new song. Post a music video to your YouTube channel. Whatever it is, keep your fans interested and please don’t post photos of wads of cash. That’s just so, so done and over, not to mention—DULL!
Know Your Audience AND The Competition – If you’re trying to differentiate yourself from other acts but keep falling behind, do some research. You still need to be you – remember consistency – but adding a new facet, haircut, or tweak to your style could pique the interest of new fans.
Consistency – Once you have a plan, stick to it. Brands take time to grow. Changing your tune and your ‘tude every year will confuse the fans you have and make it hard to catch the attention of new fans.
Stage Presence – Lizzo’s performance at the VMAs, Prince at the Super Bowl Halftime, and the always extravagant Beyoncé on any stage, if you’re trying to create a bigger than life brand, showing up looking low key just won’t get you there. Practice owning the stage and projecting your feelings and artistry out to the crowd. Funny thing is you’ll likely feel it when you’re doing it right. No artist is born a Beyoncé, a Prince, or a Matt Schultz (of Cage the Elephant). They worked at it to get it right. So should you.
Artist branding is something that needs to be planned, cultivated, and curated (more on authentic branding here). Changing your sound after developing a following could put you back to square one. We’re not saying you need to stay in one genre but test the waters first. The same goes for producers.
Producing a Brand
Traditionally thought of as the people behind the music, music producers of today are nearly synonymous with artists (think Mark Ronson, Camper, Calvin Harris). Their work is their calling card. Because of the technology today, there’s more and more competition to reach the top of Everest as a producer. So you’ll need to make a name for yourself by yourself.
Luckily, much of what you need can be done relatively easily. After establishing your brand – make sure you know what your brand is – it’s time to get the word out. By continually building that brand, you’ll continually build a following with artists and fans alike. Even if it takes a year or two to gain a foothold.
Social Media – Much like the musical branding of artists above, make social media your friend. While stage presence isn’t necessarily needed, you need some kind of presence. Instagram is a great way to promote your personality, your gear, and your work. Make sure you spend time in front of the camera, too.
Be a Mentor – As an established producer, there are many folks who were in your shoes a few years ago. Posting an easy to follow process on YouTube will give those up-and-comers someone to lean on in their time of frustration. They’ll keep coming back and maybe bring a few more eyeballs with them.
Work with (Nearly) Anyone, Anytime – As you know, musicians keep strange hours. When a touring regional or national band comes through town the night before, make sure they know you’re always open. They may need to refine a hook, a beat, or a sample before the next show. You may not book those big stars at first, but let the word of mouth spread.
Establish an Online Presence – This one area where it makes sense to spend a little time and money to do it right. Social media is one thing, developing your own website is something else entirely. Offer your background, past work, acts you’ve produced for, and what you can offer in a recording studio. We recommend a professional help you with this – a wonky website will make others think you’re a wonky producer.
Technological advances have pushed the music industry forward at light speed, making it easier to create new sounds and giving everyone their shot to make it in the business. To make yourself stand out – as an artist or a producer – spend some serious brain energy, soul-searching, and time to develop your brand authentically.
Sure, you may be in it “just for the music” which is great. But when your listeners get curious about YOU, thanks to that hook, lyric, or melody you created, you want to give them something which enables them to enrich their understanding or feelings about you and your work.
Doing so just brings you in closer to them, and prompts them to buy and download your songs, see you in concert, and anticipate your next release. Craft your brand and persona wisely. Otherwise you leave yourself open to someone crafting it for you.