As of 2021, all we seem to hear about are TikTok trends and the latest viral video on Instagram. Long gone are the days when artists would have to actually go out and promote an event by posting flyers on busy streets and hoping people would show up. Instead, it seems like everything on the internet blows up quickly with one push of a button, so how can you make sure your music stands out from the rest? This is where having a specific brand comes in handy. Creating a sense of cohesion in your art and your persona is extremely beneficial to expanding your audience and getting the public to take you seriously. When it comes to developing that brand, it can seem overwhelming and time consuming, but it is definitely worth it in the long run. Below, I have laid out some do’s and don'ts when it comes to building an artist's brand that can help get the ball rolling on this exciting journey ahead.
Do: Write down questions and answer those questions honestly
Before you start anything, ask yourself a few questions that will give you a better understanding of what your brand could be. You may think you already know yourself well, however getting these ideas down on paper will help build that image even more. Defining who you are in a space of millions of other musicians will help you cut through the noise and separate you from everyone else. Start with an easy question such as “where did you come from?” and continue to get more specific as you go down the list. Some questions to help start could be, “What do you care about? How would you describe yourself and your music? What does your career look like to you in the short and long run?” Then start to list brands and artists that you find inspirational and who you think have shaped your life/musical career.
Don’t: Think you're too cool for TikTok
2020 was an insane and terrifying year for many reasons, but one pretty positive thing it did bring was the popularity of TikTok among millions of people. In a matter of months, songs could become number one on the charts from going viral on TikTok. Many artists became extremely famous, going on to win Grammys for their viral hits. Some of these artists include Megan Thee Stallion, known for her hit “Savage” and Doja Cat whose song “Say So” now has around 770 million streams on Spotify. Those who are best at it approach TikTok with the same inquisitiveness and experimentation as you would a new instrument. Give yourself permission to try and fail, to develop your own voice and not just regurgitate trends others are doing.
Do: Create mood boards
To garner inspiration and ideas, developing mood boards for yourself will be extremely advantageous for the future of your musical career. There is so much that goes into building a brand, so by having visual assets to utilize, you can truly create a comprehensive picture of that brand. This can be completely physical, or you can use digital software, such as Pinterest. It can contain colors, images, text, shapes, or anything else that visually fits your image. Having this board to refer to when doing photoshoots or album covers will help make you a more cohesive artist.
Don’t: Worry about how you might change in the long run
Change is not only beneficial to success, but it is also necessary. As you start your career as an artist, don't cater your brand to how you think you might be different in the future. Everyone experiences some sort of change throughout their life. Most likely you will encounter a lot of it. So don't be nervous to stick to an image in the beginning for fear of future hate. While everything is specifically catered to how you are as an artist, the “long run” could be anywhere from 5 years to 50 years. Playing around with your image and developing new tastes overtime will allow you to have longevity as a musician as you will always be adapting. Planning too much at the start can make you very inflexible and as an artist, you might begin to feel stuck in a box. The future is impossible to predict and 10 years down the line, the world will probably be extremely different. It's imperative to change to keep up with the times and also your priorities and experiences in life could make you a different person with a different perspective on the world.
Do: Be authentic
Authenticity is one of the most valuable assets an artist can use and it's free and simple. The majority of the time the music that resonates with an audience the most is made by musicians who celebrate originality and creativity. Newer artists such as Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X broke out seemingly fast due to their unique personas and distinctive sound. Authentic music portrays every human emotion, situation, and perspective and creates a better connection between the artist and the fan. In terms of personality, people like to see a real human being, flaws and all. It's okay to mess up every once in a while or be funny on a livestream. It allows you to bond with your fan base more and build that strong relationship that can last forever.
Don’t: Try to please everyone
Lastly, and what could be considered the most important piece is to not try to please everyone. It is absolutely impossible. As sensitive and emotion-filled human beings, it's difficult to receive criticism in any way, but when it is directed at your passion and your art, it can cut even deeper. While developing your brand, think about YOU first. Most of the time if the artist themselves is happy with something they created, that energy will translate to the audience. Being as authentic as possible, while still maintaining a level of accessibility for the general public is a hard balance to find, but the greatest of artists have been able to achieve this and you can too.