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Music Branding Tips: 4 Elements of a Strong Compelling Brand (Miley Cyrus Case Study)

*Below is a transcript of the video above*

Today we’re talking music branding tips by breaking down four elements of a compelling brand. 

These are the things that you as an artist need to make sure you implement when marketing your music. 

To do this, we’re going to focus on an artist that you probably already know. 

Love her or hate her, we’re going to put our biases aside for a second, and focus on what we can learn from her branding efforts.

Now, you might be on board with the idea that you need a well-crafted brand to succeed as a musician. However, you might not have an idea of where to begin. 

Let’s face it, developing your branding isn’t necessarily easy. A lot goes into it, especially when you’re starting to think about how it will all jive with your overall vision and your music. 

Music Branding Tips

There’s a lot of moving parts when it comes to your branding. You’re probably wondering what a strong brand looks like or want to know what you should focus on when developing your brand. 

The good news is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I want to say that again. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are many great examples out there that you can draw inspiration from and essentially make your own.

Music Branding Tips: Miley Cyrus Case Study

Now, to help us go through this list, we thought, why not spice it up a little bit and add an actual real life case study to the mix. The artist that I’m referring to is none other than Miley Cyrus. 

Now, whether you love or hate Miley Cyrus for her music or the message she portrays or some of her more questionable actions and bad press. Like it or not, she’s evolved and managed to stay relevant over a long period of time. 

I personally think that there’s no better indicator than this than to look back at the evolution of her branding. So with that said, let’s dive into these four elements. 

We’ll show you how they relate to Miley Cyrus and her music career, and as always, give you the rundown on how you can realistically implement some of these elements within your own music career.

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Understands Evolution

Even though the goal is consistency, your brand shouldn’t be static. It should always be changing and evolving with your sound and style. 

Now, remember that early 2000s Disney Channel sweetheart Hannah Montana, that guitar plucking, cowboy boot wearing, country singing teenager is miles apart from the confident Miley that emerged, scantly clad on a wrecking ball in 2013. 

This was a smart move. 

If Miley had maintained her modest girl next door persona, her time in the limelight might have ended quickly as fans got bored or grew up. Miley has gone through various phases, similar to that of a rebellious teenager.

Whatever you want to call it, she’s gone through many ebbs and flows, different transitions, and at every step of the way, her branding has come out to match this to a tee. All this is to say is that a strong brand is one that is flexible and defined enough to allow for this type of evolution. 

While you’ll often hear us say that, yes, you as an artist need to act like a business, there are some elements of being an artist and marketing and branding yourself that are a lot different than a typical brick and mortar business. 

The reason I say this is because your average business probably won’t go through a rebrand or this type of evolution in such a short period of time and also as many times.

The reason being is it’s very expensive to rebrand yourself as a large company like that. Just imagine Apple trying to change its logo. 

That’d be very weird. 

That’d be a lot to digest as a consumer. But when it comes to music, and artists might rebrand every new album that they’re releasing or every new single, right? 

There’s might be a new concept or theme that runs with the new release and that queues up a new rebrand or a new introduction of stories and themes within an artist’s brand.

In an interview with ABC, Miley was quoted as saying, “I just want people to see that this is who I am right now. Who I was on the last record was really who I am. 

It’s just I myself have been a lot of different people because I change a lot.” This is a pretty powerful statement because when you are making music, it’s an extension of yourself. 

It’s an expression of you and what you’re trying to portray, and that over the course of your lifetime is going to change. 

You’re not going to be talking about the same stuff over and over again. Those themes, those storylines, those are going to change, which is going to have an impact on your brand. 

Your brand should not be so rigid that it cannot allow for this evolution. So keep this in mind and make sure that the elements of your brand allow for flexibility.

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Has a Unique Aesthetic

Now, element number two is that your brand needs to have a unique aesthetic. 

I know some of us wish that what if that the music could just be the end, all be all, that’s all I want to focus on. But the reality is people are emotional and visual creatures. 

What we hear is amazing sometimes, and that’s great. But oftentimes, it’s not enough. How many times have you maybe heard a song and didn’t really get attracted to it until actually seeing the music video? 

