Much like the terms “classic” when referring to an album, or “consultant” when talking about what a music professional does for a living, the word, idea and meaning of a “brand” and “branding” is tossed around these days more liberally than a Hacky Sack foot bag on a college campus a week before summer break. The truth of the matter is that an artists’ brand is one of the most important and sensitive things they have. A standard definition of a brand is, “a kind, grade or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark or the like”. But when it comes to the music business and artists that are trying to make a real career in it, a brand is so much more than that, and goes beyond just a logo. A brand is how you become identifiable as an artist and an entrepreneur. It’s what potential partners, colleagues, clients and even fans will know you for. A brand encompasses everything from interaction with fans off stage, reputation and self-promotion to how you as an artist present yourself upon making a first impression, and much, much more. So you can see how important it is for any independent artist to develop a solid, identifiable brand that will carry them throughout their career. Here are a few questions to ask in the process of developing that much needed brand.
WHAT IS MY PURPOSE AS AN ARTIST?
Definitely not an easy answer to this one, but a vital question for any artist. Are you merely in the business to entertain and make money, or is there a bigger scheme at hand for your artistic brand?
WHO IS MY FANBASE?
Hopefully this is a base that is continuing to grow as your music spreads to more and more people. Ask yourself: who identifies with my music? Who supports it regularly?
HOW AM I CONNECTING WITH CURRENT AND POTENTIAL FANS?
And I don’t mean ONLY through social media: Are you talking to fans after you finish a set? Are you paying attention to other artists and music they listen to? Are you taking an interest in them?
WHAT MAKES MY MUSIC RELEVANT?
What is it or will it be that gets people talking about, listening to and sharing your music? What is that distinguishing factor that makes your musical brand important?
HOW DO I WANT TO BE VIEWED AS AN ARTIST?
What is the first thing you want people to think when they hear your music? First impressions are always important, but they are ten times more important to an artist trying to make a name and a memorable brand. Take risks, but be calculating and strategic.
WHAT DO I WANT FANS TO TAKE AWAY FROM MY MUSIC?
Is it a certain, specific feeling? Is it information on a pressing social issue? Is it that you simply want them to feel entertained? What do you want fans to receive from you and from your brand?
HOW EFFECTIVE IS MY SELF PROMOTION?
Have you found that delicate balance between enthusiastically building momentum and spamming/annoying the crap out of people? It’s an art and a science that’s not easy to learn, but must be mastered if you’re to build an effective brand.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS MY NETWORKING?
Are you talking to the right people and are you in the right places? Are you going to festivals, seminars and conferences? Are you connecting with professionals that can help you in the long run and vice versa?
Of course, these aren’t the only questions that artists need to ask about their brand strategy and brand identity, but they are a good start. When developing a brand, you are developing who and what you are as an artist. Don’t let these questions go unanswered for too long.