One of the most prominent realities of today’s industry that is vital for every artist to understand is that they are a brand, and every aspect of their career is working towards selling that brand. As much as artists may not understand the value of branding, it has become an aspect of the industry that is vital to accept in order to achieve any level of success. Most A&R and management companies no longer solely look at the talent of an artist, instead, they’re looking at the overall brand that the artist identifies themselves with. In other words, their goals, beliefs, attitudes, story and how all of those aspects are translated and reflected into their overall image. Despite that branding has always been a factor in the music industry, the up rise of social media has made it more prominent than ever, and consequently, it tends to be associated as “the enemy” that artists are placing it before their own music. Although this may be true in some cases, branding also has many perks as well as the potential to develop an incredible experience that surpasses the music alone. However, in order to utilize branding to an artists’ advantage, they must firstly understand its importance in order to properly promote themselves, maintain the significance and value of their music, as well as create incredible opportunities that have never been done before.
So what makes branding so significant in today’s music industry? First of all, it has become the reality of consumers. People identify themselves with brands, and look for something to relate to. Branding is the reflection of an artists’ overall message, goals, beliefs, and personality that make them unique from other artists. Whether it’s through their attire, sound, how they design their products, their live shows, etc, branding is the consistency of an overall message that is developed and reflected in everything that an artist does. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are content based, and when an artist page is visited, the first thing that people see of that artist is no longer their music, but instead their images, latest posts, bio, which are all factors of their overall brand. So whenever an artist posts an update of the new Netflix series that they just watched, a picture of their dog, or their excitement for the red Starbucks cups, they’re unknowingly always contributing to and developing their brand.
Branding is extremely powerful emotional trigger, and in some cases, more so than the music itself. Branding allows for emotional attachment, feeling related to something, and the feeling of belonging that people seek. In today’s industry, being a fan of a certain artists no longer solely means being a fan of their music, instead, it’s about being a fan of the overall brand that the artist defines themselves by. Branding is what converts fans into superfans; people only go to extremes for an artist when they feel closely connected to the artist themselves. This is why fans of certain artists feel compelled to line up for hours, sometimes overnight, for general admission concerts or events, just so that they are able to be that much closer to the artist. In some cases, fans can feel so emotionally attached to an artist that they feel compelled to remain devoted to them even if their music isn’t always at its best. However, this concept can also work against the artist as well. If an artist does something that is damaging towards their brand, it is able to discourage some of the most devoted fans fans, even if they are still a fan of the music.
Branding is also an extremely powerful marketing tool. It’s the familiarity and consistency that is promoted through everything that an artist does in their career. From the genre of their music, to their main logos, the style of their merch, their live performances, their fonts, attire, etc, branding is a recognizable aspect that allows for identification and association. For example, Marina and the Diamonds’ main font in her logo, the paw print for Ed Sheeran, the Rectangle for the 1975, the Kiss logo, the Rolling Stones tongue, etc. Recognizable branding promotes the experience that an artist delivers, and attracts fans that are able to relate to the same messages and goals that an artists represents.
The core message that an artist develops by means of their brand should remain consistent throughout their career, however, should also evolve, age, and change with the artist to remain genuine and accurate. Someone like a Taylor Swift has maintained her brand of being an open hearted, honest and genuine artist while constantly maturing through her music, and even changing her genre. Marina and the Diamonds has also transitioned through different “eras” while clearly maturing through her music and lyrics while maintaining her core sound, beliefs, and incredible artistry that create her persona.
An artist in today’s industry is not simply selling their music, they’re selling an image, an experience, the beliefs, and messages that define them. First impressions can be extremely powerful and influential, and brands are usually the first impressions that people get of an artist in today’s industry, which is why it’s vital for them to be compelling, appealing, and an accurate representation of the messages and goals that that artist represents. Want to find out how? Come back tomorrow for Identifying your Brand.
By Casey Aonso
“There’s no sale without a story”– Gary Vaynerchuk