Or it wasn’t until you saw the music video that you really understood the true message behind the song? 

Especially in today’s day and age, the visual aspects of things are what stopped your consumer or your fan in their tracks. The music can do this as well, but usually, it’s the whole package of photos, videos, the colors being used, how people are dressed, you name it.

There’s multiple elements that go into your aesthetic, and having a good understanding of what those elements are is very important to your music career. 

When rebranding from her youthful demure brand, Miley’s first move was to start wearing provocative sparkly outfits that shocked and amazed fans who didn’t see it coming. 

The debut of Miley’s short, icy blonde haircut was also a signal of a massive rebrand from a little girl to the sensual superstar if you want to call it that. 

Miley and her team understand the importance of aesthetics throughout all of her different phases, whether it’s her trying to do the rap urban appeal or going back to the country roots or whatever it may be. 

From vibrant colors to extravagant outfits, Miley knows how to get people talking. This overhaul can be seen everywhere from the music to the music videos, to her photoshoots, right down to the eccentric partying lifestyle, whatever it might be throughout that phase. This also came with its fair share of critics. 

But she started conversations and grabbed our attention, which kept her relevant, again, whether you like it or not. Now, you may not want your brand to look like Miley’s and that’s totally fine. 

However, you want to nail down what your own colour schemes are going to be, what your photos and artworks’ going to look like, your music videos, what themes are going to run throughout those. 

The illustrations should be a huge consideration when constructing your brand. 

Your aesthetic should help send your message clearly and boldly. As the old cliche goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Everything should have a meaning and serve a purpose. What do the colors you use or clothes you wear say about you? 

Even how you communicate with your audience is all part of your branding and how you’re perceived. Put intention behind the little details to help strengthen your branding.

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Is Consistent and aligned with everything you do

Element number three is that your branding should be consistent and aligned with everything you do. Now, we really can’t stress this one enough. 

Although we’ve spoken about the importance of evolution, please don’t forget that consistency is still gospel when it comes to your day-to-day as a musician. 

Now, I don’t want that to confuse you because, on one hand, I’m saying, “Make sure this thing can evolve.” and on the other hand, I’m saying, “Stay consistent.” 

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Now, the key thing to point out here is that the meaning of consistency can take on many different forms, especially as an artist. Now, when I refer to consistency, I’m talking about identifying what your audience expects from you. 

That could be consistency in the amount of music you put out, the type of clothes you wear, the brands you associate with, what you talk about, or even just the lifestyle you promote and live.

When you really think about it subconsciously, you’ve grown over the years to expect certain things from your favorite artists. 

You might not come out right and say it, but even when you think about your critiques or there certain things you like or dislike about what they’re releasing, you start to realize what it is that you want from that artist or expect from that artist. 

What are the elements that made you gravitate to them in the first place and are bringing you back for more of the same from that artist? 

Consistency is necessary to building trust, which is how you will build a real and loyal fan base that rides the ups and downs with you as you figure it all out with your music career. 

A compelling brand is hard to forget, and it is something you cultivate with constant care and weave creatively throughout your content.

In a lot of ways, it’s also teaching your fans what to expect. As you see with all of Miley’s huge rebrands, it’s like they just flipped everything on its head and flipped the script and hit you with this huge shock and awe and wow factor. 

A lot may not like it at first, or it might confuse people to begin with, but after that, fans typically get acclimated and grow to expect that this is the new look, this is the new aesthetic. 

Once Miley emerged as scandalous and over the top, she pretty much said goodbye to Hannah Montana and everything associated with her for good. 

Now, keep in mind that the audience that grew up on Hannah Montana was growing up as well. Even through Miley’s transition, she was still aligning herself with her maturing audiences’ interests and values.

Furthermore, the music was also aligned with this new rebellious phase, seeing Miley released albums like Bangerz in 2013, catering to an older, edgier audience. 

Miley and her team integrated her new story and style into absolutely everything she put out, down to the performances, dance moves, and makeup choices. 

