The Importance of Branding in the Music Industry
How important is branding in the music industry? Is it something I need to worry about? Isn't raw talent alone enough to get me noticed as an artist?
Many musicians starting out in their venture for a career in the industry may find themselves asking questions similar to this at one point or another. You may have even asked these yourself. For those who are already established musicians, working gigs in and around the local area on a regular basis, you will have already had contact with marketing and branding opportunities a multitude of times. Think about the poster you put up downtown advertising your show this week, or the creation of an event on social media that followed - inviting all of your friends to come along and support you. How about the handmade sign: "CDs $10" on display at every show? The EP you put so much time, effort and hard-earned cash into is your prized product that shows you're taking this thing seriously.
Think about why you are going to these lengths to advertise your performances and products and to whom you are advertising them to. The big ticket answer is that you're trying to break out and make a career out of your talents and passions as a musician. In an industry that is already so over-saturated with talents competing for the limelight, one has to ask themselves: is producing good music alone enough to stand out from the crowd?
It's a tough question to ask but one that denotes a serious discussion. We'd all like to think that the industry operates on this basis, that being "discovered" on YouTube as a bedroom singer and turning into an overnight sensation is a reality possible for everyone, but unfortunately it's just not the case. Like most successful entrepreneurs, you gotta work hard for it and market your business. One of the biggest obstacles musicians face today is creating a relatable brand that can be effectively marketed to the wider audience. If you look at you or your band from the viewpoint of "we are a business and our music content is a product", then your perspective really shifts on how you present yourself. If you want to go from singing Friday night pub covers for the drunk crowd to properly getting your music into the hands and eyes of the ideal audience you desire, then the first step is to establish a strong brand position. Once you start marketing yourself as a serious musician, others will see that you're more than just a hometown hero; you're a professional and committed artist who is taking their career move seriously.
So what exactly is a brand? In short, it is your identity as a business, product or individual that fans, followers, consumers and clients can associate you with. Let me highlight a few of these with reference to the music industry:
Think of your audience and the types of fans you want to attract. Why is it that all the Swifties end up loving Taylor? Why are all Disney stars so youthful and kid-friendly? It's all about portraying the character of who you are and what your brand stands for. This doesn't mean trying to be someone you're not - it's about being true to you and who your fan base believes you are. Thinking of Disney artists the likes of Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato or Ariana Grande - once positioned as wholesome and youthful for the purpose of attracting their target market in the children's entertainment industry, they eventually outgrew their brand and forged their own paths. Now marketing themselves to a more mature audience, the artists' transition into adulthood is shown through their evolving brand and character by the way they speak, values they uphold and other brands they associate with. Think of who you are as a person and who your audience is. From this, you can determine how best to showcase yourself to your audience through the way you talk, act and write music.
Having a consistent design across all media is incredibly crucial to your image. Think logo design, website, social media and even CD art: they should each reflect your personal brand. Each of these could be your first port of contact for your viewer before they ever see you play live or even hear your music, so if your audience can't make a connection with you through your visual brand, chances are they won't bother to try and make a connection with your product. Work with a designer who can help develop your image through the use of typography, colour, and overall brand direction, and who will understand how to capture your music visually.
Secondary to the design is having professional photographs to portray you. There's nothing more important in business than connecting the maker behind the music with the fans. Find a photographer you whose style you not only admire but also suits how you want to be portrayed. Get some professional head shots and band photos taken to reflect your personality. If you're an all-male heavy metal band with a hauntingly dark image, you probably wouldn't go with a photographer who specialises in bright, romantic imagery unless that is the way you wish to be portrayed; try to find someone who will understand your brand look and feel.
Additionally, take the opportunity to invest in having a music video (or demo reel for session musicians) made for one or more of your songs. This shows your audience that you take your product seriously and they should too. Having a music video also sets you apart from the rest and can show a more intimate side to the story of your content and brand by tying everything together. Work with a videographer who can help capture the look of your brand and tell the story of your music.
Fashion is an important variable of expression in any industry and is one way a person can display themselves wherever they are. Importantly in the music industry, how you dress can give the impression that you are one thing or another. Think of Paramore's recent eclectic retro wardrobe they have adopted during the launch and tour of After Laughter; its unique, eye-catching and most importantly, matches their new music to a tee. Other examples include the band KISS, made memorable even before their music through their use of heavy black and white make-up and leather pants, and Daft Punk who although never show their faces will always be remembered for their air of mystery and instant recognition by their signature helmets. And locals, take a leaf from the book of Bendigo band The Flannos - you betcha these guys are on-point wearing flannos to every gig!
Your brand really is everything in the music industry and if you don't take the time to define it, you may be cutting yourself short on an opportunity with your music. Next time you go to do some marketing, think about how your target audience will perceive you and if you are building a brand that they can relate to. The importance of branding in the music industry really is crucial to setting you apart from a hobbyist or career chaser.
Have you got any other branding tips to help other musicians wanting to get into the industry and improve their image?
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Graphic + Web Designer