Over the past few years, I’ve been researching the marketing side of music to be of more value to the artists I work with. Heaven knows I’ve been avoiding the world of “marketing” for the same reasons you have….it’s HARD! It’s hard because there are so many fears attached to it:
What do you actually spend your money on; ads on socials? Ads on radio or print? Billboards? Your grandma’s book club? What??
You don’t want to be annoying
You are afraid of the negative comments that are bound to come
You’ve tried it before and all you get back in return are crickets and you just can’t bear to hear any more crickets…
So after a gazillion workshops, conferences, books and articles I’ve delved into these past few years, I think I finally figured out the one main component that most artists are not embracing or taking seriously.
By now you’ve heard this term thrown around but let’s talk about what branding really means, how to find yours and why it is the very first thing you should be thinking about before you even start creating your music.
Over and over again, artists I work with ask me toward the end of completing their EP or album or single, “Ok, so now how do I get it out there”.
Get my music out there.
I have come to hate this phrase, even though I know it’s harmless and it feels as though there’s no other way to say it. But to me, it’s the same as saying; “I want to go to Japan. Will you drop me off at the airport and then I’ll wander around and hope that someone puts me on a plane that is heading to Japan?”
We all know this will never in a million years work but I can’t think of a better analogy than the scenario of putting all of your time, resources and energy into the creation of music and then “hope” that it will be listened to by millions and create a sustainable career.
Perhaps it’s because there are still some long-held myths out there about being discovered in a coffee shop (the story is true for a few out of millions maybe). Perhaps it’s the fault of the reality shows that seemingly catapult a few into superstardom (and we forget about the fact they are casting a reality show and millions and millions of talented artists have auditioned and are never pushed through to the actual show because they don’t fit what casting directors are looking for). Whatever the reason, the truth is that most artists I observe are creating, crossing fingers, closing their eyes and “hoping” they’ll hit a target.
So, let’s talk about branding. I am not a branding expert, nor a marketing expert. So I am compiling notes and thoughts from quite a few resources which I will be linking you to at the bottom of this blog. Be sure to check out these amazing resources that are available to you, most for free!!
According to Stephen Linn of Amplify Entertainment, branding is one of the 3 Artist Development Buckets that you need to focus on to have the best chance for success in the music industry. The other two are the business side (creating an LLC, registering with a PRO and with Sound Exchange, etc.) and the Digital Footprint (following, content, audience, etc.)
“Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”, states Linn. I think that’s a powerful statement because it’s scary. Linn also explains that you can’t control it but only influence it. Your brand secures your identity and makes you unique in a very crowded space.
Take out a piece of paper, notebook or your digital notepad.
- List 3 to 4 words that describe your personality. Using these words, create (or hire someone to create) your;
- Clothing style
- Wardrobe (on and off stage, yes they can and should be different)
- Everything about you that you are going to share *as an artist
*Remember, you are not obligated to share every detail of your true personality with the world, only those parts you want them to see. Even if you are enhancing some qualities or hiding others, you are in control of what influences your brand. If you don’t want people to know that you personally have an obsession with collecting mini tea sets, then pull all photos of that down from your social media and pray that doesn’t get out. OR, you could embrace it and make that part of what you share.
- Write down your Mission Statement aka Elevator Pitch. The concept of an elevator pitch is if you only had 30 seconds to describe you, who you are and what your music is like as well as who it will appeal to, you should have this concise and clever summary memorized. Avoid statements like “unlike anything you’ve heard before” or “the best music you’ve ever heard” or some other egomaniac statement. I once heard music described as “It sounds as if Keith Urban and Taylor Swift had a baby and it was raised in San Diego”. You can tell what that would sound like, right?? Be clever!
- Define your vision. What do you see when you see yourself as successful? Will you be performing to a stadium full of fans? Will you be living comfortably as a songwriter? What does success look like to you? Spell it out in detail.
- Make a list of all of your favorite products, hobbies, restaurants, social spots, etc. Brand Extensions and/or partnerships can become part of your brand. Not only this but brand partnerships can become a source of income for you as well as a way to extend your reach. If you have a hobby of skateboarding or yoga or kickboxing or knitting or
have a love of Hallmark movies, include this as part of your brand. You will be able to connect with people with similar interests who may not have otherwise come across you and your music. This approach can also prop you up into the visual space for the brands you use and love to actually see you.
- Make a Brand Binder. This is for you and your team and not for fans or the public. The Brand Binder will include;
- Personality traits you narrowed yourself down to in the above exercise b. Phrases, thoughts, statements, quotes that you find inspiring and represent who you are and what matters to you
- Mission Statement and Elevator Pitch
- Brand Elements
- Logo (variations, colors)
- Look and feel (mood/aesthetic) using pictures
- Offstage wardrobe using pictures
vii. On stage wardrobe using pictures
viii. Any other pictures or swatches of material that add to your brand
- Include your list of products, hobbies, restaurants, etc. for potential brand partnerships
I like the idea of having a physical binder for this but you could also use something like Pinterest or Trello to organize your Brand Binder.
You might be asking, after you have gone through these exercises and put your Brand Binder together, “Ok, now what?”
Your next step is
- Creating Brand Awareness.
This. Is. The. Hardest. Part.
Honestly, I think creating your brand is really fun. I mean, who doesn’t like talking about all the things they love and creating a visual presentation of it? Brand Awareness is something that takes time. Remember, the Brand Binder is for you and your team, not your fans. It will guide every decision you make about what photos are best, what album cover looks best, what should I post on social media, etc. It is not a substitute for the business of bringing awareness to your brand.
So be patient. Building Brand Awareness is a marathon and not a sprint. Stay “On Brand”. Create Consistently. Contribute Always.
While you are at it, collect email addresses and give something back in return (free download, private invitation to live streaming event, etc.)
The good news is that if you do this right, you will attract fans outside of your regular circle of friends and family without spending a dime on advertising. You can also build brand awareness while you are creating music in the studio! As a matter of fact, that is great content to share as part of your brand building!
Make defining and building your brand the priority now and see how it changes things for you in 6 months or a year.
This blog was originally published on Becky Willard’s website Vox Studios
Becky Willard is a Warm Audio featured artist, a music producer, recording engineer, songwriter, composer, vocalist and mentor. She began working with artists almost 30 years ago as a vocal and songwriting coach. It was a natural transition from coach to producer as she guided singers searching for their sound and began recording them in her home studio.
In 2010, Becky founded Vox Fox Studios and has become the go-to producer for many Utah artists as well as artists from all over the world. These artists go to Becky to produce their music because they know they will get their best vocal performances, modern production sounds and mixes that are “radio-ready”. As a songwriter herself and session vocalist, her songs and voice can be heard in dozens of TV shows and movies. As a woman in a male-dominated field, Becky is actively engaged in educating and inspiring young women in her community and worldwide to pursue music production and engineering.