Creating a powerful brand identity is an imperative step towards becoming a successful musical artist.
Breaking through the noise and getting onto a new listener’s radar requires you to stand out and stick around in people’s minds. There are a lot of artists yearning for their spot in the limelight, but there’s only one version of you out there.
So how can you figure out those authentic aspects of your musicianship and persona, and establish an artistic brand that reflects and communicates those attributes strongly? Let’s find out!
But first, what is an artist brand?
Branding can mean a lot of phony things, but essentially you can look at it as “what defines you.” Let’s think of branding as an outward visual expression of your music and art, and it distinguishes you from everyone else.
Some of the pillars of your branding include your logo, promotional photos, album artwork, music videos, and merchandise; it can also include your look, your color and font schemes, etc. These all combine to form your brand identity and help people to better understand you.
Even if your music is great, if you lack an engaging aesthetic then your artistic presence will surely get lost in the noise. But figuring out what goes into creating a brand is the easy part, the hard part is strengthening it so that you stand out from everyone else. The following five steps are how you can begin to do that.
1. Your brand is a reflection of you
Your brand is derived from who you are, what you represent, and how you want people to perceive you.
When establishing your artist brand, you need to really discover the ultimate purpose behind your music. Really spend some time delving into what it is you’re trying to create. How do you want people to feel when they see your branding? Does this line up with how you expect people to feel when they hear your music?
People will always make assumptions about you, when they hear your music—there’s nothing you can do about that—but you can attempt to control those assumptions as much as possible. We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we almost always do.
Ultimately, your brand should tie together how you’d like to communicate with the world, and it should translate the experience of your music visually.
2. Create a strong logo
Branding is scalable and ever evolving; it’s designed to shift with your creative ideas. But it all starts with an initial concept. Your logo is what features on music festival posters, album artwork, social media pages and more.
Our tribal psyche as human beings gravitates towards symbols, badges, flags, and icons. We love to claim allegiance to something, since we ultimately seek validation and love to feel part of a collective movement. So even if you think a logo or typeface that represents your look is not for you, there are psychological reasons why it can help you carve out a niche brand.
Work with a professional graphic designer to create a quality logo, or experiment with it yourself until you’re comfortable with the first iteration. It’s okay if it changes—it doesn’t have to tell your full story, as long as it starts the first chapter.
3. Keep it consistent
A successful brand is consistent between communication and experience. All of your design and aesthetic elements should function together and build the same overall picture. And applying consistent branding will help market your music as distinguishable from the rest.
What does this mean?
It means firstly that you need to unify your web platforms with the same imagery, colors, and fonts: Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, Bandcamp, your music website, your newsletter, etc.
But it also means that your release output needs to be visually tied to other branded elements of your visibility. So the aesthetic of your album artwork should carry over into your promo photo shots, your music videos, tour posters, merchandise, etc.
Your aesthetic descends from the stage all the way down to the page. If your brand is inconsistent and confusing, it’s not only less memorable but it may take away your authenticity.
4. Get a snapshot of the competition
Building a strong brand is all about differentiation—in other words, standing out from the competition. But without an understanding of who your competitors are and what they’re doing successfully to engage their communities, you might find yourself falling short.
Study them, research them, piece together common visual elements that they’re using that could benefit your visual identity as well, or specific trends or techniques that artists within your niche employ to good effect. Understanding these will make sure there are no clear oversights in your designs.
Look even further outside of your niche at artists in different disciplines, or sports figures, companies, and initiatives that you resonate with. Think about what draws you into their brands, what it is you like about them, and what you might be able to bring into your own orbit.
5. Aim to pique curiosity
Your brand should encourage music fans to engage with you emotionally.
How do you do this? As mentioned before, humans are quick to make assumptions based on a variety of factors—use this to our advantage!
Creating an alluring brand will leave music fans hungering to learn more, no, desire more. Aim to attract people through your branding to take action by listening to your music or going to see you perform live. Think about how you can build anticipation, increase engagement, and what makes you unique, and incorporate all of this into your content creation.
If all of these elements contribute to the story you’re telling, fans are going to need to stick around for the climax—point them in that direction as soon as you grip them, and bring them along for the whole ride!
A successful brand takes time
Building a brand is an iterative, evolutionary process. You don’t need to have the roadmap perfectly laid out ahead of you, because your brand can grow with you as an artist. So don’t worry too much about how the jigsaw pieces fit together all the time, just recognize which pieces are most important to you.
The most successful branding strategy begins with a clear understanding of your why. Every successful artist has a powerful purpose behind what they do.
What compels you to create the music you do? Communicate this through your branding and this will speak volumes to your audience.
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Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer and music educator, who holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Westminster. You can find more of his advice over at Drum Helper - one of the web's most popular free online drumming resources.
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