One of the most powerful things you can do for your career is to create a strong brand identity, something your band stands for and believes in that seeps through in every photo taken, every post on social media, every press interview, and of course, in the music you make.
But if you’re stuck on how to actually create that persona and make it stick — you’re not alone. Check out these four tips for discovering and perfecting your band’s persona.
1. Know what you believe
First and foremost, settle on what it is that you’re truly passionate about and who you want to be as a band. This is definitely one of those “easier said than done” statements, but you have to get past the, “I just want to make great music” line of thinking if you truly want to make an impact and connect with your fans.
Yes, great music is a must, but there's a ton of great music out there and, unfortunately, unless you’re very, very, lucky, it won’t be enough to take your career to the next level. What you need is a strong, clear, consistent personality that fosters connection with your fans. Do some soul searching to discover what it is that makes you tick, and then convey it in everything you do.
2. Ask yourself the hard questions
When you get really stuck, ask yourself the hard questions and write them down. Writing ideas down is a proven technique to help things stick in our memory, and it’ll allow you the added benefit of looking back on your answers when things get a little bit muddy. Ask yourself things like…
What’s your purpose?
Why does your music exist? What sets you apart from the other just as talented music makers out there? What kind of impact do you want to leave? Why does any of it matter? Get raw and real here — it might seem frightening at first, but once you break through that wall, that’s when the real magic begins.
What kind of experience are you going to give your fans?
The photos you take, the merch you sell, your live show, and even your answers in press interviews will tell a story, so you want to make sure that it’s an accurate one. Ask yourself — what do I want my audience to feel? What can I offer that no one else can?
Then ask yourself how you’re going to deliver that experience each and every time. No matter what the medium — online or in person — if you can deliver those same feelings time and time again, you’ll be on the right track.
What five words describe your band?
Notice I didn’t ask you to define your music or your sound, I asked you to define your band. Words like “playful,” “exciting,” “memorable,” “captivating,” and “mysterious” could all be examples of the kind of image you want to portray.
Think about what words define the persona you want to put out there and write them down. Whenever you’re feeling confused or unsure on what to do, reflect back on these five words and ask yourself, “Will what I’m about to do back this up?”
3. Invest in a quality bio and photos
This one is non-negotiable. If you’re going to spend money on things like recording your album, then you can’t skimp on the essentials that will ensure that recording gets heard. This means setting aside budget for things like PR, touring, and perhaps most importantly, a strong bio and quality photos. Your bio and photos should tell a clear and consistent story about the genre you play and what your collective personality is, so this is no time for taking shortcuts.
For photos, these should not be something that your friend took on their iPhone and you threw up on Facebook. These should be high-quality photos that tell the story of your band taken by someone who has experience as a photographer (preferably as a band photographer who has done promo photos before) and who'll work with you to determine the right locations, feelings, poses, etc.
Just as important is a strong bio that tells the story of who you are. Unfortunately, a lot of artists are just downright terrible at selling themselves, so like photos, you really should hire a professional to do this. They’ll know exactly what questions to ask to create a captivating bio.
4. Sell merch that matters
There’s nothing wrong with having some run-of-the-mill merch like T-shirts, stickers, pins. These have all become necessities when deciding what’s going on your merch table. But don’t be afraid to think outside the box, too. Your merch table is another opportunity to show who you are and to get creative with the story you tell.
Think about what you represent, and then manifest that into your sellable items. Creating punk-rock music? Consider selling old school patches. Singer-songwriter with a super romantic album out? Why not create romantic stationary (you know, for love letters!) with your name on the bottom? Graphic novel nerds? Make your own featuring your band as the characters.
When you stop thinking solely inside the confines of the norm, you’ll find that there are endless possibilities for conveying who you are while giving your fans something they can really get excited about.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the owner of Muddy Paw Public Relations and Infectious Magazine. She has also founded several chapters of the free weekly music industry meetup Balanced Breakfast. Muddy Paw specializes in working with up-and-coming artists on personalized campaigns designed to bring their careers to the next level. To date, they've secured placements on sites such as Noisey, AbsolutePunk, Substream, Property Of Zack, PureVolume, Anti-Music, and many more.