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Why Every Artist Must Focus on Branding

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Branding, marketing and identifying a target audience, are terms that every business in every industry uses. The music industry is no exception. The problem is a Kevin Costner film quote that stuck in everyone’s head – “If you build it they will come.” This is really bad advice. Inspiring musicians and artists are wasting their time complaining about the artists that are on the radio or the artists that are successful in the business.


How many times have you heard a local rapper or band say that they make better music than the successful artist in the business?  How did so and so make it and their music is trash? My favorite local rapper quote is “When they hear this song we’re going to blow up!”  The biggest misconception among aspiring artists is if I make this really good product (music) I’ll get in the door. This is so wrong. I will make a statement so listen up. People don’t buy into products. They buy into brands and movements. Just because you make really good music does not mean you have what it takes to be successful. Before you second-guess me, just hear me out.

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Like I said before there is no difference between the music industry and any other industry. Record labels spend more money on market research, promotion, image and branding then they do on the actual product. Think of your self as a consumer. 90 percent of consumers do not buy products, they buy brands. When you go to the store to purchase your toothpaste, you do not buy the best toothpaste. I bet you have no idea what toothpaste is the best fit for your teeth. I bet you’re not experimenting or looking for the best either. You’re set in your ways so you pick up a tube of Crest or Colgate. You just bought into a brand. Crest is a trusted brand. Is it the best toothpaste for your teeth? Can you answer that question and believe it 100%. I sincerely doubt it.


Odd Future is a brand with a movement. They have identified with a target audience that has bought into their brand. That audience will buy any product that Odd Future is selling, because once again they have bought in to the brand or movement. The same goes for Strange Music, ICP, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross, Atmosphere and the list goes on. They have a look, an appearance, a logo, a style, a sound and a movement that address a specific group of people.  You name a successful artist or group and I’ll show you a strong team with an effective business strategy. This brings me to my next point, identifying a target market.


When I ask rappers who they are or who they are marketing to, they have no clear answer. This is why you can’t have success. It’s not because of the lack of talent or the music you make. What you are supposed to do in business is find a need in the community and address that need. Never fall into the gap of thinking that you make music for everyone. That is impossible. Even if it was possible, you don’t have the money, time or the resources to achieve that. Think of Gatorade. Gatorade is a sports drink, but you don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy a Gatorade. I’m drinking a Gatorade right now, but does Gatorade care about me? No they don’t. Have you ever seen a Gatorade commercial in an office setting? Have you ever seen a rapper or a super model promoting Gatorade? No you haven’t. What you have seen is Gatorade on the sideline of every sporting event. You don’t even know if Gatorade is in that paper cup that the quarterback is drinking from. It could be good old fashion H2O. It doesn’t matter, because now every soccer mom and high school athlete in America is packing a bottle of Gatorade.

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What does this all mean to you? Think about any successful artist and ask the questions who are they? What do they stand for? How does their image complement their movement?  Who do they identify with?  If you want to be successful, you have to become a brand or a movement. Once you know who you are and what you stand for, you should be able to describe it in less than two sentences. You should also be able to show it without explaining it through your logos, image and appearance.


The next step is to identify your target audience. Who are you marketing to? Do not say anyone who will listen. This means you have no market and no strategy. You have to be able to research your market and design a game plan to attack that specific group of people. Study your target market. Where do they hang out? What do they spend their money on? What attracts their attention? Every single detail about them from how they dress to what they believe in. Successful companies spend a lot of money and time on market research projects alone.


Once you have identified the need, address the need. You should be able to offer me something I can only get from you. This is how you start a movement. Now the only thing you need is a team. By team I don’t mean a bunch of yes men or a bunch of musicians all in it for their own gain. I mean a team of people all pulling their own weight as part of an effective business plan.


I understand that an artist only wants to focus on the art. This is where their passion lies. This is why you started making music in the first place. I understand this more than you will ever know. This is why you surround your self with people who are not just artists but share you’re passion. People who can focus on building and growing your brand while you create the product. You have to think outside of the box when attempting to get your music out there. If you can’t understand business, you can’t make noise with your music. Unless you’re doing music for fun or for the love of the art and you don’t want a buzz, you must remember music is a business.

Marcus J. Clark is not a human being, but an experience. An energy that revolves around art, music, comic books and Film. A Gift to the free world containing supernatural artistic powers to transport every open mind to the contradiction that is The Savage Wonderland.