If you want to be successful as a musician, whether you’re an independent act or part of a band, you need to have solid marketing fundamentals in place. Yes, you need to be talented—at least to an extent—but there are millions of extremely talented singers, instrumentalists, and songwriters out there who never become popular, or even book gigs, because they haven’t made the effort of building or popularizing a personal brand.
What Is a Personal Brand?
A personal brand is much like a corporate brand, except it applies to you, personally (or to your group). It’s a collection of traits and characteristics, unique to you, that differentiate you from the rest of the competition. Building and maintaining a personal brand helps you in several areas:
- Differentiation. First, having a personal brand differentiates you from your competitors. There are probably dozens of bands like yours or singers like you just in your area, so what are you going to do to make yourself stand out? A personal brand can do it.
- Consistency. Keeping your personal brand consistent across your appearances and in all your gigs helps you maintain a sense of consistency for your fans. When they see you look, act, and sound the same, they know what to expect from your shows—and they’ll be more likely to remember you and form a bond with you.
- Demographic appeal. If you choose the right traits for your personal brand, you can also appeal to the right demographics, shaping your environment even more. Certain people will be more likely to appreciate your image and sound, so capitalize on that.
How to Build a Personal Brand as a Musician
Follow these steps if you want to establish your personal brand:
- Define your key characteristics. First, you’ll need to decide on the characteristics you want best exhibited by your brand. You can often get started in the right direction by looking to singers or groups similar to yours in the past, or those in your genre. For example, if you’re in the punk scene, you’ll probably want to be angry or tough. If you sing slow acoustic ballads, you’ll probably want to be soft or melancholy. However, don’t merely copy another artist, or only apply generic characteristics. You’ll also want a handful of traits to make you stand out. For example, are you flashier than your genre contemporaries? Do you have more attitude? Are you goofier?
- Solidify your image. Next, you’ll want to solidify your image. There are several ways to do this, though you don’t have to engage in all of them. For example, you’ll want to create a logo and accompanying artwork for your band. You could choose something cartoonish or something realistic, or anything in between, depending on your core traits. You’ll also prepare for your physical image; how are you going to dress? Are you going to wear custom gold grillz or a pink feather boa? What about an all-black suit? A ripped denim vest and a cowboy hat?
- Flesh out a character and claim social media profiles. When you’ve decided on the type of outfit you’ll usually wear and what characteristics you want to exhibit, you can flesh out your character with more elements. For example, are you going to have a stage name? Are you going to speak with an accent, or with a certain tone slightly different than your normal way of speaking? Make sure you claim a social media profile for your character or your band as soon as possible, keeping it separate from your personal profile.
- Define your stage presence, and commit to it. How are you going to act onstage? Some of this will be defined automatically by your character, but you can definitely add to it. Are you going to make small talk with the crowd or stay mostly silent? What kind of sick dance moves are you going to bust out?
- Network, and stay in character (for the most part). Spend time networking with other people. Meet new fans who might be into your music, and meet other musicians who might be able to help you find more gigs or reach new audiences. When you do, try your best to stay in character—at least to an extent. It will help you preserve your image as a musician.
These steps are only the beginning. You’ll need to keep making small tweaks and nurturing your brand if you want to be successful. And if you find the combination of your brand and your music aren’t enough to help you build an initial audience, one of those factors may need a significant overhaul. Being a successful musician is hard, and may require some major compromises.