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Artist Branding Pt 4 - Create Your Brand

So far we’ve gone through quite a few details about artist branding - what it is, why you need it, and why it’s essential to know who your audience is. In this article, we’re going to put it all together and discuss how you go about creating your brand.

Graphic for the blog article "how to create your artist brand"

To get started, let’s summarise some key considerations that make up your artist brand.

  • Telling your story

    • Understanding your core beliefs and values

    • Defining your artistry

    • Determining your ideal audience

    • Defining the story that you want to tell

  • Your artist’s visual identity

    • Profile pictures

    • Album artwork

    • Creating a consistent aesthetic

  • Your artistic persona

    • Stage presence

    • Content creation

    • Fan interactions

Let’s dive into each of these topics now and discuss how you can best shape your artist brand to attract true, lifelong fans.

1. Telling your story

Understanding your core beliefs and values

Understanding your core beliefs and values is the essence of where your artist brand begins. Everything else should relate back to this, or else your brand will come across as inconsistent and confusing, and as a result, will not attract the right people to it (if anybody at all).

Before going through all the other steps in this process, you should first take the time to define your core beliefs and values. How well you connect with your audience hinges on this.

Now, your core beliefs and values can either be your personal ones or the ones of your artist persona. Often an artist’s persona is just an amplified version of the individual - all the best, or more interesting parts or what makes you, you. It’s up to you to decide what your artist persona will be based on, and we’ll discuss this in more detail a little later.

To summarise, your core beliefs and values as an artist can be in line with you and what you stand for, or they can be created based on how you want to be perceived as an artist. Either way is fine, but of course, when your artist persona aligns with yours, it may be easier to stick to and plan content for it.

If you’re in a band, then there should be shared core beliefs and values for the band. Again, they don’t necessarily have to align with your personal beliefs and values, but everyone in the band should know what they are for the band so that every piece of content that is created is congruent with what the band stands for.

Defining your artistry

This is a big one. How do you define your artistry, and why should people care about you and/or your music? That might sound harsh, but if you can’t answer that question, then you are going to struggle to grow a fanbase.

You need to know how to describe yourself as an artist. Write a list of adjectives that describe you. Do NOT use words like fun, exciting, unique etc etc. Literally everyone can use words like that to describe their artistry. But at the end of the day, they don’t give anyone a reason to be interested in you, as it tells them nothing.

Go deeper. Find words that truly describe you. Words that not every other can use to describe themselves too.

Think about why people should care about you as an artist. Is there a compelling reason for them to? If not, you either need to work harder on your act and defining yourself, or you just need to think harder about it.

It almost goes without saying, but you have to know where your music fits genre-wise. Try not to say that you’re genre-defying. A very small percentage of artists are. And if you just tell people that you are genre-defying, how is that meant to make them interested in what you sound like if you can’t even describe it?

If you’re struggling to come up with an exact genre or two into which you belong, then try coming up with 2 or 3 artists that your sounds are a combination of. This will give people a clearer understanding of what your music must sound like, and if they’re a fan of the artists you mentioned, then they’ll be much more inclined to check out your music.

Determining your ideal audience

Presumably, the reason you’re interested in this topic as a whole is because you want to grow your fanbase and get more people to hear your music. Great! The goal of going through these steps is to do just that - to know, understand, and then locate your ideal audience to grow your fanbase with true fans.

An audience at a music concert.

The goal is not to come up with the most generic description for who you are as an artist and what you stand for so that you can try to appeal to the whole world. As the saying goes, if you’re trying to appeal to everyone, you’re going to appeal to no one.

When you’ve properly defined who are you as an artist, only then can you start to work out who your ideal audience is. I.e. the people that will love you for you and what you stand for. You won’t have to convince or beg these people to be interested in you.

Go back to Part 3 of this series if you need help brushing up on getting to know your audience.

Once you’ve worked out who your ideal audience is and why they will care about you, your job is to then find out where they congregate (either in person or online) and put yourself in front of them.

