How to create an image for your band

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How to create an image for your bandImage: what is it, what’s yours, and why does it matter?

Last month we published an article by Brandon Seymour called Your image is more important than your music – especially if you’re an indie artist.” As you might be able to tell from the headline, it inspired some heated comments, both in agreement and dead-against.

Here’s an excerpt from the article to give you an idea of Brandon’s argument:

The music industry (and I use that term very loosely) isn’t concerned with art or expression. It’s not about identity or originality. And it’s definitely not about talent. It’s about money. I’m not saying that you won’t ever be appreciated as an artist. I’m also not saying that being an artistic genius precludes you from mainstream success. I’m saying that the music industry as a whole doesn’t care who you are unless they can profit from what you have to offer – regardless of how amazing or awful you actually are. It’s not evil, it’s just business. As with any other business, even the greatest products can’t sell themselves; the image or brand perception is what makes people want to buy.

Brandon had this realization — “image is everything” — after making music as a hobbyist for almost 15 years. Then one day he decided to form a new band with a friend who shared a similar vision, and they attacked the new project with the mindset that their image would be central to their success. Within a few months of forming they’d gotten great local press, been named “best band in South Florida” by two publications, opened for a few national acts, headlined some local festivals, and were playing about five times a month.

Granted, it wasn’t national stardom, but it’s rare for a brand new act to make such a big regional impact so quickly. Impressive, especially for a band that, in Brandon’s own words, is not especially talented or good looking. In his assessment, IMAGE made the difference.

What artists really think about the “image” issue

CD Baby artists’ opinions about image were shared mostly in the form of objections to or agreements with Brandon’s argument. There were two main criticisms of the article:

1)  Forget image. It should be all about the music.

* Ezra Weiss said: This is drivel. This is DRIVEL. Image is not more important than music. Let your music speak for you… Be human. Be multifaceted. Be honest. Have high expectations of your listeners. Let that expectation raise the quality of your music. Let music be your focus. Always.
You won’t get rich by taking my advice, but at least at the end of the day, you’ll look in the mirror and know who you are, and remember why you started all this in the first place.

* Samtheman57 said: Truly great music has nothing, NOTHING to do with image. Let me ask you this: How many people talk about the level of “brand awareness” Miles Davis or The Beatles had? Answer: They don’t…. Does anyone remember who the Season Two winner is from “American Idol” or “The Voice” ?

[Answer to the American Idol question: yes, my aunt — one of the few people I know that still buys lots of CDs.]

* Busta Speeker said: You have very succinctly pointed out one of the main reasons why contemporary music, for the most part, sucks beyond belief. Serve the song. First, last, ALWAYS. TRULY great tunes will always outlive an image. What is still keeping Elvis’ catalogue more than viable? VHS copies of a morbidly obese shadow on his “comeback” tour, or the music itself? If his tunes sucked, no one would know or care who he was, now…

While I applaud (and kind of want to theoretically agree with) the purist sentiments expressed above, my response would be this: the music biz has ALWAYS been about image, going back at least as far as Mozart, when his daddy manager dressed him up in cute little outfits and schlepped him all around Europe.

Plus, Elvis and The Beatles? They’re the quintessential early examples of image-obsessed mass-media pop stars. If it weren’t for Elvis’ swaying hips and sweet jackets and jumbo guitar and slicked back hair, no one would have even cared about the tunes. Same goes for The Beatles. They were certainly brilliant artists, but they had Brian Epstein worrying about their suits and their hair and their interview humor and everything else. IMAGE fed Beatlemania just as much as (if not more than) songs like “Please Please Me.”

2) Brandon offered no specific advice about image.

I agree completely. In his defense, I believe the author meant only to anecdotally convey something about his own experience in a local band, not to give specific advice (though he’s offered to write a followup with some actionable tips). But it brings up an interesting question…

What IS image in the first place?

Natalie Van Horn asked: How would go about creating a “brand”? This article gave me an idea of the direction to go but I haven’t got a clue about how to get started.

I responded to her comment with this: 
Well, your brand is about lots of things: your look, your sound, your vibe, etc. It’s not something you can just present to the world overnight. You have to build it, both for yourself, and for the world. But I think if you start with a clear vision for what your music should sound like, what your band should look like, and how that works with your logo, album art, website design, etc, — then you’re off to a good start.

Although image consists of many intangibles, it’s probably safe to assume that most people when they hear the word are thinking of the overall impression created by:

* your sound/genre

* your choices about fashion/clothes/hair/body — and how those choices are conveyed stylistically in photos, videos, on stage, etc.

* the visual aesthetic for your logo/album art/concert posters/website/etc.

* the way you talk to the media, your fans, etc.

