Artist developmentMusic Business

Creating your artist brand in three simple steps

The difference between a songwriter and an artist (as defined within the music industry) is rather simple: An artist (also often referred to as recording or performing artist) is the one selling the music to an audience! They are the “face” people will associate with the music! They are the ones on stage and in the studio, selling records with their name on it and going on tour to play live. Their persona is a unique selling point! If you prefer not to be a public person and displaying yourself to a larger audience, then you might chose to work as a songwriter. A songwriter is the person that writes songs and may or may not decide to stay behind the scenes. A songwriter who doesnt live the artist life, including video production and touring can still record their own music and even sing on their tracks. They just might not market these tracks in traditional ways, but rather opt for sync placements and writing songs for other recording artists.

If you do want to step out into the world as an artist yourself though, then creating a strong brand that people can identify and connect with is absolutely crucial!

This is easier said than done. Keep in mind that you will want to stick to the brand you are creating for a while…so this should be something you think through thoroughly! And yet, to not overcomplicate things, I am presenting three ways to help you “find” your own brand identity as an artist. Let´s see:

1) Own your story

Hands down. As a songwriter/music creator you know how important storytelling is! Not only are you telling stories through your songs, but you also need to understand that your personal story as an artist is essentially helping your fans identify and bond with YOU as representative of your music! Telling your unique story is the best way to find “your tribe” so to say! Now, you might wonder what does “story” mean? Here´s the deal…everyone has a unique story to tell, and the way of telling this story matters as well. It´s the “Who, what and why´s” that come into play here. If you don´t know what is so special about who you are, then take a pen and a piece of paper and write down some of your biggest hurdles you went through (in your life thus far) and the moments that made you the happiest/proudest as well! Make this a collection of your milestones and your lowest moments. Also reflect on your biggest strenghts and challenges that might have been tied to these events or what you learned from these. You might also reflect on what drew you towards musicmaking. What is one of the songs from your own catalogue that you love the most and why?

All these questions should help you find out more about your uniqueness and the reasons you do what you do. It often shows in our highest and lowest moments. I´m not saying you have to share all the details, but do make sure to know what you want to stand for and why! E.g. you might find you are someone that has been through lots of bad relationships and has developed some sort of independence as a result. You might reveal the vulnerability that ultimately made you tough and then present encouraging power songs as a female or male artist! You might want to empower other people through your music.

Whatever it is that is special about you, go tell it on the mountain! 😉

2) Visuals matter

Now, to back up your personal story you will need to use visual communication to get peoples attention! If you were an artist painting pictures, you wouldn´t necessarily have to show your face to sell your art! Paintings are visual pieces.  They sort of sell themselves! The importance of visual impressions cannot be stressed enough! Through evolution we are trained to quickly scan our surroundings and categorize things into “important and non imporant” merely by looking at things! This was crucial for our survival in the history of mankind! Visual impressions still decide over whether we react to something with attention or disinterest. With that said, you will want to make sure you create a brand that is  eyecatching, appealing, interesting and standing out!  In short: You need to display an interesting style in order to get people to listen to your music in the first place! How else are you gonna get them to click through your Spotify playlists otherwise? You might think…”Nahhh…I think  visual branding is overrated!” But let me tell you…the most successful artists that have been sticking around for decades have made use of very unique looks/aesthetics.

Think Dolly Parton! Her look also tells her story! She´s selfmade! She is a tiny person but with a big personality! Someone who is proud to show who she is! Her looks also says “I go against the grain” and I make my own rules! Dolly once said: “Find out who you are and then do it on purpose” That´s what all this is about! Find your story and over-express it!

Other examples of artists with strong visual brands: The Rolling stones (wild, artsy Rock´n´roll! And yes, the tongue!) Michael Jackson (signature look), Tina Turner or Beyoncé! Tina and Beyoncé are both powerful females that do use their bodies to sell music, yes, but they also can afford to do that, because their voices make them Godesses! If they had weak voices, their brands would´t be aligned and it would look cheap/ridiculous!

You see, the visual brands they all created, created images in your head that make you want to listen to their music even more! Music alone will sometimes sell, but seldom will this be enough to build a lasting career!

If you struggle with creating a visual identity, go to Pinterest and create a moodboard first. Save pins with colors you like, looks you find, things you love or are interested in! There´s no limits! Try to see if the pins can be broken down into certain colors and topics that you might adopt into your brand identity.

Also, don’t be too strict with it all! People still want to see the real you! This is merely about defining what kind of visual content you want to share on social media, and which messages those might hold that are aligned with your story! Instagram is a great tool to establish a visual brand personality on! Let your feed give people an idea of you are and what your aesthetics are. And make sure it fits with your music, which brings me to number 3.

3) Custom Sound

This one might seem obvious, but so many times people forget that music is art! It´s about being original, not another copy of someone who´s already in the market! Sure, on the radio almost all hits sound pretty much the same, but that´s because stations choose to compile songs that sound alike. Does that mean you can only land a hit if you sound like what is already out there? No! Instead! Try developing further! Be the “next” radio hit! Also, I would say do not worry about radio too much! It is still a great way to get exposure and collect royalties as well, but there´s plenty of ways to make a living outside of radio as well! For an indie artist to get played by major stations is like a lottery anyways! Creating a unique sound that is aligned with your overall story and your visual brand will help you attract specific fans that will hopefully stick around! Regardless of whether your music is being played on the radio or not! Try not to be disposable! Allow for your personality to shine through your sound! Authenticity almost always wins!

Got questions? Put them in the comment section!

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