Defining the story that you want to tell

The sections above all add up to help you tell your story. Your story should be all the things that actually make you interesting and differentiate you from every other artist out there. Often your story is just as important if not more important than your music at getting people to stand up and pay attention to you.

Define the story that you’re to tell through your music and who you are as an artist. Everything you do should be contributing to telling this story. If something doesn’t fit in with telling this story, then you should seriously think about whether it’s worth doing.

2. Your Artist’s Visual Identity

Now that you’ve defined your core beliefs and values and worked out the overarching story that you’re conveying through your artistry, we can now start to break it up into the individual chapters that help to tell this story.

Profile pictures

Profile pictures on social media channels, along with Spotify, bandcamp etc. will be one of the first ways in which potential fans will get a visual idea of who you are and the vibe you give off.

It’s essential that your profile picture (which will ideally be the same one on all channels) best encapsulates you and what you’re about. Remember, it’s not just your music that attracts people to you as an artist.

Visual cues are huge and often potential fans will see you before they hear you. So give off the right impression!

Album artwork

Album artwork is another chapter of your artist branding story. Just like your profile picture, any album artwork should tie into the vibe and themes of the overarching story that you’re telling through your artistry.

Where possible, you should also endeavour to make your album artwork eye-catching, and immediately identifiable.

2 Album Covers - Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon, and David Bowie's Aladdin Sane
2 Album Covers that the world immediately recognises: Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon, and David Bowie's Aladdin Sane

Creating a consistent aesthetic

You might be starting to get the sense that things need to be consistent in order for people to work out what you’re all about. I hope that is what you’re taking away from this so far. Consistency is key. It should flow through every aspect of what you do, say and produce as an artist.

When working on a new piece of content for example, before creating it or posting it, think first whether this is consistent with your aesthetic and ties in with your story.

Note: overtime the story you’re telling can change. But when you’re starting out it can’t continually change so that nobody can keep up with what’s happening. Once you’ve built a loyal following, then if you feel the need to change your story up you can - and you’ve have a loyal following to bring along for the ride. But until then, where possible, stick to one consistent story and aesthetic.

4. Your Artistic Persona

Stage presence

If people have seen you online, they like the vibe you give off in photos, and they’ve enjoyed the music that you’ve released, then they’re probably going to want to see you perform live. This is great!

But you know what’s not great? Going to a gig and seeing artists stand dead still on stage completely emotionless while they’re performing, not interacting with the crowd in any way, and generally just not looking like they’re enjoying themselves. If the band don’t look like they’re enjoying themselves, then the crowd definitely isn’t going to enjoy themselves.

photo of a music concert and a band performing

When you’re performing, this should be the absolute pinnacle and culmination of everything you stand for as an artist. You should be able to win over the crowd just from your on-stage personality and presence, outside of the music itself.

Putting on an entertaining show is probably the one thing I see local bands struggle with the most. I’m not referring to how well they play their songs live. But rather, how much do they look like they’re enjoying playing their songs in front of people? Do they look like they want to be there performing for the audience?

Developing a great stage presence is something that is not worked on enough. Granted not everyone is a huge extrovert and feels comfortable absolutely owning the stage and engaging with the audience throughout the show. But just like everything else in life - this can be learned and constantly worked on and refined. And if you’re a sombre acoustic artist, then perhaps a more introverted stage presence suits that better. But you should still be able to hold an audience captive in that situation too. A friend of mine fits right into that category - melancholy folk music - normally just him and his guitar. He’s had gigs with hundreds of people watching and you could literally hear a pin drop the audience was so still, quiet and captivated by his performance.

So no, I’m not saying you have to be jumping around and revving up the crowd when you perform live - this just wouldn’t be appropriate for some genres and styles. But you should be exemplifying everything you stand for as an artist when you’re on stage. If you don’t know where to start then do some research. Watch live clips on YouTube from artists you respect who are doing well in a similar niche to you.

