So, you understand that branding is essential, and you want to start perfecting your own brand to share with the world.
Great, but where do you start?
Perhaps you’re still wondering how to implement all the concepts we’ve discussed so far.
To help you take action, we’ve created a guide to help you through the process of developing your very own branding elements.
Below we discuss how to build a brand as a musician that people will love.
Aligning elements from past Articles
In the Planning & Strategy section, you pondered several different factors that tie into your branding. You may not have noticed it, but all those tough questions about your music’s vision directly correlate with your branding. To quickly recap, here is what we went through so far:
As you learned previously, SMART is an acronym that stands for:
These should be the parameters for every goal you set for yourself as a musician, including your branding. Think about your branding goals–are they SMART?
If not, rework them until they are…
You’re up against so many other talented musicians, which is an excellent thing for several reasons. For starters, you get to learn from their mistakes and success. So study them and become hyper-aware of what they are doing. Identify what seems to be working for them and what’s not.
Understand what their audience is responding to and engaging with the most. Competition is always a good thing, so embrace it. Learn from your peers, and challenge yourself to stand out from the crowd. This is important to your sound and equally as important to your brand.
Vision & Mission
If you remember from previous Articles, your vision is your idea of how your dream music career will look.
Guiding every step toward your vision is your mission statement or your purpose.
American radio show host and businessman Dave Ramsey shared: “Without a vision and mission statement, you may get to the top of the ladder and then realize it was leaning against the wrong building!”
If your music career is a ship in the stormy seas of the music industry, your vision & mission statement is your lighthouse. Subsequently, your branding should be in alignment with both of these statements.
What makes you memorable? Why should anyone listen to your music or care about what you’re creating?
Your value proposition is also something you’ll want to get clear on so you can leverage it throughout your branding.
These aren’t easy questions to answer, but as we stressed before, narrowing down what makes you unique will help you grow as an artist.
“Everyone is not your customer,” American author Seth Godin succinctly stated. This is especially important with something as emotional and personal as music.
You shouldn’t waste your time trying to be everyone’s cup of tea, and the more you narrow in on who your actual audience is, the easier it will be to market to them.
Step-By-Step Guide To Developing Your Brand
Now that we’ve recapped everything, let’s help you confidently develop the essential elements of your branding.
Research the competition
First, you’ll want to start by seeking out established artists or brands and identify the ones you admire or want to replicate. This doesn’t just have to be within music either. There are several companies out there to draw inspiration from.
Check out their social media platforms, their website, sign up for their email newsletters, watch their videos, etc. These are all significant indicators of what they are doing and what’s working for them or not working. Think about how you can do it better or innovate and make it your own. Again this isn’t about copying and more about drawing inspiration. This is especially helpful if you’re just starting out and don’t know where to begin.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of connecting with your peers and picking their brains. Ask other artists you trust, who they work with for their visuals or the rationale behind the things they do from a branding perspective. If you have an audience already, ask them for feedback on what they like or don’t like when it comes to individual artists.
Once you have gathered this information, it should give you a stronger basis for determining your overall brand strategy.
Identifying Your aesthetic As A Musician
Now that you’ve identified a few brands you admire, let’s investigate further in terms of what you see.
What’s great about their look? Are there things you don’t like? How do they present their content? Does it grab your attention quickly? What emotions do you feel?
Do they dress a certain way? What colors are they using consistently? Are there specific filters on their photos? How about the effects on their videos?
These are two examples where the artists are leveraging a specific theme throughout their branding. From the colors to the clothing in their visuals, this is eye-catching and draws you in.
However, there are examples of other artists whose brands are more sporadic and keep you on your toes because you’re constantly expecting the unexpected.
The challenging part about your aesthetic is that it will be a work in progress, and you have to test things out to see what works best for you and your audience. Keep in mind that even the slightest details can be representative of your aesthetic.
For example, your typography or fonts can also make you stand out. English singer/songwriter Lewis Watson made a whole ‘look’ out of using only lowercase letters for all his content, song names, etc. This little, intentional detail helps his aesthetic stick out from others.
When you hammer down your own aesthetic, you can begin to create a look that complements your own sound.
Related Reading: How To Build A Fanbase For Your Music Through Branding
Related Reading: Finding Your 1000 True Fans For Musicians – Build Your Tribe
Related Reading: Music Branding Tips: 4 Elements of a Strong Compelling Brand (Miley Cyrus Case Study)
Related Reading: The Importance of Branding Yourself as A Musician
Brand logo & colors
When you think of Mcdonald’s, you instantly think of the golden arches. Unlike traditional businesses, though, artist logos are not always consistent and may change depending on what the artist is releasing or promoting. Some artists don’t even have a logo and instead focus primarily on a recognizable aesthetic.
Traditionally, record labels have one definitive logo that doesn’t change, like Def Jam or Universal.
But when you think of your favorite artists, rarely is your first thought of a specific logo. This is because artists or bands can choose to roll out various branding materials over time.