* the instruments you play

* the brands you associate yourself with

* your backstory, your bio, etc.

If it hasn’t been made clear already, I’d like to mention that image does NOT have to be about pop culture. It does not have to play to trends. A guy performing folk music in a subway station dressed in a jean jacket has an image, even if it’s not one that’s currently en vogue with young listeners at large.

It’s also important to remember as you start to build your image and persona that these things should never feel inauthentic;  instead, they should feel like a more supersized, dramatic version of yourself  — or some aspect of yourself that you want to convey to fans.

For more advice about finding your authentic performance persona, check out Episode #2 of CD Baby’s DIY Musician Podcast. 

Why does image matter?

In my opinion, image is crucial because the saturation of the music marketplace means listeners often need other elements BESIDES the music to inform their decisions. What new song or artist are you going to check out next? The one with the image that most resonates with you, right? That’s why a new band needs to make some kind of memorable impression before listeners even hear one note of their music.

TotallyRandomMan said: The role of “image” for any artist or band is hard to overstate, and oft misunderstood. It’s a heady subject to take on, and more bands would do well to give some thought to what they’re presenting to the world, and how.

What you’re presenting to the world (apart from your music) is what will make someone either ignore or listen to your music. Or put another way, if we break it down into two phases: before someone has heard your music, your image is the ONLY thing that matters. Once they press play, your MUSIC is the only thing that matters — it just happens to matter last.

Your image is the invite; your music is the party. 

Is anyone showing up? If not, you better write nicer invites. If people are showing up then it’s important to ask yourself once the guests have arrived: is anyone having fun at my party? If not, sure, it might be that your music sucks; that’s always a danger to consider. But chances are you might’ve just invited the wrong folks! That’s when you know your image is failing you and your music.

As I said above, your image (and how well it’s supporting your music) is not necessarily quantifiable, but it can be tested with a few questions:

* Is this look or vibe appropriate for my genre?

* If not, how does playing against genre or cultural expectations help me?

* Are people responding to my image in the way that I want them to?

* Are they finding ways of describing my band that have to do with something besides my music? (If so, that means you’re creating an image that leaves an impression, at the very least).

There’s no correct answer to the questions above, but I think it’s important to ask them, and to think seriously about the affect your image is having on your music career.

And now to leave you with one last funny comment/word-of-warning concerning the image issue…

esolesek said: Nirvana built their fame on image, but more importantly, they built it on talent. Your article is the worst of sell-out suggestions. I could name 100 acts in show biz who look good and sound terrible. You can get temporary success from image, but you can also get a lifetime of disrespect for relying on it. I agree that most successful acts have some kind of image, mostly that of youth and rebellion or freedom. Other than that, an artist can end being a real chode for focussing on image.

So I guess I’d summarize by suggesting you find an image for you that feels real, leads people deeper into your music, and doesn’t make you look like a vacuous jackass.

—-

What do you think about image? How did you create your image? Let us know in the comments below.

To hear us discuss some of these same concerns about band image, listen to this episode of DIY Musician Podcast. 

Marketing your music 101: 
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  • Kevin Sayah

    I agree that image IS important when building a music career, but it should NOT be. When I first heard most of my favorite bands, it was either online streaming or radio or I risked buying a CD and ended up loving them – without any glances at what they looked like. I don’t have a care in the world for what a musician wants to look like or what their visual art style is, all I care about is their music. Why isn’t that the standard for everyone?

    • Yeah, it’d be great if we relied on our ears alone to assess an audio art. I agree with that in theory. But people just don’t behave accordingly. Visuals still play a huge part in perception. Bummer, huh?

      @ChrisRobley

      • Calvin Weeder

        It’s not really a bummer, style will always be competitive with substance. Crap can rise to the top by careful manipulation of image, but substance is just as competitive as style is. There are far too many people making music who think they have something worth hearing when they don’t. At least the people marketing crap aren’t fooling themselves. Almost every musician I know laments at how popular stuff is crap and how they get even less respect than Rodney Dangerfield, yet they refuse to face the fact that they’re really not that good anyway. If you really want success while retaining integrity, then you have to make something that is truly spectacular. If the mediocre don’t want to succeed by marketing alone, then they’re going to have to excel at their craft, and there are very few people willing to make the kind of sacrifices that achieving true greatness requires. And I’m not necessarily talking about becoming technically proficient on instruments, either. Whining is not attractive and will get you nowhere. Either ‘sell out’ by marketing image and remaining otherwise mediocre, or force yourself to become amazing by recording/composing something amazing because if you do people will take notice no matter what image you project, or quit/relegate your creative outlets to hobby status. Those are the options. You can mix and match, but be sure not to confuse yourself out of reality…

    • Yeah, it’d be great if we relied on our ears alone to assess an audio art. I agree with that in theory. But people just don’t behave accordingly. Visuals still play a huge part in perception. Bummer, huh?

