Building a brand is the single most important skill a music artist, indie label or band should learn if they intend to promote their works to a larger audience. Thanks to the internet, and the growing popularity of social media, artist branding is much less complicated than it was… say maybe 10 years ago.
Regardless of the type of artist you may be, we all need to understand the importance of branding to stand out from the crowd. To do that, we must take lessons from the corporate brands and recognize how we connect and promote online is a direct reflection of how others see our own brands.
If independent artists are a truly in the game as free agents and ballers, then it’s time we started playing like it.
So here is my top 5 list of things to get you pointed in the right direction.
Be ready to be in for the long haul. It takes years to build a solid reputation as a recognized and successful brand. The branding process itself isn’t complicated, but it will require patience and perseverance to effectively accomplish your goals. You have to be unyielding and persistence in your efforts every day. If you are not up to the task, know that many of your competitors will be, and more than willing to pass you by.
Even when you establish your brand, it is a continuous process that you must maintain for as long as you own it. If patience is not one of your virtues, then I strongly believe you should reconsider taking the independent artist route.
Anyway, I can’t help but wonder when I come across yet another artist 404 error page (this site no longer exists) or networking profiles that haven’t been updated in years, if the artist moved on to something else or threw in the towel. My hunch is the latter.
Building a successful brand is a marathon and separates the men/women from the boys/girls. Don’t start if you don’t have what it takes to finish.
Who am I?
If you decided you have what it takes to build a brand, then the next step is to do a little soul searching. Let’s start by asking some important questions.
Who am I? What are my most important values? What are my beliefs? What do I hope to accomplish by building my brand. Take the time and really consider the answers to these questions. Remember your brand will be an extension of you.
The answers you provide must come from the soul. They will then reside at the core of your brand, allowing you to make better decisions and inspire confidence in what you’re doing, even when others question your direction. They will differentiate your brand from the competition. They are the “it” factor that will resonate with your target audience. They will create a more crystallized brand with a strong sense of identity. They will be the foundation on which to build and your moral compass to stay the course.
From my own experience, even though I have made mistakes in the past and decided to take different routes, my values and goals have always remained the same. The soul searching I did a long time ago has been, and still is my moral compass to keep me focused and pointed in the right direction.
Your Website: A Unique Branding Experience
Your website levels the playing field. It provides every artist with the opportunity to present their brand to the world and to build it just as impressive as the big boys.
Separate yourself from the crowd and make your voice heard. Individualized platforms (your own website), customized to your own personal and business needs are always the best way to go.
I am not knocking the effectiveness of using established social media sites to help promote your brand. But when your image and reputation is tied exclusively to an already established brand, the constant internal decisions they make also have consequences to your brand. When they take a hit, you take a hit.
I recently came across an artist management company that had to apologize to its artists because the site (brand) where they had a membership, updated their platform and wiped away all the user data. Don’t let this happen to your brand!
Also many artists don’t take the time or the energy to invest in a website of their own, so I think it is one of the best ways to separate your brand from the crowd. Furthermore you increase your chances of standing out, when you don’t have to deal with the constant hassle of another brand and logo over shadowing your own.
Again if you are not willing to go the extra mile to stand out, many of your competitors will.
Knowing the Rules of the game and learning how to play
I think investing time and resources in an online brand, without knowing the rules of the game have to be one of my biggest regrets. Before you spend one dime marketing your brand, you better learn to use the tools of the trade.
If you are a baller with enough assets to burn, then by all means hire a reputable brand management company, experiment, buy ads or throw your money around and see what sticks. But if you’re like most artists with limited assets and a lot of passion…read further.
The good news is you can build a reputable brand without investing cash you don’t have. The bad news is – you need to invest a considerable amount of your time. But we already know that if you read the first tip.
If you intend of creating an online brand, keywords will play a vital role in building awareness of your website, music, products and/or services. Search Engine Optimization experts usually help companies large and small build their brand by using specific keywords that searcher use to find artists, music, art, product or services. With billions of people around the world using the internet, building your skills in search engine optimization will definitely be worth the effort. In fact, it is now one of the most important elements of online brand building.
Of course there are a bunch of other ways to market you brand online, but I am going to have to list them in another post. But I think search engine optimization is the least understood by artists, so learning it will definitely give you the heads up on the competition.
This is about the visual elements of your brand; logo, website, bio, pictures, music, videos and other marketing materials. Your presentation is also about the style and tone of your marketing communications and interactions with your target audience, whether it in the form of an email, tweet, comment or status update.
The top four tips hinge on the presentation of your brand. If you have all your ducks in a roll and fail the presentation, your brand will not last long. Getting your presentation right will go a long way in attracting fans, customers and clients you want.
I think encompassing everything about you brand into visual elements is the most difficult parts of the branding process. I would have to admit, I am still learning the skills to put it all together into a complete package. Branding is continuous learning process that takes patience and lots of creative ideas to build and steadily improve. So my advice is:
Just take your time, learn the process, make incremental improvements , enjoy the little victories along the way and last but not least have the longevity to finish the marathon.