In the business world, an essential component of successful marketing is establishing and maintaining a brand. The same holds true in the music world. Your act—whether it’s just you, a small band, or a gospel choir—needs its own consistent identity and story.
If you’re just starting out, figure out your branding ahead of the fame. If you have been around a while and need help refocusing your career, branding might be the solution for you. Either way, here are some branding elements to consider:
How do you want your act to be seen, and who do you want to attract? Think of the various stereotypes of musicians or their fans: burnouts, thugs, ingenues, rockers, all out thrashers, country darlings, hipsters, and so on. Your answer to that question will determine how you market your band to the public.
Your band should have a story, and the best story to tell is the real one. If you fabricate a past, you run the risk of curious journalists or fans uncovering the truth; losing your credibility with either is never a good thing. So, stick to the truth. Bands need to decide how much weight should be placed on individual members’ bios versus the group’s bio, and all acts need to draw a line protecting their personal lives from the public eye.
This is a little easier for a solo artist. With bands, though, chances are some members will stand out while the rest don’t receive as much attention. Before this happens, determine as a group how you want to handle this situation. It’s okay if someone does take the lead, as long as it doesn’t foster resentment among the band members. If the band’s brand focuses on unity, though, remember to share the spotlight.
Another element of branding is graphic design and artwork. Commercial brands are recognized for their logos and types of ads; surely you can identify the brand with the animated polar bears without seeing a logo or product. Bands can be recognizable, too. Any Pearl Jam fan will recognize the stick figure raising his fingers to the sky. Decide on your band’s logo; set a color scheme. What style of photography do you lean toward: journalistic snapshots from gigs, or posed in-studio shots? This doesn’t mean that the artwork for all five albums is identical, but they should all be recognizably yours. Also, put your brand where your band is: brand your website, your social media accounts, and your merchandise. Fans should know immediately that they’ve found you and your work, not another band with the same name.
It’s important for your band to establish and maintain a consistent public image. Do note the word “maintain”. As your band or act advances in its career, you will need to regularly reevaluate your brand. If you find that adjustments are needed, make them. If you’ve branded your band well, though, the adjustments along the way will be minor.
Have you done any branding work for your band? How has it helped your act? Have you had to make adjustments to it?
See also: Follow Your Muse: Music Industry Success