Now, again, the goal isn’t to be Miley. But your goal is to apply your signature values, the vibes, the aesthetics to everything you do and every platform that you’re on, whether that’s Spotify, Instagram, your website, YouTube, music videos, you name it. 

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Everything should be engulfed with this. When you look at your favorite artists, each of their platforms are meant to complement each other and project a consistent message.

So make sure that whatever phase you’re in with your brand right now, whether that’s you’re rolling out a new project or you’re releasing multiple projects that all have a similar theme, make sure that things are consistent and it makes sense to your fans. 

They know what to expect from you throughout the messaging, throughout the stories, throughout the images, the visuals. It all needs to be cohesive and relevant at that time.

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Major Mistake Most Artists Make With Their Branding

Now, the last element is a bit of a bonus, and this is what we talked about in the beginning where we said that major mistake that artists make when it comes to their branding. 

We’ve kind of touched on this throughout all the topics, but the biggest thing or mistake that artists make is thinking that branding is one singular element or thing to focus on. 

Even worse, it’s thinking that it’s only tangible things that you can either see, touch or feel. Branding is so much more than that and it evokes emotion, the senses, things that we can touch feel and see, right? It’s the things that our fans think about. 

When we’re not in the room, when our music isn’t on, what are they thinking about us? In their minds, how do they see us as artists, as an individual, as this person who makes music? What are their thoughts and feelings towards us?

A lot of branding is really controlling the narrative, right? Because if we don’t control it, I guarantee you, others are going to determine it for you and we don’t want that. Sometimes, artists fall for the trap of just hoping that people understand or that they will just get it. 

But sometimes, a lot of being an artist is coaching our fans and our audience on how they can support us, and what our concepts and messaging really is. Sometimes, we really need to dumb it down for them so that it’s as simple as possible. 

The fact is they have so many other stimulus and incoming marketing and advertising messages on a daily, like every second that they have to digest. So don’t complicate things for them. At the end of the day, when it comes to your branding, I just want you to realize that it encompasses a ton of element.

Key Take Aways

We’ve given you a solid overview of all those elements here today.

Throughout this, we’ve touched on things like:

  • Your vision as an artist
  • what your value proposition is
  • who you’re targeting
  • what your aesthetic is
  • your brand colors
  • what your videos and photo shoots are going to look like
  • what your name is as an artist or your band name
  • what your logo is or how you talk to your fans
  • your personality
  • how you dress.

All of these things are elements of your brand that shouldn’t be taken lightly. They should be calculated in a sense. Even if you are going with this I don’t care demeanor, that should be calculated to a degree as well. Know that you’re doing that and know why you’re doing that. Why does that work within your branding?

For some, this takes years and years of trial and error to cultivate and figure out. Not all of us have million-dollar marketing teams and PR teams and people who can come up with all these cool marketing concepts and that’s okay. 

Do what makes sense for you and what works, but try and take some time to really think these things through and plan them out before just rushing out to put things out there that aren’t really as thought out and cohesive as they need to be. 

Again, your branding can evolve. It can change. It doesn’t need to be rigid. But make sure that if this is a certain segment or point in time you’re releasing a project, what is the theme, an overarching theme so that things can be consistent. 

The next project can be different. It can be different from the last project, but try and have something that is consistent within whatever you’re working on at this present moment.

Now, I have my own personal opinions on Miley, but whether you agree with her actions, like her music, or think she’s a culture vulture, her team has done a very good job of rebranding her and crafting a brand that continues to keep evolving and stay relevant. 

You may not be Miley Cyrus, but you can still take steps to position yourself in such a way that connects with your audience. 

So think about what matters most to you and your brand and the feeling you want to give people when interacting with you and your platforms. You don’t need endless resources to be consistent, authentic, or evoke emotion through your branding.

So let us know what you guys think. Are there any other brands out there from a music perspective that you can think of that encompass all of these elements? 

I also want to know, has your brand evolved since you started out in music to where you’re at now? 

I would love to know what other challenges you might be having when it comes to cultivating a strong foundation and brand for your music career. 

Until next time, stay hungry, keep creating, and we’ll catch you on the next one.

*Supporting content contributions made by Lara B. Krasnoff

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