      @ChrisRobley

    • Lance King

      I agree with this statement, I’m first a music lover, then a musician, and lastly a label owner, developing in that order. The bands I loved, I rarely saw what they looked like before the 1980s, it was all about the sound and the songs to me. Honestly it is where I’m at now owning a progressive metal label and doing that sort of music now myself. However, I was a product of the 80’s, I started gigging in 1981, and when Motley Crew came out with SHOUT AT THE DEVIL, I thought they were cool! The look got my attention to their music, I didn’t like their music as much as their look, but it fit the 80’s in a big way and that was what I was doing at that time in a clubbing cover band.
      It fit my intention of being the party director if you will as the frontman in a hard rock / metal cover band, we moved into originals and we created our own interesting look and it worked very well for us on our posters, getting paid people in the door to our shows after which we would sell our own CD’s and tapes and sign autographs. We were regional rock stars at the time and the look was part of the package that helped create the intrigue and was very much a projection of who we were musically and individually.

      With a look, I would say be honest, be daring, be 150% you… This will set you apart, but be a magnification… be bigger than life. This is the peacock in you trying to get peoples attention to what you are doing. Those of us that are born performers and marketing business people understand that aspect, but those that are only about the music may not appreciate it. Music fans are diverse and fickle and come and go with the wind. Sometimes they will stay by a band if they identify with more than only the music, it may be also about who the musicians are, and or the band persona or a combination of any of these things. You ultimately want lifelong fans, and you know you are going to be changing musically and personally over time, so your look no doubt will change as well. Keep it honest but make it bigger than life.

  • Prak

    Great post, I personally feel that our image can be used as a compass in guiding potential fans and others towards knowing more about what we are about. As mentioned in this article, It is unfortunately used as a means to make money based on how most of us our programmed to choose one thing over another. However, it can also be used in a positive way as well, which can represent a deeper part of ourselves that means something and ties in with our music!

  • Axeman_sfr

    I agree with Prak’s comment. I’m an artist/photographer as well as musician, so for me, ‘image’ has a different connotation, and my music and images are inseparable in my mind. Image also can mean ‘style’, and no one would deny that personal style is essential to a musician. Of course, the ‘selling-out’ aspects are the negative side. If you are true to yourself, that doesn’t prevent you from selling your image as well as your art.

  • MusicManKevin

    The original article is on the mark and your clarification is right on point. Two words to sum it all up – Motown Records.

  • Reality in your face

    Yeah, I was sort of expecting you guys to loose lots of clients by posting that earlier article.
    It may what the labels think nowadays but that’s just because they have no clue what good music is anymore and the game now is fake all of the popularity (see how Google (YouTube) deleted the entire catalogs of two of the major labels (JZ, Beyoncé, Rhianna, etc) and a good chunk of the third ones’ because of cyberbot views and deceptive links making their songs have millions of views) so that you can get the high profile gigs (Super Bowl half time, awards shows, etc), lucrative corporate endorsements (fool the elite too) and sell high price tickets to concert tours. Even though artist like Pitbull haven’t even gotten close to actually selling 10 million records in his entire career.

  • Treebird

    The concept of the “party invite” brings sharp focus to the topic, thank you. Regardless of what it looks like (and we all have the right do whatever we effin’ wish), it nevertheless remains the tip of the sword, so to speak. If a band or artist is heard first by random change of a radio or streaming channel, THAT is a dream. Then, the instant a prospective fan starts to sniff around for them, having that overall “vision” match the sounds and feelings they just experienced, will go a long way to retain their interest. You want fans to want to wear your tour shirts, hats, etc. That helps spread the word, reinforce brand recognition, and will grab the attention of anyone passing by who also might be a fan. If they see something that for some crazy reason, a logo, a color combination, a style of shirt, hat, drink coozi, whatever… if it catches their attention, you’re already off to a good start in finding new fans who have NEVER heard of you, heard your music, or seen you. And when these curious newcomers to YOU find you, if your music is “of the creative stuff” that shirt or hat was, they’re gonna “get it” and you have a way better chance of capturing their attention and support dollars in the form of their money spent on you. Great music is the goal, the lifelong pursuit. And when you’ve done it for a while, it becomes THE raison d’etre (missing accent marks :), and to the point of the above article, it has a BETTER chance if all things are working together in a cohesive way. There are obviously notable exceptions to the rule – Christopher Cross for the slightly older among us, brilliant musician, a little drab on the “vibe” and had a massive hit, but really only had one hit at that level. Then you look at U2 or Coldplay… All of it matched, evolved, and served to leave NO doubt which band it was you were hearing, watching, seeing in print, etc.). As they grew, they were still in charge of it all, and they steered it in whichever direction they wanted, but it remained, nevertheless, ubiquitously “them.” In Coldplay’s case, when they released the album Mylo Xyloto, they created a new and evolved version of their “image” or vibe. They painted every surface of their stage, instruments, and their social media, advertising, etc. It was a new “thing” for them, and it all was cohesive. The music (like it or not) was expertly paired with their vision, or vice versa if you wish. But they dominated, and continue to do so, with the combination of great tunes and great recordings in their style, they no doubt have a team of people by now, who help them make sure there’s a consistency and recognizability in everything that comes from them, and consistent refinement and forward thinking. You needn’t follow any convention but your own, however, that convention should be consistent enough that when fans see a Poster or an email blast, they should be able to know who it’s coming from. Not bland, not repetitious… familiar…

