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Is music more important than the quality of your artist brand?

music brand scaleIs this a trick question?

I asked my brother (artist/songwriter/producer) the same question a couple weeks ago and without hesitation he voiced music. Logically he gave a perfectly valid and rational answer. If an artist’s music is top notch, fans should instantly take notice and through word of mouth and social media channels will soon be rewarded with a huge following. Right!

Wrong! The problem with that scenario is… we are not ‘logical’ creatures at all. And at times we can be led astray by our emotions and senses. Our irrational thoughts and behavior can sometimes border on insanity. To make the ends justify the means, we will force 1+1 to equal 3. If we believe it to be so, then damned to anyone who says otherwise!

It would be like trying to explain Ms. Kardashian’s brand. Logically it shouldn’t exist, but love it or hate it; she believed in it enough to be so.

What is the reason? Soon the why and the reason are gone and all that matters is the feeling. This is the nature of the universe. We struggle against it, we fight to deny it; but it is of course a lie. Beneath our poised appearance we are completely out of control.

Merovingian – the Matrix Reloaded

Prince when doves cryIf you think about some of the great artists of the past and present, the one thing they all have in common is the aura of their brand. And that is what attracts us the most. It’s not just the music! e.g. I love Prince, and to my surprise his music took on another meaning when I saw the intro to his music video “When Doves Cry”. It was my first glimpse into his world, the way he wanted fans to see it. His music didn’t change, but my perception of it did. And that’s what matters. Perception.

Brands transcend music. Marilyn Monroe wasn’t the most beautiful women to ever grace the silver screen, but the aura she created for herself still defies logic and captures the imagination long after her death.

As an independent artist/entrepreneur, I started out spending much of my energy on the final product and treating the brand as an afterthought. It is a trend I see happening with many aspiring/emerging artists today. Far too many of us (music creators) think it’s all about music music music, but in reality we should be focusing much of our attention on the presentation, appealing to the five senses, amplifying irrational perceptions and strengthening the artist brand.  The same rules apply to all brands.

The one thing we should not be doing is (and I see it time and time again)

  • Setting up a one page website with maybe one image, music player, social media buttons, funneling fans to another website or social media brands that have much more experience in branding than you do as an artist. This is your chance to strengthen you brand on your turf. Keep visitors on your site as long as possible. As independent artists, we are already behind the eight ball. Don’t give other brands the easy corner shot to out  maneuver you; knocking you out the game!
  • Lack of a bio/biography or not properly introducing (you) the artist to your audience. Kind of like not getting the Star Wars prologue text at the beginning of each movie. Potential fans get the sense of not knowing what the hell is going on when the action (your music) starts. I know many details of some of my favorite artists; and that is not by accident. It is one of the things that will make you artist brand unique from the rest. Don’t bypass this opportunity to craft your image with your own thoughts and words.
  • Keeping your brand consistent across all your profiles. A lot of artist go by many different names, titles, etc; Sometimes there is a disconnect between profiles, leading fans to question whether the profile really belongs to the artist.
  • You post music, videos and some images and expect them to tell a story for you. Unless you are Leonardo da Vinci or somebody really important, I’d suggest you be a guide. Even museums and art galleries hire people to tell the story behind the artist.
  • Trying to be like everybody else, when in reality you are one of a kind. There will be only one artist like you. Ever! We don’t need more copies.
  • Tell your story first! Keep all your accomplishments, who you may have shared the stage with or produced an album with separate from the main intro/main bio. 90 percent of the visitors that read it won’t have a clue who or what you are talking about. Fans don’t want to read a resume. Keep it a hand for the music industry professionals who may have an interest.

Sometimes it’s maddening for me to see an artist take years preparing a gourmet feast, only to serve it up like a microwave dinner in a plastic tray. Yes, it will take a lot of your time and a lot of hard work to build a brand, but if you are going half ass things as an artist, do it as a hobby, not as a career.

Great music plus great brand equals great artist. You can’t have one without the other. Spend time getting the music right. Spend time getting the brand right.

In the end, great brands sell records, drive sales, compel advertisers, influence decisions makers and monetize networks long after the music/artist dies.

If it is one thing we can take from corporate music industry of today and the past is… with or without great music (and sometimes crappy music), their artists still outgun, outrun  and outclass the best of us when it comes to branding.

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