I was just invited to speak on a panel at the CMJ Festival this October by producer Jimmy Landry about the importance of “brand” and what it means in this new era in entertainment. It’s been on my mind because I just finished writing a new program on brand – my portion of Musician’s Summer School with Ariel Hyatt, John Oszajca and Sarah Gavigan –
Build It, Brand It: How Artists Develop Into a Brand and Push Past Survive to Thrive.
But contrary to the image the word conjures up of cattle being stamped and “branded”, branding is not a “stamp” you apply to the surface. It’s not just a pretty picture of you with your guitar so everyone can see you are a musician (snooze). It’s not a cool website that has WAY too much to click on (over-compensating for the lack of goings-on).
It’s a process that starts with unearthing who you are, committing fully to it, boldly – even outrageously – sticking your neck out, and running all the way to the finish line with it.
You aren’t going to get away with skimming here, it’s the key piece that sets you apart.
The Top 10 Brand Building Secrets
Keep in mind that the music comes first. You can’t build a brand on crappy music. Likewise you can’t build a brand with crappy business skills.
- Your Signature Photo – it’s GOT to be irresistible – not average. It’s the first glance people get of you, most times before they even hear you. Don’t send them away unnecessarily.
- One Avatar – one across all platforms (and get a Gravatar at gravatar.com). Do NOT have different photos of you everywhere. Brand with one incredibly awesome irresistible photo of you.
- A Bi-monthly newsletter (and one that doesn’t ask people to BUY your CD.) I know a lot of you argue with me on this, but you have to face it – music is mostly free guys – get with the program. It’s everything else surrounding your music that you get paid for. Especially when you get good at growing your fan base (watch Amanda Palmer work it). You don’t want to discourage someone from hearing your music when they can stream it for almost free anyway. Go for the new FAN not the CASH and the cash will come.
- Social media branded pages – Make sure that you have a branded look across all of your social media pages. That means the same photo with the same branding (colors, etc.)
- Your own URL www.yourname.com – As a matter of fact, it starts here. This is non-negotiable if you are going to build your brand in the marketplace.
- Tumblr, Instagram or Pinterest – Choose one of these additional social media mediums of your choice based on your fanbase. (Tumblr is generally a younger audience, Pinterest is typically women in their 20’s – 40’s. Building an additional social media tool where your fans live lets them know that you know go where they are. It builds confidence .
- Make Your Live Show a Show – Be entertaining – make it something special for your fans. But please do not just be entertaining for entertainment’s sake. Do extra things too like inviting them backstage – or possibly to an after party/meetup to hang out with you. Have free pizza – do something to get them to COME be with you! Do raffles for a CD signing or a giveaway or a private serenade in the green room . Include the venue hashtag in your Tweets and post pics of your fans on social media.
- Be Interactive – Communicate All the Time – Retweet people you want to meet or new fans you want to acquire – people LOVE that. Be super active responding right away to your fans. This creates a little buzz and draws the moths to the flame. Don’t forget to use hashtags on Twitter “#” #livemusic #nycmusic #musicmonday (for Monday posts) etc. This works wonders for upping your Twitter followers. And PLEASE do not use automatic updates that post across multiple social media platforms – we can TELL!
- Network – Do NOT sit at home on your couch on a Friday night (unless you are deathly ill.) You build your brand by being actively engaged with others. Go to local shows, meet other artists, build community. Go to music conferences – ENGAGE! (and don’t make it all about you – be interested in other people – it’s the easiest way to grow your fanbase!)
- Position Yourself Well – Make sure you have a super well-written bio (not a cheesy one.) You want to come across as a serious artist in the industry and if you write it yourself or use an amateur it will show and turn people away instantly – industry AND fans. Nobody wants to follow a music artist that’s not workin’ it (that’s excluding your friends and family). There’s simply too much competition. Get to know everyone in your local scene by first name – be helpful – get your name out there. Then get to know people in the national scene (conferences, research, etc.).
Also, keep these three red flags in mind. These are the surest signs you’re NOT branding yourself correctly, with suggestions for correcting course.
RED FLAG #1 You’re promoting and working social media but not gaining fans. Your message is too general. In your effort to attract “everyone” and not exclude anyone, you’re diluting your brand. Safe doesn’t win the race.
RED FLAG #2 You have a good sized list but it doesn’t convert into sales or attendance at your shows. You don’t have enough day-to-day fan engagement, i.e.: live conversations with fans on Twitter and social media.
RED FLAG #3 You have lots of followers on Twitter and likes on Facebook but a small list (email). You are not driving traffic back to your website (to your opt-in box) and may not have a compelling enough free offer in exchange for your fan’s email address.
What are your success stories in building your brand? I want to hear them!!
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Cari Cole is a renowned vocal coach, artist development expert, songwriter & music producer. She helps artists find their voice, craft their style, and create successful music careers. Her weekly eZine Standing in the Spotlight goes out to over 2,500 subscribers. If you are ready to take your voice and your music to the next level, you can sign up for a F.R.E.E. subscription at http://www.caricole.com
©2012 Cari Cole, Vocal Mag, Inc. All Rights Reserved.