From Banding to Branding

I’m in a b(r)and

In today’s age, we are presented with a vast amount of choices when it comes to the products we consume. Whether we realize it or not the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, and music we listen to all become part of our identity. When making decisions on what products to buy or media to consume there are several conscious and subconscious factors that determine what we choose. Some of these factors are tangible things like a brand’s logo and imagery, and others are intangible things like the values a brand upholds. All of these traits give rise to a brand’s personality and identity. It’s in our human nature to be attracted to the things that are familiar to us - to the things we trust and believe to align with our own identity and values. You as an artist or band are no different from other branded products. The music you make, the imagery you associate with, values you uphold, and things you stand for give rise to your band’s personality/identity. So if you’re serious about chasing after a career as a musician you have to also treat your band as a business and build yourself up as a brand as much as you do as a band.

Some might think of branding as a cop-out or something that takes away from your authenticity as an artist, but it shouldn’t be viewed that way. There shouldn’t be anything fake about the brand you build. Branding is almost an art in and of itself, and it should align with the message, purpose, and identity held within your music. Your brand is your story. It’s the reason you do what you do, what you stand for, your inspirations, your values, and your aspirations. You tell this story with your music and imagery and in the way you carry yourself. Your brand is the culture you want to build around your music.

Why does it matter?

If you’re serious about making a career out of music you’re going to have to eventually make some money from it. Therefore you’re going to have to obtain some fans who are willing to buy music/merch and attend shows. There are more artists out there today than ever before, and with streaming platforms at everyone's’ fingertips they have more control over what they listen to than ever before. So you’re gonna have to give them a reason to listen to you. As I said, people are attracted to things they feel align with their own identity. They want to feel like they’re buying into a community and culture that resonates with their beliefs and vibes. They want to relate.

Your music is only one of the ways you can share your message and tell your story, and being that it’s your chosen craft it’s probably the most important. But by using other means of portraying yourself and your message you can build a stronger identity giving potential fans a greater affinity towards you. You give them more ways to relate to you. Building your brand allows fans to get to know you, and when people feel like they know who you are and relate to you they’re more likely to want to support you. You want them to buy into you as much as your music. If they like the artist, they’ll want to buy the art.

Building your brand also forces you to take the time to deeply ponder artistic existential questions. It makes you question WHY you’re even doing this, why it’s important to you, and what you stand for. Understanding your motivations gives you a sense of direction and allows you to be more purposeful in your songwriting and more authentic with your creations. People don’t buy into what you do, they buy into WHY you do it. They buy into your story.

When you understand your brand and what your goals are you can then begin to think about what type of people you appeal to. The people who believe in the same things as you, share the same values as you, and have the same interests as you are your target audience. These are the people who are likely to support you and who you need to reach through your marketing efforts. Knowing your target audience gives your marketing direction and assures you that the money you spend and the time you put into marketing is efficiently used.

Having a strong brand identity also gives you direction in creating marketing content and in the way you communicate with the public (in person and on social media). Marketing without a strategy is inefficient. It’s like going fishing without knowing what you’re fishing for, where to fish, or what type of bait to lose. You might catch something every once in a while, but knowing what you’re trying to catch, where those fishes are, and what bait they’re looking to get a nibble of will give you the best chances of having a lucrative day on the lake.

Building your Brand

Building your brand is an intensive process, and there’s no concrete formula. Asking yourself these questions though should give you some direction and help you begin to understand who you are as a b(r)and.

What do you stand for?

What are your values?

Why do you make music/What are your inspirations?

What’s important to you?

What themes surround your music?

What’s your message?

What feelings are you trying to portray/What emotions are you trying to evoke in your listeners?

In one to two sentences create a mission statement that tells who you are, what you do, and why you do it.

Determine your themes and build your logo/imagery around those themes.

Once you know who you are and what you stand for, you can then identify your target audience. Once you identify your target audience you need to learn more about them.

Who is your target audience?

What music do they listen to?

How do they consume music?

What are their hobbies?

What types of products do they consume?

How do they consume/share information?

What are their social media behaviors?

Where do they hang out?

What movies/shows do they watch?

What beliefs and values do they uphold?

Once you have an understanding of your target audience and their behaviors, create content that will get their attention. Create content that they’ll be more likely to interact with and share. Below are things to consider when creating content.

What imagery will grab their attention?

What tone of voice best represents you/speaks to them?

How can you encourage them to interact with your content? (Ask questions, take polls, create conversations)

What content will highlight your quirks and establish your band’s personality?

Additional Resources

I’ve spent the past few days diving into this subject. This article is a mashup of what I took away from it all.

  1. Here is a podcast on the topic from The Climb that should provoke some more ideas for yourself. (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/190-what-is-my-artist-brand/id1092300740?i=1000451864708)

  2. Here is a link to a questionnaire from the same folks who make The Climb podcast. The questionnaire is supposed to help you identify your interests, and when all said and done it’s a list of topics you can use to create content from for social media. A lot of the questions are’t music related, but they still allow fans to learn more about you and relate to you. Giving them more ways to relate to you helps you stick in their memory and hopefully results in them returning to your music. Artist Questionnaire

  3. Primer, an app from Google, allows you to take quick lessons on a variety of business related topics including branding. It has a bunch of useful information on developing a brand, reaching target audiences, creating content, etc.