  • I just love a discussion like this one and I totally agree image is VERY important. I agree it shouldn’t be, and I think people are just discussing that, because they think it’s wrong! But people need to see an image to relate to the music, and that has been since the television was born, if not even before!
    Ezra Weiss: Yes, you can be yourself, but you can use different facets of yourself to become your image. When you’re on stage, you are performing so you exaggerate your songs, your feelings, so exaggerate who you are. I am a gay singer, who sings about relationships and sex between gay men, so on stage I become that person deep inside me that does things he wouldn’t dare to do in life: I wear glitter, skimpy costumes, do sexy moves and flirt with my audience.
    Now talking about Elvis, The Beatles, or even look at Marilyn Monroe or James Dean: many , many people will need a while to remember a song or a movie from them, but straight away they can tell you what they looked like, so many years afterwards! If that’s not image, what is it?

  • R G

    You can’t judge a book by its cover, right? However, an interesting cover is a consumer magnet, but that’s only a slice of potential marketing. Marketing increases sales, but marketing needs an angle, a story, a look, a purpose, a cause, a history and/or any point of interest that makes people talk about or consider looking into something instead of just glancing over and locking into something else. In music … since MTV made image the focus, there has been more weight on bands to have something to offer on that level because that is where the competition crushes anyone who only tries to draw attention with great music and talent. I DO understand the debate. I am a musician because I love great music. My pursuit has been to create and perform music that I love. My desire is not to be an “entertainer”, just a musician that interacts with other musicians and creates music that appeals to ME first and hopefully to others as well. As a music fan, I don’t need musicians to have great hair or tattoos or to look goth or punk or glam. I need them to make music that impresses me and inspires me. The thing is … it takes a lot of those bands and musicians much longer to have some one mention them to me if they don’t have some kind of marketing angle. Word gets around slower without some marketing image and that could be cover art, personal look, obnoxious presence, a theme, a unique music style, a stage show, a personal history, a cause or whatever can be used to create a buzz online and in music circles. Music and talent are the most important to me, but marketing has an important place in determining the speed that attention is drawn to great music and the level of success that comes from it.

  • matt

    People complaining that image shouldn’t be important is like people saying you should date someone for their looks and that all that matters is what someone is like on the inside. That’s sweet and dandy, but it’s not just not reality and never will be. Why waste time idealizing it? Also in fantasyland, there would be no hunger and poverty, no need for locks on anything, lions would play and dance with the zebras…

  • The problem with a lot of modern musicians is the pretentious attitude they have towards the music industry, and the self-righteousness they have for their music and talent. Nobody cares how talented you are and realistically it doesn’t matter.

    Phenomenal guitarists are a dime a dozen, I could literally name you a dozen that I know personally and they’d all play for a dime in a heartbeat. What matters is what you do with that talent and how hard you work to get it noticed. It’s a kin to making the best inventions from your basement, yet not telling anyone, nor putting any financial backing into it’s development. An idea or a skill doesn’t exist to the rest of society until you begin applying it in the real world where people can see it, touch it and be influenced by it.

    Any musician will agree that music shouldn’t be about image, or that it shouldn’t play as important of a role, especially if we’re talking about being a recording artist. But that isn’t reality and that isn’t the world we live in.

    You know what else would be nice? If all the rich people in the world pooled their funds to rid the world of hunger and poverty, but guess what? That’s not the world we live in, that’s not reality.

    What is reality? People are judgmental and fickle, they look you up and down from head to toe before you pick up an instrument and when you do hit the stage they expect you to be larger than life, so if you don’t come off as larger than life off the stage, then you’re just fighting an uphill battle and making your job in swaying them to like you and buy into your brand even harder for yourself.

