Understanding Image and Branding as a Musical Artist

One of the cold, hard facts about the music biz is that no matter how good a musical artist you are, having a successful public career is not just about your music, but also about your public image–your brand. In other words–how you are perceived by the public.

I’m not talking about getting all phobic about what people think of you (most of us do that pretty naturally on our own, thankyouverymuch). What I mean is that a public performer has a public image, a persona associated with his/her music. That, in essence, is part of your brand as an artist–and getting your music “out there” also involves getting your brand “out there.” So let’s talk about some basics to get an understanding of image and branding.

Let’s start with an analogy…how many of you have a Facebook account? (Hands up all over the place.) Okay…you know that little profile picture that appears next to everything you say and do on Facebook?  That, in the most primitive sense, is a type of branding. It associates a single consistent visual to all your activity.  You might change that picture from time to time, but it still is a micro-representation of you, and what you’re doing on Facebook. And when you change your profile pic, it instantly changes on all your previous activity as well, to keep things consistent.

And that’s the idea behind image and branding: consistency. We’re not talking about good girl/bad girl type of image here (not in this post, anyway); we’re talking about putting forward a consistent public image, so people can easily associate and remember you over time.

Now, your overall brand as a musical artist is obviously a bit more complex than a Facebook profile pic. It has to do with all elements of your public presentation: logos, fonts, album art, merchandise, your appearance, and the overall feel that is presented with all of these elements.  All of it is part of branding.  For that reason, it’s good to remember that a good brand is not simply created–it is developed.  The more consistently you develop your brand, the easier it is for the public to identify you.  Make sense?

Now let’s get down to some specific tips about developing your image and brand:

  1. Decide on an overall visual “look” for your band’s public info–including colors, fonts, etc.–and begin to pattern around it.  Website design, flyers, press material, album art, etc. should all start bearing that consistent look. You might want to enlist the help of a graphic artist to design a look that matches your band’s personality.
  2. Choose fonts and colors that best reflect the overall theme and feel for your act. (HINT: If your music style is pop/rock, a font named “Gothic Horror” is probably not going to convey the right idea about you.)
  3. If your band has a logo, begin putting it on anything and everything that has to do with your band. Make it your aim that when people see that logo, they know it’s you whether or not your band name is with it.
  4. Register your stage name and/or logo as a trademark. This ensures that no one else can use your name.  (It also lets you know if someone else already has your trade name, so you don’t get sued down the road.)

A final thought about image and branding–whatever you begin developing as your public persona, make sure it’s real–make sure you’re putting your true self into it. Don’t let your public image be a character you play that doesn’t reflect who you really are. That might work for awhile, but fake public personas are very difficult to maintain for the long haul–the burden becomes too heavy after awhile.  It’s better to be honest, and let your public image be a reasonable reflection of who you are, as a person and as a musician.

13 thoughts on “Understanding Image and Branding as a Musical Artist”

  1. Great post Jeff, nice to see you break down online branding into the simple steps that it should be.

    I would agree that branding is not rocket science, it’s just putting out a consistent visual image then letting people associate to it themselves.

    One of the first things that artists can do is start to use a consistent picture across all their different social profiles on the web and not change it every 5 minutes.

    I’m going to post your blog out to my network now.

    – Chris

  2. This is really an excellent piece Jeff. I’ve just discovered your blog, but will be spending quite a bit of time exploring all of your articles.

    I really liked the Facebook Analogy, as that seems to be the most simple way to make others understand the idea of branding and it’s necessity throughout the social media world.

    Jon Ostrow

  3. What do you think the best thing to do is if you are interested in expanding your act abroad? Should you register a trademark first in your own country, and then in each country you can afford as you go along? (I mean obviously, if we had the money we would trademark our name in all countries with Madrid Protocol) But what’s the best thing to do short of this?

  4. Thanks Jeff,
    a helpful blog post.
    I wonder if you could explore also the kinds of questions an artist might want to ask themselves about their brand in order to clarify and hone in on what kinds of images are most appropriate.
    Cheers, Linda

  5. What advice would you give to a seasoned musician/artist who is attempting to create a brand? Someone who has been in the background (ie. arrangements, instruments, vocals), but never in the limelight?

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