Plan out your performance and script things if needed. This can be a great way to start. The more you perform, the more comfortable it will be and the smoother things will flow. Soon you won’t need any kind of script and you’ll be able to command the audience at will.

Considerations for planning your best performance:

  • How can your artistic character flow through into your live shows?

  • How can you portray all the best and most interesting aspects of yourself in a live setting?

Content creation

By now it probably goes without saying that any content you put out there should tie into your overall messaging and artist brand.

Some of the worst advice I’ve ever seen given to artists for things to post on social media is to ask your audience questions like:

  • Do you prefer coffee or tea?

  • Do you like cats or dogs better?

Can you imagine if you saw somebody like Billie Eilish posting that on her social channels? You’d probably think she’s been hacked.

Perhaps though if you’re a middle-aged mum, and your target audience is other middle-aged mums, then this would be acceptable to post. But for most people out there, it has absolutely nothing to do with your artist brand and will be a huge turn-off for any potential (or current) fans out there.

Die-hard fans arise not because they just enjoy your music, but because they love everything about you and what you stand for. They want to know everything about you outside of just your music. Yes, of course, they love your music too. But that’s not why they’re a die-hard fan. Have you seen how teenage girls live and breathe Taylor Swift?! This is not just because they love her music. It’s because they adore everything about her and all that she’s about.

Fan interactions

How you interact with your fans is probably the thing that they’re going to remember the most at the end of the day. If you’re rude to them because you’re having a bad day, then you’ll likely lose them as a fan for life. At least as a die-hard fan.

Growing up there was an Australian band I absolutely loved. I saw them at every opportunity. Then seemingly out of the blue, the lead singer started to be a bit of a jerk on social media. It was clear that he immediately lost a lot of support from fans.

Down the track a little, my band actually ended up opening for his band, which felt like a really big deal for us. We were pumped! The show day arrived though and he didn’t say hi - rather locked himself in the green room, which we were not allowed to enter… Then after the show dashed out the back door as soon as it ended without a single word shared with us.

Do you think we remained as dedicated fans after this interaction as we were before? We did not. We lost so much respect for him, and therefore his band that night. My old band opened for artists much bigger than him over our subsequent years of playing. We never encountered an approach like this again. All of the other bands were delighted to have a chat, have a beer, and hang out in the green room before and after the show together.

Special shout out to Nicky Bomba for going out of his way to just be as welcoming as possible. That guy is a genuine legend and we’ll never forget how he ushered us into the green room to say hi. He even recorded a short video telling everyone to support us for our EP crowdfunding campaign at that time.

That was well over 10 years ago and the memory is still as clear as day and since then I’ve only become more interested and invested in every project he does. Coincidence? I think not.

The point of all this is that how you interact with your fans will stick with them. If you go out of your way to look after your fans, then they will turn into a loyal following and bring others into that following too.

This goes for all interactions:

  • On stage at shows

  • Off stage at shows

  • Replying to messages on social media

  • Reply to comments on social media

  • Giving shoutouts to your fans on social media when the occasion calls for it

  • Any other way in which you directly or indirectly engage with your audience

Wrapping things up for creating your Artist Brand

Hopefully this article, along with the first three in the series, has given you some food for thought when it comes to artist branding. By now you should be able to go through these articles and develop a plan for how you can develop, or create, your artist brand.

Remember, it’s not just your music that will turn people into lifelong fans, it’s how you present yourself, what you stand for, the story that you’re telling through your music, your live performances, and every post you make on social media. YOU are what the die-hard fans will be most interested in. In today’s completely saturated music marketplace, you need to give people a convincing reason to dedicate some of their time and attention to you. This is one of the most important things you can do for your career as an artist.

If you’d like to dive deeper into any of this please feel free to get in touch. We will be developing a stand-alone course on Artist Branding over at The Indie Launchpad in the near future, as well as offering coaching on how to get the most out of your artist brand.


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