    And why shouldn’t they be judgmental? Unless you sit in your basement and solely release recordings for the rest of your life, then this isn’t the “music” industry, this is the entertainment industry. People have eyes and will use them, sight is our most coveted of the 5 senses, so if you can’t entertain their eyes with passion, fashion and extravagance then quit what you’re doing and go home. Let the people who want it more than you get up there and get it done.

    And Also… Have some god damn pride in your stage show and your individuality. Why sit there and do nothing? Why look like everyone else? Strive to be more. Watch videos of the greats, the things they say, the things they do, the things they wear, their movements, body language, it’s all there for you to learn from and it matters. Form your own on stage identity that’s most comfortable and relatable to you and your music and then fuckin KILL IT on that stage.

    The reality is that the people who are going to make it in today’s industry, are the people who are willing to do all of the things that no other lazy, un-inspired musician wants to do. If you absolutely refuse to fail, your success is 100% inevitable. Just keep learning, keep evolving, keep changing. When water goes into a cup it becomes the cup, when it goes into a pot it becomes the pot. As Bruce Lee soo eloquently put… Be like water my friend.

  • Enzo II Deuce

    It’s important to have a product, but if you want it to sell you have to get it in front of the masses and control how they perceive it. Basically image is everything in big business because people want to feel good about what they associate with now. Business has essentially become more personal, that’s why image is so important in today. But more important with so many images popping up is being creative with the use of image to stand out & (if it’s perfect) alone. And that’s where the fun begins for all us trying to become realized in the public eye. The right image is immediately monetized because people will remember it faster than you song or product. They might remember the logo tho!!

  • Reality in your face

    Yeah, I was sort of expecting you guys to forfeit lots of clients by posting that earlier article.
    It may what the labels think nowadays but that’s just because they have no clue what good music is anymore and the game now is to fake all of the popularity (see how Google (YouTube) deleted the entire catalogs of two of the major labels (JZ, Beyoncé, Rhianna, etc.) and a good chunk of the third ones’ because of cyberbot views and deceptive links making their songs have millions of views) so that you can get the high profile gigs (Super Bowl half time, awards shows, etc), lucrative corporate endorsements (fool the elite too) and sell high price tickets to concert tours. Even though acts like Pitbull hasn’t even managed to sell 10 million records in his entire career.
    Apogee Recording Studios, Inc.

  • In reply to Samtheman57: Miles Davis had a strong image, thanks to his unique personality (and bad character), and his daredevil mind. Of course he created wonderful music, but you can’t pretend he was an anonymous player lost in the middle of a big band. He really had an image, whether natural or created (probably a bit of both). And the Beatles ?! They made the most wonderful music in the world, still they were heavily helped to create their image, with a (little) help from Brian Epstein and George Martin. And I don’t see anything wrong with that…
    As for American Idol, no one remembers them because they had no image on their ow, they were just a product of that big show, with almost no personality and an average musical talent. Inoffensive artists in a generic show, nothing that can create any memorable image. Cause the image that you seem to despise is also created by the music itself.

  • Some Guy

    Giant LOL @ the guy who uses The Beatles as an argument against “image”…

  • About a thousand years ago I read some good advice — be honest on stage, the audience will figure out quickly if you are not. So start with your music — what music (genre(s)) are you doing and why are you doing it? Do you believe in the music or the $ you think you’ll get for it? What music (genre(s)) do you like that you aren’t doing? Why is that? Then comes the matter of presentation — are you really a party animal, or is that just a gimmick to sell your show? From there you can go to your “look” — is what you are wearing reflective of what you are playing?

    Take a look at my pic. I work as a solo, I do lyric and instrumental music, I write/perform in folk, smooth jazz, spanish classical/flamenco (instrumentals), genres with a touch of blues and some latin stuff. Now, my pic doesn’t actually say that, but it goes along with the music I’m doing. Look more carefully — the slacks are very informal, the jacket and shirt are semi-formal, no tie, the manner of holding the guitar is strictly classical. Frankly, the guy in that pic could be playing anything that isn’t rock or country. Which is pretty much true 🙂

    Image and music go together like peanut butter and jelly — each equally important in a sybiotic relationship. Be honest with yourself, be honest with your audience, and let that be your guide.

  • minstrelmike

    If instead of using the word “image” he’d used the word “branding” it would have sounded like a standard mantra from the marketing world. Your music, your genre identification, your instruments are part of the brand, but it ain’t just about the music.

    Popularity is far more fickle than that.

  • it’s both. if you don’t have good songs, you won’t be remembered…certainly in the long run. if you don’t have good branding (image) than you won’t stand out from the crowd.

