[Editor’s Note: this article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]
Throughout the years I’ve been working in the music industry, I have spoken to countless musicians at every level of their careers, from those just getting started with only a handful of songs to the biggest names in the business. Two things seem to separate the top figures in the field from those who haven’t made any impact whatsoever: the music, and branding.
The first of those two items seems obvious, but the second eludes many. I’ve been told that branding is a waste of time, something for companies and social media stars and more, but I can’t help noticing that those artists who learn what it is and how to properly brand are often the ones who win. They attract attention, both from fans and those in positions and power, and they’re the ones who go on to chart, sell well, tour the world and make good money from music.
So, if that sounds like something you want in your future, hear me out as I discuss why a cohesive and sustained brand image is absolutely necessary for every working musician.
Shows You’re Serious
There’s a lot of really bad or completely mediocre music out there…but there’s also a lot of art that’s good, or even great, and so much of it ends up undiscovered by the masses. That’s a shame, but it’s a sad truth of the music world. So many of the people who are churning out quality tunes are willing to put in the time and effort to put pen to paper and record and re-record until it’s all perfect, but how many of them are also going to invest the same energy into turning themselves into a branded, well-known recording artist? It’s important to note that the two are not necessarily the same.
Investing time, money and effort not just into your art, but into building your brand, as well as everything else that’s connected to a music career (website, touring, merchandise, an email list, and on and on and on) shows you’re not just talented, you’re serious. If you really want to make enough money to live off of music, you’re going to need to get serious and start learning about all of these topics…or at least hiring others who can tackle them for you.
Proves You Get It
Many up-and-comers have dreams of being working musicians who can support themselves with just their art, but so many underground acts just don’t seem to grasp the importance of things like social media, PR, marketing, advertising andbranding. These are all necessary in today’s industry, and those in power take note of those who understand this. If your goal is to secure a record deal with alabel one day, this is certainly something those in power keep in mind. Sure, they want great talent, but they are also keenly aware of which acts really have agrasp on what it takes to not just survive, but thrive.
Helps You Attract Attention
Everyone wants their music to speak for itself, but almost every act on the planet needs a little help attracting attention. I’m not suggesting that every musician needs to wear skimpy clothing or pull headline-grabbing stunts in the service of their art, but there is something to be said for playing the game, at least a little bit.
As I mentioned above, there is just so much good music out in the world, andmore is coming all the time. There’s simply too much for everyone to give everything a try, so those who typically grab people’s attention are the ones who stand out for more than one reason. Sure, the songs are excellent, but they also have a look, their photos are interesting, or their videos go viral.
Some people just want the spotlight, while others see attention as a marketing tool. You can use branding to help attract eyeballs and ears, and once you have them tuning in, if even for a little bit, wow them with your art. That was the point all along, right?
You may think you know exactly who you are as an artist, but everyone can learn a little bit more about themselves! Deciding what your brand is all about can help you set up some parameters to work within, both as a person and a musician, and sometimes those borders can be really helpful.
If you spend some time deciding on everything from colors and fonts to moods and tones, all that learning should bleed into your work. You may find that you want your next album to be darker than you initially thought, or maybe you feel a handful of tracks just don’t fit with the vibe your imagery is showcasing. This is all okay! It’s good to edit, make everything work seamlessly, and find any reason to rework and make sure everything looks and sounds perfect.