Today you're going to learn how to start branding your music without feeling like you're selling out. I've had so many conversations with artists concerned about selling their soul if they have to brand themselves. It's like they think they're magically going to become the evil corporate exec from a Muppet movie if they try to tell a consistent story about themselves.
Branding doesn't have to be painful, and it definitely doesn't have to change the quality or direction of your music. Now, you're not going to be able to create your brand overnight, but this video will get you started in the right direction. Here's how to brand yourself as a musician and still be able to sleep at night.
1) Change your Mindset.
Don't think of branding as selling your soul, think of it as signaling. Branding is basically sticking to a consistent visual palette, storyline, and customer base. These things together work as a cue to make people think "Oh, this person really has it together, I totally understand what they're about".
When people are looking to buy music or follow a band, who are they going to commit to? The dude whose posts are all over the place visually or the chick who seems to know exactly what she's about? People are overwhelmingly going to follow professionals.
2) Pick your Audience.
You're gonna want to take a look at who's already responding to your music. If you see a pattern, and it meshes with the direction you want to take your music, then you're done with this step. If you don't see a pattern or you do and you're not into it, here's where you get to make some decisions. Here's an extreme example to illustrate. Let's say you're in a punk band and all you want to do is play to other grizzled old punks and people who "get it", but your Instagram following is mostly pre-teen girls.
There's something you're putting out that's attracting the wrong crowd, so take a step back and assess. Maybe one of you looks like a One Direction dude and it's just him posting selfies, so you're gonna want to stop posting those and think about what content grizzled old punks like to look at, or if they're on Instagram at all. If you don't know who you want your audience to be, look at other artists you respect and feel you might be similar to. Check out their audiences and see what the commonalities are there--because if your music and viewpoint is the same as that artist, then it's likely your audience will be too.
3) Figure out what that Audience likes (besides you).
Now that you know who you're targeting, figure out what they like. Go beyond their musical tastes, think about what food they like, what movies, TV shows, books. Places they hang out, countries they travel to, clothes they wear. Make a list. Just start brainstorming.
4) Create a secret Pinterest board.
Google those things and see what kinds of pictures show up, and pin them. Go to related images and pin anything that jumps out at you. Ignoring what specifically your audience likes, start pinning things that YOU like, that make you think of your music. Pin things that your music makes you think of. Search for vaguely related terms and pin those. Once you get to about 30-40 pins, you should start seeing patterns. Go through and delete any images that look glaringly out of place. Do all of this a couple times, and fine tune your board until it all feels cohesive. Until you can squint your eyes and it all looks kind of similar.
This is your visual recipe for your brand.
You're not going to completely copy these images, but they all now work together to create a certain look and feel. What emotion do you want your music to evoke? These images should reflect that.
Going back to the Grizzled Old Punk example, I created a board (as seen in the video). You can see:
- black and white,
- dirty cities
- literal grizzled old hardcore punks
- abandoned buildings
- neon colors
5) Put it all together and find the common themes.
Pick a couple themes that jump out at you that feel connected to your music and the story you want to tell. From those patterns on my Pinterest board, I get the following:
- a devil may care attitude
- the ravages of time
- the inherent anarchy of our civilization
I'm going to go with grit and attitude for my fake punk band. We're a little more optimistic in our worldview, so ravages of time and anarchy is a little too depressing for our brand. Our music already evokes feelings of freedom, and "screw the world, we are who we are and you can't stop us". Now we have visual cues that are in line with that: neon clashing against dark cities and black and white, lights against dilapidated buildings. We're the color in a dark world. That's what we're about, and that's what all of our content from now on is going to reflect in some way.
BONUS TIP: Keeping On Brand
Now you have a cornerstone to check everything else against. You have to ask yourself the question for every piece of content you're about to post:
Is this telling our story?
Taking my phrase-- we're the color in a dark world-- maybe I want to post a really cool picture of colorful balloons against a bright blue sky-- but is that showing the color in a dark world? No, not really. It will clash with all the other pictures and content on our band's pages.
So we've just gone over the 5 steps and Bonus step for getting started branding your music without hating yourself.
Branding doesn't have to be soul-sucking or feel inauthentic. At no point did I tell you to go find out what makes tons money and copy it, or to go pick something that doesn't feel right to you. Branding your music is simply keeping consistent with the story you're already telling through your music.