  • Rebecca Parks

    I don’t focus on image much, but quite a few people have remarked, “You look like your music.” I must be doing something right.

  • Buckwheat Catapillar

    I am a believer in that Image when you are unknown is everything. It is amazing to me how many local bands look like crap at their shows…and how easy it is to predict what the musicians will look like before going in the door…Try leather jackets, ripped jeans, and multiple tattoos and you’ll be right about 99% of the time.

  • NyNameIs

    Music is more important than image, but Image plays as a big factor in connecting you to fans. You’re an entertainer. Stage performers are in essence the liaison between their art and the audience. Your clothing/costume/style/attitude helps in that presentation.

  • BigEmptySky

    This is a good discussion with many good points made. I believe that image and the music go hand-in-hand. Historically we can look back at all the successful artists, and the not so successful ones, and see the “road maps” they used. Who says you can’t follow those models today (the successful ones)? No one! We are all witness to what’s happening today in the industry (by industry I don’t mean majors necessarily but you could look at their rosters and see the paths they have utilized). There are many highly successful indies out there who have worked very hard at building their image and music and thus are enjoying great success. Is it easy? Heck no! Otherwise everyone would be trying to do this for a career. It takes very hard work on each of our parts to create a successful career. Obviously your image is something you create and that takes time. Have patience and enjoy the journey. The same can be said for your music – if you’re good and you relate to an audience I would claim that helps to build your image within the industry and with the public. I think its kind of simple – don’t burn any bridges – treat people as you would want to be treated – make the best damn music you can – try to get as many gigs as possible (even if that means playing for free) – use all the free social media avenues out there – be honest to who you are – use your brain creatively on the business side as you do on the music side and you will create a positive image that will take form naturally. Your image equals everything that defines you or the impression you make upon everyone you come across in all walks of life. Lets face it most all here are indies and as such we each have to take responsibility for all aspects of our chosen careers and yes that means the business end and marketing as well – not just the music. Your image is everything no matter what career you choose. Example: you go to a job interview – what do you think the interviewers first impression of you is? Your initial image that you present. Aha, presentation! Do you look the part? Are you professional? Come on folks those interviewers form an image of you within seconds – same as any audience you perform for. To ignore your image based upon some utopian view that image shouldn’t matter is madness. Sorry for my long winded post but I just had to get all that out after reading the article and then peoples follow-on posts.

  • Pandamarxx .

    Issue remains the same. Being Indie is a part of your Image so don’t fight it..

  • travelergtoo

    Elvis was never morbidly obese, you idiots.

  • esolesek

    People can sense authenticity. That’s what matters most. Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan weren’t much to look at, and neither one had a great voice, but both succeeded by focussing on their J-O-B, writing great songs.

    Robert Plant was a genius vocalist and great looking. So was Roger Daltrey. Kind of unfair.
    However, they were both backed up by more pedestrian looking (though not playing) bands and songwriters.

    Mick Jagger was attractive, but more charismatic, and his lyrics and style were really what made him, unlong with his unkempt, on the edge bandmates.

    EVERY boy band eventually stumbles and is ridiculed, except the Beatles, who actually wrote their own material. Note the difference.

    The most important image in pop music is youth, pretty much. Other than that, you have a lot of latitude to work with. Both Arcade Fire and the Killers singers started wearing dorky garb when they got famous that made them look like tools.

    Vanilla Ice, Milli Vanilli, Christina Aguilera, and all of hair metal (Cherry Pie?) prove image can sink you far more than it can help you. Nirvana’s anarchy cheerleaders were the image that helped them, but it was anti the previous over-production of the 80s. There’s always a swing between the over and under done, but under is rarely ridiculed.

    Image matters tremendously, but it can be cultivated/adjusted after the music is solid, and allowed to grow organically from the public. Still, every person is a individual case. Image is a very treacherous thing to try to use. It works one record, and then dates you the next. Plus, trying too hard with average music can sink you, too.

    Image last, music first, without a doubt if you want more than a one hit career. Your image will grow with the confidence you attain through success, not pandering.

  • Checking it out now. Sounds good. Nicely done.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Prak

      thanks man appreciate the listen!

  • Henrique

    Good point! I don’t know that much about Motown, but I know it placed a lot of importance on how artists dressed and behaved – and it definitely worked, didn’t it?

    • Amanda Banks

      If you look at the Beatles pre Brian Epstein people wold be shocked. Yep Berry Gordy a charm school or should I say finishing school

      • Amanda Banks

        Sorry. Would

  • Henrique

    Good point! I don’t know that much about Motown, but I know it placed a lot of importance on how artists dressed and behaved – and it definitely worked, didn’t it?

