Music branding lessons for new artists.
Whether we’re driving, checking email or just surfing the web, it can feel like the whole world is trying to sell us something. Digital marketing experts estimate we see 4,000-10,000 ads per day, so naturally we can’t remember all of them.
If you’re an indie musician and you’re “selling” your music, you may wonder how on earth people will notice you. Perhaps you’ve asked yourself, “…is anybody listening?” Since there’s so much content out there, it will help for you to set yourself apart.
Your brand essence
If you haven’t noticed, we all have pretty short attention spans. We’re mesmerized by flashing lights and shiny objects, but even those things rarely keep us hooked for very long. At times, you may be tempted, if not convinced, you need to do things you’ve seen other artists do. But as you think about your “brand essence” or the vibe you’re putting out, ask yourself how you want to be remembered. Each new choice you make – from your photos to your album art to how you dress – presents you with an opportunity.
Before people listen to your music, your image might be their only impression. By now, it’s possible you’ve done a photo shoot, or perhaps you have a collection of photos you’ve been using for your image online. If you were to describe yourself in three words, do you think it would be the same three words your fans would use to describe you? As you think about what vibe you’re creating, it will help to be consistent (and deliberate!) across all digital platforms. The more you can articulate your vision, the easier it will be to translate it through your brand image.
What do YOU respond to?
Searching for inspiration is a great place to start, as you think about your image overall. As you find pictures or ideas that you like, take note of the elements that stand out to you — but don’t let your inspiration lead you down the road to imitation. You might find your best ‘look’ is a similar-but-unique version of the artists you admire, tweaked until it feels like something new. If there are things about your band that seem unique (whether it’s your lyrics, what you wear or any quirks that come to mind) these items could be clues for what to play up with your brand.
In the same way you draw your inspiration from your surroundings, give yourself the freedom to experiment with new sounds too. When Pharrell Williams first heard Maggie Rogers’ song “Alaska” during a master class at NYU, he was at a loss for words. “I’ve never heard anyone like you before,” Pharrell said, “and I’ve never heard anyone that sounds like that.” He went on to describe how a new sound is often formed from the unique combination of two really good things. This piece of advice is true for both your sound and your image.
Create your own stage
Every time you share your music is new a chance to create an experience. Playing live shows is a great way to get your music in front of people, but music venues aren’t the only places you can play live.
There have been stories of bluegrass bands doing secret concerts in a cave, others have rented private charter boats for intimate performances and there have been “secret” concerts in gardens and by rivers. When it comes to sharing your sound in a new way, there’s something alluring about an exclusive event, or an experience that is unexpected.
Ultimately, how people respond to your music will determine how far it can go. While the music industry is not an exact science, there are things you can do to stand out. Give yourself permission to take risks, see what happens and do more of what’s working. Use every resource and platform that you have to make an impression. In the words of Maya Angelou, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”