by JON OSTROW
Establishing your artist brand is a blend of organic unique elements that set you apart and standard business practices to keep your image fresh and consistent
A key part of any marketing strategy is the development of the brand, be it the brand of a person, a product, or organization. As an indie musician, your artist brand can be anything that helps you to maintain a unique position within a market, including your:
• Color palette
• Approach to community management
• Live performances
A common misconception of a brand is that it revokes the artistic license; a synthesized look and feel that are used to define the art.
On the contrary, your artist brand can be the product of a very organic, genuine approach that you take to your art, your community management, your live show, or beyond. As an indie musician or band, your artist brand is whatever approach you take to any aspect of your career that gives definition to your fans and to the market place.
Once a brand has been established, even in an organic way, it is important to nurture and uphold that brand through your online presence. After all, with all of the social media clutter and chaos, why not try to make it easier for your dedicated fans to find you and engage with you?
Given that your artist brand can be anything that makes you stand out in a unique way, there are many things that can be done to ensure your online presence offers the proper reflection. Even within a specific type of branding, each musician can find their own ways to nurture their artist brand.
Below are several examples of ways musicians and bands have leveraged social media to further develop their brand, making it easier for their fans to seek them out, engage and become more loyal to their artistic mission.
1. Maintain a consistent look and feel across all social media
More of a best practice than something unique, every strong brand maintains a consistent look and feel, so let’s go over this one first to dissect how others have pulled this one off.
Dr. Dog’s B Room
Your band website, being your online hub, should define a look and feel and the rest of your social networking sites should follow. Of course, even your band website can be defined by the look and feel of your most recent work.
As was the case with Dr. Dog, who’s most recent album B Room was released on October 1st,
you can see that the skinning, including the imagery, color palette, and font of their website all reflect the
look and feel defined by the album cover.
Dr. Dog then took this look and feel of their album cover, now applied to their website, and expanded that experience to their social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter.
2. Give your fans something to call their own (AKA start a movement)
Not all brands need to involve a movement, but there’s no question that it can be a huge help in the successful development of your artist branding if you can get people behind it. Cleveland-based rapper Machine Gun Kelly did just that. He not only put a name on his movement, “EST,” but he gave them a calling-card in the form of an exclamation.
Machine Gun Kelly (or MGK) and his fans began using the term “Lace Up” as a way of maintaining positivity: no matter what life throws at you, you lace up and move forward. It was a concept that became a powerful statement of loyalty to the EST movement.
MGK uses his Facebook band page as a platform to share his own journey, and shares the journey of his unique fan base as well.
To validate his fans for their emotional (and from the images above, physical) connection to the “Lace Up” statement, MGK released his debut album on Bad Boy Records with “Lace Up” as the title.
3. Use of imagery to further develop brand
Bono with his sunglasses. Steven Tyler with his scarf. Michael Jackson with the red Thriller jacket. The list of artists and their specific imagery goes on and on.
Your image, not just your sound, will become an important part of the development of your brand. This is a concept that goes far beyond music (e.g. Steve Jobs with his black turtleneck).
While no one wants to be pigeon-holed to one look for the rest of their life, a great way of making yourself instantly recognizable to a market is to have a look that is all your own.
Thrift shop hero
Hip-hop has always been a genre to overtly blend fashion and music, especially with designer brands. Seattle-based Macklemore, on the other hand, couldn’t be further removed from this trend. His recent hit “Thrift Shop” set the stage for a niche that no one else had thought of: while everyone goes for designer brands, Macklemore went to thrift shops and found some of the most ridiculous combinations he could find.
To develop this concept online, Macklemore took to Instagram and posted photos of himself trying on unique, thrift shop purchases from different cities around the world while on tour.
This use of ‘thrift shop’-centric imagery helped Macklemore further develop his style and overall brand image to a point where it bled into his official photo shoots and high-profile appearances.
4. Strong and Consistent Messaging
In addition to look and feel, it is also important to maintain consistency in your messaging. Be it your blog, newsletter, tweets, or even the official bio on your website, any copy that you publish should maintain the integrity of whatever it is that makes you unique.
• Do you have a dry sense of humor? Are you goofy?
• Are you empathetic?
• Are you understanding of the human condition?
• Do you approach concepts logically or emotionally?
These are just a few things to consider when shaping the voice of your brand messaging.
Sara Bareilles’s Potty Mouth
Singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles has done a great job with her messaging. She approaches her writing from a very personal place — in fact, her official bio is actually written in the first person. Sara is also genuine and honest about who she is and what drives her.
Most importantly though, Sara is consistent throughout all of this. As you’ll see below, Sara’s Facebook bio (written in the first person) makes mention to the fact that she has a potty mouth. Something she refuses to apologize for. This appears again in a recent blog post (again, written in the first person) about her new album where she makes a very similar claim.
5. Leveraging strong brand monitoring into engagement
While not actually apart of branding itself, it is absolutely important to monitor all of the other aspects of your brand. By consistently searching for key terms that either directly reflect your brand (i.e. @YourBandName on Twitter or #YourBandName) as well as other keywords that relate to your location, genre, or niche, you will be able to identify existing conversations by new or existing fans and tastemakers, all of whom are important for you to associate with.
Amanda F’ing Palmer
You may be saying: Really? Another example of things Amanda Palmer has done so well?
Well the fact is, Internet darling Amanda Palmer quite simply knows what the heck she’s doing. All of the attention that Amanda garners from things like her $1 million Kickstarter campaign is due to the fact that she is not only engaging, but monitoring and re-engaging with her fans at all times.
The dedication of Amanda Palmer’s fan base stems from the dedication that she shows them through constant validation of their support.
If you were to go through Amanda Palmer’s Twitter feed, you would see that her number of retweets almost match (if not surpass) her number of original tweets. And what is she tweeting? As seen above, Palmer is taking the time to seek out her fans who are speaking about her and retweeting them, showing her constant appreciation of their affection. Even at almost one million followers on Twitter, Palmer still goes out of her way to retweet the fans that take the time to speak about her most recent show, TED talk, blog post, album, etc.
There are a few ways to do this:
1. Pay attention to your at mentions on Twitter. Any time you are tagged on twitter, it will appear in your at mentions. All at mentions should be retweeted, responded to or, if nothing else, made a favorite so that you validate those speaking to you or about you that you hear them and appreciate them.
2. Use a Twitter Search tool to monitor effective brand key words as outlined above. This can be done through Twitter’s own search tool OR even better, you can set up a saved search panel on a Twitter management dashboard such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social.
Making a Case for Strong Branding
Branding can take shape in many forms. All of the above will help you to better establish your own brand online but it doesn’t end here. Share with us below in the form of a comment how you have further developed your online brand. Or, share some other examples of others who have done a great job establishing their own online brand so that we together we can all benefit.