  • Shane Braden

    Based on the article and the responses within it, people are completely misunderstanding the concept of ‘image’ and ‘story’, and restricting these ideas to very limited approaches to them. Though the article tries to address it, ‘image’ means far more than what the eye sees, yet people are reducing it to meaning physical appearances and ‘gimmicks’. And ‘story’ means far more than your biography! (That will be a part of it as fans will not to know but it is very little in who you are as an artist. Though, where you grew up does shape you, so in some cases, it can end up playing a very big role) But I can think of a lot of artists and groups who rely on ‘gimmicks’, but who lack substance and talent. ‘Image’ and ‘story’ by no means limited to what one sees and deduces from you on the outside alone though.

    I can tell you that I have an ‘image’ for my up and coming music project, but I will spare you for now. And why do I have to tell you anyways, as you will naturally ‘see it in me’, and coming out of everything I do and am about. But save for the fact that I do often wear a bandana because I have worn them for a long time and just like to how I look and dress as a person really has very little to do with my ‘image’ and ‘story’. My own personal style maybe. And many might remember me on stage many times wearing a bandana. But that is not at all required for my ‘story’ and ‘image’ of WHO I AM as an artist and what it is I am able to create or sing about.

    I am very unique as a person. I am unique in my sound, and what I write about. I feel I have a very special message for the world that has always been a part of ME. So that right there is something genuine (not contrived and manufactured for the sake of ‘packaging’) that my fans are going to see and appreciate as a part of what makes us so unique and special in who we are as a group. Story is much more about the things that concern me and what I want to sing about, than the issue of where I grew up etc. (Nothing wrong with a mention in a bio but you get the point hopefully)

    But here’s an example. When you think of Rage Against the Machine, are you picturing in your mind what the guys looked like? I can tell you right now I can’t picture their faces, and couldn’t describe what they look like. Now that I’m really thinking about it, I can picture front man Zach a little, but barely. But I certainly couldn’t tell you how they dress as I’ve never even seen them on a stage. But here is the thing, bands like them, Beastie Boys, Pantera, Metallica, AC DC, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, on, and on, and on, of every race and color, all left a unique ‘strike’ and ‘mark’ on our minds when bringing up any one of their names. That ‘mark’ is very much their ‘story’ and ‘image’.

    Referring back to Rage Against the Machine, we hear that particular ‘style’. We hear how that group had something so unique not only in their sound, but in their message that drove them. And their ‘story’ was expressed and emulated in that fiery passion in their hearts to share what they had to share with the world, even if we didn’t agree with all of it. And it doesn’t have to be political for that matter. Though I am VERY political in most of the things I write about because these things are always in my mind and heart, simply conveying passion and conviction, even if without a specific subject to write about, is what makes up any artists ‘story’ and ‘image’.

    And though some groups have an actual ‘stage act’ and ‘appearance’ that follows what it is they are trying to create along with it: Insane Clown Posse, GWAR, Ozzy, Kiss, Alice Cooper etc, ‘image’ for so many others was hardly about how they dressed. And while even these groups have lived on in the music they created, it was hardly limited to style of clothing or costume. In fact these things weren’t even necessary to tell us ‘who they were’ and why it is they possessed that special ability to leave their ‘mark’ on the world the way they did. And how many more without something ‘crazy’ and ‘themed’ in the way they dressed!

    What is engendered in your mind in their sounds when we bring up their names, and just having that special ‘it factor’ and ‘thing’ in their presence and charisma on stage, -or, their deep inner conviction in their music, and whatever it is they sang about, their political views, heartbreak, their struggles in life, their pain, their inspirations and victories, whatever that is what makes their ‘package’, ‘image’ and ‘story’ that their fans identify with and find themselves relating to, touched, and moved by! THAT is what this is about!

    Dress and choice of apparell are secondary and really only necessary if you belong to a certain genre and subculture you feel you want to convey that in your phsycial appearance, in order to better identify with your fans within that same culture. (punk, goth, emo, hip-hop for example) Or, your ‘act’ should you have one, which is really costuming at that point. And these things might be ‘a part’ of your ‘package’, but they are hardly the sole meaning of your unique story that makes you who you are as an artist, or ‘your image’.

    (By the way I’m not even a GWAR fan. But learning about how much their fans were touched by David Brockie who would overdose on heroine a few years ago, and watching the youtube video of his alternate stage character who’s costume was burned in a boat in Viking tradition, and seeing all his fans around that lake, I actually teared up a bit. Nor was I a hardcore fan of many of the bands I’m naming here. But they have al left their mark and imprint, and I am convinced it would be that way without the acts, costumes and makeup)

    Tori Amos had an ‘image’ in her unique artistic style, and the things she wrote about, and while I never followed her, through my sister listening to her growing up, she definitely ‘struck me’ and left her imprint on my mind. That was her ‘image’. I can barely tell you what she looked like or how she dressed as I never saw her either. But I can tell you this, homegirl had a ‘story’, even if I couldn’t tell you what she really sang about. Her music and art conveyed it! Her dark melodics trickling piano told haunting stories of depth and pain in her life and soul. And she didn’t try for it, but that was very much a part of her natural ‘image’ and ‘story’ that is!