Before you rush out and get a logo, you might want to focus on things related to your aesthetic first. Things like determining your specific color combinations, typography, and overall theme will be much more critical.
Either nail down your aesthetic first to ensure that your logo will make sense when you’re ready to design it or develop them at the same time.
However, don’t waste time or money thinking you have to have some extravagant logo because this isn’t the case. Think aesthetic first, and if it makes sense, then get the logo done. Remember to keep it practical and straightforward to be easily used across various platforms and materials.
When creating a logo, here are some essential things to keep in mind. Your logo needs to:
- Be eye-catching
- Be timeless
- Be simple and easy to understand
- Be memorable and leave an impression
- Be scalable and Work well either large or small
- Encompass your brand vibe
- Use colors and fonts wisely
- Still pop in black and white
- Paint a picture for your audience
- Use empty or white space to keep your logo design clean
- Be considerate of end uses (Merch, Posters, Social Media, etc.)
- Evolve or change when it makes sense
If you’re not a graphic design wizard or don’t understand the specific meaning of colors, we highly suggest getting help from someone specializing in logo and brand development.
They’ll be able to help you pinpoint the mood and emotion you’re trying to evoke in your audience and then assemble the colors and images for you to help convey that feeling with your branding.
Artist name, alias, or band name
The stories of how some artists or bands got their name are always quite intriguing. However, coming up with your own name may seem like a daunting task for an emerging musician.
Green Day thought that picking a name was as easy as passing the jay. In 1989, the band had to change their name from Sweet Children to avoid confusion with a band called Sweet Baby.
Although it’s unclear what particular ganja-smoking incident birthed the name, the band members have all stated that the name Green Day is “Bay-area slang for a day of doing literally nothing but smoking weed all day.”
Some know from day one what their moniker will be. Others had nicknames growing up that they choose to use, and some even elect to change their name multiple times throughout their careers.
Selecting a meaningful alias is how you add intrigue and legend to your brand. Your actual name at birth can be just as powerful though, and speaks to authenticity.
However, coming up with a unique stage name might be better suited for your branding.
Marshmello using his actual name, for example, could still work, but his name fits the Marshmello head prop that he is always seen wearing.
If you are trying to figure this out for yourself, we suggest a solid brainstorm session where you start by listing some keywords that describe you or that come to mind when you think about your music.
Remember, like everything else with your branding, your name says a lot about you.
When 2Chainz first started out, his name was TittyBoy. However, he felt he had to change his moniker, or else it could be bad for business in the future. He states that he didn’t just wake up one day and decide to change his name but that it was more of a natural progression that got him to the name change. “More family-friendly, more kid-friendly.”
Keep this in mind and ensure that if you’re using a name/words that are naturally considered negative, this will impact your branding unless the name goes with your overall theme.
For example, the Grateful Dead is a very harsh sounding name, but it perfectly fits with their music and what they stand for.
From there, jot down all the ideas you have for names, even if they’re a bit out there. Even ask people you trust for suggestions. There are also online tools that can help you generate some name ideas, but I urge you to use them only for inspiration.
Try to narrow down this list and envision these names on your future merch, album covers, and posters. Envision using the name in your music or hearing your fans chanting the name while you’re on stage.
Does it sound, look, and feel natural in your head when envisioning these things?
You don’t have to decide right away. Get lots of feedback and trust your gut. Remember that you can always go in a different direction later, but the more you think this out now, the better your decision will be.
Brand voice and personality For Musicians
When it comes to your brand voice, this isn’t about what you say and more about how you say it. So ask yourself, how will you communicate with your fans? What kind of voice are you going to use to communicate with them?
The tone and style you use to address your fans must be consistent.
Are you humble, or do you have a cocky personality? Are you funny or really sarcastic? Your brand voice is usually an extension of your personality.
Your voice and brand messaging may even change, depending on what you’re releasing or promoting.
While your underlying message should typically be consistent, it can still extend into alternate narratives when you need them to.
Again, you will need to find what works best and be open to evolving the brand as needed.
Final Thoughts On How to Build a Brand As A Musician
Hopefully, this has helped you to get more concrete on developing your branding. Your brand is so much more than just an image or some colors. Your branding needs to speak to the audience you are trying to attract and express what you’re about without you being in the room.
Companies spend millions of dollars researching and designing their branding because they understand its power in attracting their customers. Don’t take your branding lightly. Make sure you spend time perfecting it because it will be crucial to your success.
Kevin is the founder of Music With Flavor, which joined Whipped Cream Sounds in 2023. He is a seasoned musician turned industry expert. His passion for music goes beyond melodies; he delves deep into the intricate world of music marketing, striving to unearth the most effective strategies for indie musicians. However, Music With Flavor isn’t just about Kevin’s knowledge; it’s a network of industry experts handpicked to provide the most trusted advice. Kevin’s role is to pose the right questions, not just answer them, as he and his team tirelessly research trends, connect with artists, and gather valuable insights.