What do you think Beyoncé, Jay Z, Kanye, Coldplay or Lady Gaga have in common? Not music. They all have built compelling and lucrative brands based on music.
Any marketing guru will tell you that the biggest and most important aspect of marketing is branding. This is as essential in the music business as it is in any other. Potential fans need to be able to remember and associate with you. With so many other artists and bands out there, it is important that you take the necessary steps to stand out in the crowd and not just fade.
Once you start to treat your music as a business and understand the importance and value of branding, things will start to fall into place and you’ll be taking steps in the right direction. The brand is the foundation of your business, and once the foundation is laid you can build upon it. Without a starting block, a business cannot be built. When it comes to your career, you don’t want to be going around in circles, you want to move forward
Without doubt, the biggest challenge most artiste face is getting their music heard. So it’s important you give yourself the very best chance of cutting through.
Sadly, just having great music is not enough. Artistes frequently spend months writing and recording new material and then rush it out before considering the importance of presentation or brand.
To stand out in the crowd, here are 6 things you should do as an artiste…
Be Unique and Distinctive
Differentiate yourself from all the other acts out there so people will always remember you. A persona makes you yourself, it is a representation of yourself, and that makes you unique.
You’re an artiste right? Well so is your neighbor, his cousin, and her boyfriend – music fans have a bewildering array of choices these days so you have to give them a reason to recommend your latest CD, buy tickets to your show and follow you online.
What’s different about the design of your album packaging and website? Is there a unique voice to your tweets and your posts on Facebook? Through your story, develop a unique identity that will allow you to interact with fans in an imaginative way. Emulating another artiste’s style to try and ride a trend will not generate longevity.
Silence the Noise
You hear some version of this statement all the time: “You have to stand out above the noise in order to get your music heard.” But most artiste’s don’t understand what this statement really means and attempt to sing more loudly and more often than everyone else, believing that it will get them ahead and set them apart from the hordes of talented professional musicians vying for attention in an intensely-packed market.
They update their status messages 20 times per day, record a new song every week, bombard blogs and indiscriminately email everyone they think might listen to them, cover their story or advance their careers.
While staying active and diligently working hard at your craft through practice, recording and live shows are certainly essential to developing as an artist, standing out and rising above the din is really more about subtraction than addition.
Too much noise prevents people from hearing your true voice. We live in an environment where, thanks to the magic of technology, we are always being bombarded by information, even when we are in the comfort of our homes.
Remember that if you feel frantic and overwhelmed as you try to scream above all the other acts out there, your audience is experiencing the same – or even greater – system overload. Pare down your interactions, the language of your emails, the music and videos you release and get really selective about your communication; focus on writing and releasing the best and brightest songs and using the most succinct and meaningful language to promote yourself and communicate to fans.
And remember to remove the noise from your own life every once in a while by seeking out some solitude, so you can hear your own thoughts, the sound of your own voice and plan your next move.
Have and tell a Story
Every musician is different, but it is important to have a story and a theme from the get-go. Your story gives people additional reasons beyond your music to invest in you emotionally and financially, which is why, as a musician, you need to have an interesting narrative that moves forward and grows with you as your career develops.
The special story of your personal relationship to music and who you are artistically is concisely summed up by your mission statement, which you will be communicating through every aspect of your website, press pack, social media pages and other marketing pieces.
It goes without saying that your story also needs to be authentic and credible, as people are more likely to respond to you when they feel you come from an ethical and honest place.
Now, your overall brand as a musical artist is obviously a bit more complex than a Facebook profile picture. It has to do with all elements of your public presentation: logos, fonts, album art, merchandise, your appearance, the overall feel that is presented with all of these elements. All of these is part of branding. For that reason, it’s good to remember that a good brand is not simply created–it is developed.
The more consistently you develop your brand, the easier it is for the public to identify you. Make sense? Understand that it will take time to build an audience and cultivate long-term relationships. Making a big splash with your first album release and tour will establish a good foundation, but it’s going to take dedication, focus and consistency to truly build an audience worthy of sustaining a career.
Keep all your media and marketing materials consistent. When putting together official websites, album covers, Facebook fan pages and press packs, many artists let their creativity take over and forget that one of the most important aspects of branding and voice is consistency. Throwing every idea you ever have and every photo you ever take out into the universe without considering how it will contribute to your career aspirations and business plan will just cause mass confusion.
Business experts will tell you over and over again how in order to be perceived as professional, your Facebook fan page needs to match your website, which needs to match your Twitter account, ReverbNation or SoundCloud page or anywhere else you’re presenting yourself and your music online. And this is absolutely true.
Know How and When to Promote Yourself
You may have an amazing band with even more amazing songs. But if no one knows about it, you are not going to have much success moving your career forward. A lot of musicians put their songs up online, sit back and wait for that glorious ‘90s-style moment of “discovery” when an A&R rep or a label head will appear out of the darkness of a tiny bar or studio and tell them they are the future of music and save them from the stormy sea of promotion and business management, finally freeing up all their time to write and perform.
That kind of help is not coming. And even when some help comes, you have to educate yourself about PR and marketing so you can be your own life raft and reach out to others about booking shows, buying your music etc.
Taking control of your own voice and becoming skillful at self promotion is the only way to build a sustainable career, even if you eventually seek or get support from outside forces. Remember that everything you do to promote yourself should stem from your mission statement (which of course stems from your relationship to your music), so get clear on that first. From there, you can steadily build out the other elements of your press kit, such as your bios, testimonials and press clips.
There is a very fine line between bragging and promoting, and you have to learn how to walk along it. Just remember, it is always better to push your brand than not. You will learn – often through trial, error and the responses you get – when you have gone too far … or not far enough. Or just get a professional to work on that side with you.
A final thought about image and branding–whatever you begin developing as your public persona, make sure it’s real–make sure you’re putting your true self into it. Don’t let your public image be a character you play that doesn’t reflect who you really are. That might work for awhile, but fake public personas are very difficult to maintain for the long haul–the burden becomes too heavy after awhile.
It’s better to be honest, and let your public image be a reasonable reflection of who you are, as a person and as a musician.
About the author
Amare is an entrepreneur and music business consultant. You can follow him @AmareAF for his tweets on industry tips and Life’s Hacks