    Keep in mind however that singing about pains in your life, especially if they aren’t genuine doesn’t necessarily make you an artist either, so do not try and be something you are not! I personally am tired of the dark depressing angry sounds I’ve been hearing in mainstream rock for the last two decades, and I write all my music to sound inspiring, moving, and even beautiful, carrying your soul away at times, but not to a dark depressing place! When people look back and hear what i created, I want them to say “fuck this tat guy’s music would always lift me up or even carry me away”. That’s a big part of what I want to bring as an artist, and hence my image and story!

    But many of the punk bands that I grew up on in my highschool days and that lasted decades came out wearing nothing more jeans and a tee shirt! Sometimes certain bands like Total Chaos went all out with the spikes and mohawks which ‘could’ be considered as ‘a part’ of thier ‘image’. But bands like the Dead Kennedys, No FX, Pennywise, Strung Out, Suicidal Tendencies, and the Vandals hardly tried at all to ‘make themselves stand out’ in their appearances. And half the time guys like this were in shorts, vans shoes, and teeshirts. Yet they all haad such a unique ‘stories’ in who they were as artists and groups that naturally drew us to them and left their imprint on our minds.

    Have you ever heard someone say “they need to find their sound”. That’s because these things (sound, image, story etc) all overlap. And while I’m not limiting it to your musical ‘style’, these touch on the same thing point in the expression of what labels want, because they know what sells, your ‘story’: that very special YOU that naturally pours out of you as an artist! People want to hear something unique within you. And it is not limited to only your style and sound (although this is huge if you want people to beattracted to your music) nor is it limited to whatever it is you choose to sing about. They wan to conect with your soul. And that is what sells and that special ‘it factor’ that labels look for.

    Remember the movie Walk the Line. I love Johnny Cash. He was not that great as a musician as he was exceptionally basic. But the moment he started singing Folsom Prison Blues, the manager of the label that would sign him was able to hear an artist, and his ‘soul’. Dressing in black was just ‘his thing’, and many remeber him for it. But it was his ‘story’ that immediately began to came out as an entire ‘thing’ about who he was as an artist. He didn’t have to try either. It was just there and the record companies spotted it immediately!

    So many have left their unique mark and ‘imprint’ on my mind when I think about them as artists. And while some had actual story-lines and stage acts for their ‘shows’ (ICP and GWAR, Ozzy, Alice Cooper, Kiss) I can rarely tell you what many artists looked like. Yet without being able to quote the lyrics to many artists songs, they, as artists, had a ‘story’ about who they were, in what they brought to the table. And that is both their ‘story’ as well as ‘image’.

    So again my friends, stop limiting ‘image’ to what you look like and how you appear, and ‘story’ to biographies of band members and what their hometown was. Dressing very dull and bland (not distractingly ugly) while having a unique sound and style, as well as what it is you want to sing about (and you do not have to force it and ‘try’ and come up with something either, just sing about what moves you in each and every song) is very much a part of your ‘package’ that tells ‘your story’, and leaves that imprint on people’s minds as an artist. And this my friends is ‘your image’ that your fans are going to become familiar with, recognize, and fall in love with!

    People are moved by something unique in both your sound, and who YOU are as an artist. You don’t need big fucking sunglasses and weird hairdos to display that nor grab somebody’s attention. Just be who you are! Do not force a style in your appearance if is not a natural part of your show, nor force yourself to come up with something to write about and convey in your message. In fact if not a part of a stage act, doing such things could send the signal that you are trying to compensate for bad art.

    If you are a true and natural born artist with a gift and something to sing about, it will be there in each and every song, so long as you believe in your music, and strive to write in a way that grabs people musically. And then you will understand what people mean when they talk about your ‘story’ and your ‘image’ etc.

    😉

  • Shane Braden

    I just realized I am three years late to the conversation. Did my post get deleted? Send it to me via messenger and I will take out any bad language as I know I had a few f bombs and didn’t realize I was being too casual lol. Send it so I do not lose it and I will clean it up and correct it 😉

    • Hey Shane,
      No, it wasn’t being blocked. Just waiting for me to approve it, and we had a big backlog of comments this week. Anyway, thanks for contributing and sharing your thoughts. I just approved it. Should be live now.