Artist branding could be the difference between being discovered and staying hidden. In today’s digital age, if you want to be heard you should have strong brand presence to extend and spread your art and music.
I’ve been around bands and musicians for as long as I remember. In fact, one designer on our team is a musician himself. Add to that 15+ years of experience working closely with clients, trying to define and help create their brands – all that shaped a great deal in understanding not only the designing part of the story, but discovering each and every new client and understanding and recognizing the individuality of a brand.
The solution is in communication. A band or a musician must communicate clearly and in detail what the music is about, so that the design team has the best of understanding when it comes to making of the brand.
However, the brand is not just visuals. Above all the brand is YOU. As an artist or as a band, it is the whole package – persona and the music. Only then come the visuals: logo, website, social networking, posters, record covers, music videos, tweets, clothing style, etc.
I find the best and easiest to follow these 5 steps in determining your brand.
Designer to musician:
5 steps to brand yourself as a musician
1. Define your keywords
You know your music and what it represents. Weather you have several records behind you or you’re making your first one you still need to present it in a way according to your style and your music sense. The best is to write down several words that describe your music. Perhaps it is a genre, or a feel, or a sentence, a slogan. Whatever keywords you chose to focus on should be all around your appearance, from music videos, to website. This should not be hard as you’re not inventing anything new, you’re just defining what you already are (and your music).
Defining it helps you to better understand how to present yourself and it tremendously helps your design team to understand and execute an extension of all of that into a visual identity of your music.
Logo is the most important visual aspect of your brand. It should be a visual synonym of your brand and your music. Trust your designers as that is why you hired them. But also, the logo has to fit your persona, meaning: you have to love it and feel strongly and positively about it.
The logo is the hardest piece to get right. It takes time, so be patient, it’s better to wait on a good logo than to have one that poorly represents you. If you’re not happy with the design solution of your logo, it is always better to use just your name in nice plain letters until the logo that is truly right (from every angle and every aspect) comes along.
The good logo is always simple, but striking, rememberable and creative. It should solely speak about who you are as an artist. Limited to few colors and yet also good in black and white. It needs to look equally good in large and tiny scale. And, once created it should not be changed. Ever. You may find OK altering the colors as you go along, perhaps changing the position of already existing elements in the logo, to fit the purpose, but most often, the logo once created should stay untouched until the end of time.
Your website is the main source of all that your music is about. It contains not only the information (tours, links to purchase your music, biography, contact, etc.) but it is also an extension of your brand. Your website must correlate and dance around the same style of that definition of who you are as an artist: visually, verbally and musically. That is called the brand consistency.
If you’re uncertain of how the website should look like or confused to what your designers suggest – go for simple, stay away from flash, pick a CMS platform that enables you to easily maintain the site yourself (my suggestion: WordPress).
Homepage should be the most striking page and with the most important keywords and most prominent visuals. It should be a feed to what’s inside of the entire website. But not necessarily overcrowded. If you are using slider on top of your homepage, limit it to few images (5 at most), as people tend to loose interest or get agitated if there is too much data presented.
Homepage style should again relate to your brand. For example, if you’re into minimalism you will be OK with having just one element calling for action (concert date, new collaboration, new song, new member, etc.). Perhaps you want just one large image acting as a landing page (it should be the best image you have). A downside to having only one image on your homepage and no other content (i.e. text) means that there are very few or no keywords on the page. That means that your visibility to search engines will most likely be minimal. But sometimes you want to sacrifice something for the right look.
I often like to compare the homepage to a window display, as it is the very first thing a person sees. Then, there are other pages, like the music videos page, discography, perhaps your philosophy, contact page, press page, etc., they all should follow similar design concept.
Then, a blog, very important. Not only does it work great for your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) but it gives one source of information of all of your upcoming events and news. It should be maintained regularly, at least 2 times a month, giving your fans fresh bits of information. Remember to use the exact tags in your blog. For example, don’t just say ‘an apple’ better ‘big red juicy apple’; or don’t say ‘a guitar’ but ‘Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar with Maple Fretboard’. Once a post is written, it should be shared trough all social media, all leading to one place – your website. If you’re not into blog writing, it is better to skip that than to have poorly written posts and content that is updated once a year. If that is the case, focus on social media.
Of course, your website not only needs to be beautiful, but it needs to be smart phone and pad friendly (it’s called Responsive Web Design). In plain language, that means that on your smart phone you don’t have to zoom in and out and scroll left and right to click a button or read text. RWD site will auto-fit to any size and any orientation equally.
Lastly, you may gain a lot from implementing statistic into your site, to be able to see who is visiting the website and what pages, pictures, posts, songs are gaining most popularity.
4. Social Networking
Because people consume music that signifies themselves, they are willing to see that music gain more attention, that is why social networking plays a major part in communicating to the world on everyday basis and it should never be neglected. Just like the website, all of these platforms should have a similar ‘tone’. The backgrounds, cover pictures, profile pictures and icons where applicable should all be alike (not necessarily the same, you should have some variety in visuals). Just as your blog, the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media profiles need fresh content. These platforms may be more fun, as here you’re free to post more casual pictures, perhaps a snap shot before the concert, a selfie at the rehearsal, song lyrics on piece of paper, opinion about the world news or trends happening at the moment, and anything else YOU as a brand feel strongly about. Each of these social profiles need to be maintained individually. Never post one picture and share it all over in repetition. Twitter is for words and brains, Instagram for daily photos, Facebook for news, announcements, music promotion, Pinterest for inspiration, You Tube for videos, etc.
Remember that you should have equal amount of fun posts and selling posts. You want to keep your audience interested at all times. You would be surprised that one of the top posts ever are images of cats or dogs. So, once in a while share that ‘intimate’ moment or a feeling with your fans. And try to engage in with the audience by responding to questions and comments (unless you’re Beyonce, she gets about 15.000 comments on her single Instagram post).
You really do not have to be a pro in taking photos or writing posts on your social media pages. Today, there are a lot of free tools that you can use, like photo filters, free sites that schedule your posts on Twitter and Facebook, use of hashtags and good examples to get inspired by. Having said that, musicians do hire professional social media consultants if they want to get more serious about branding. What these professionals do is engage with alike audience and help promote and make your posts more visible. Some even post for you. But, if you’re just starting or you have limited budget, educate yourself on Google by learning more about individual social media sites and their advantages.
Posters, business cards, flyers, covers, band t-shirts and other visual marketing should of course reflect your brand and keep constant with all other visuals. For example, your new record may have an updated look and/or a different feel than the previous one. If so, you will update all your visuals and graphics (images mostly) on your website to have the same tone all over the place. If you happen to have an old business card that does not correlate with your current look, better toss it and get a new one that shows a similar style to what you are at the moment. When discovering music via a music store, whether online or brick and mortar, your artwork is the first thing that will be seen, that is why all of these graphics and images are important. They all are part of the big YOU brand and all should be in a close communication with one another.
This all should be a lot of fun and very exciting. Getting your own domain name and your music website is such a treat. It takes time though, do not get discouraged. It’s a process and you should be a great part of it. To some people carrying and expressing their own brand comes naturally. To others, it takes a bit of discovering and understanding that we all have that one unique thing about us that makes us special, preferably that same uniqueness extends through our life and work. I am all in for expressing the individuality to its bare core.
Author: Anabela Jevtovic of Dezignation Design Studio New York