Every successful artist has found a way into the hearts and minds of those who support them. One of the major keys to engaging fans in a way that develops their loyalty, even devotion, over the course of the artist’s career. There are a lot of ingredients to the recipe for that kind of success, but a large portion of it boils down to branding. I know, you’ve heard people talk about branding so much in the music industry that it seems like it’s this nebulous, all-encompassing buzzword devoid of any definition. Does it even mean anything anymore? I’m here to tell you that it still means… everything.
But let’s set music aside for a moment. Think about your favorite consumer products or services. What makes you loyal to them? It’s likely a combination of factors, largely the promise of quality in what they offer, and the consistency in which they deliver on that promise, but there’s likely an intangible quality about the brand that you inherently connect to on an emotional level. Somehow what that brand stands for just “clicks” for you, and you sing their praises to all of your friends, even defending them to those who would criticize it. This kinship and loyalty didn’t develop through haphazard circumstance, and to accomplish that for any brand requires a great deal of expertise working together in a concerted, purposeful effort.
A brand is quite simply a reputation, and the experts in the industry who work under the umbrella of branding are those who play a part in the development and management of that reputation. That’s a big job… so it’s no wonder that the word is so prevalent. It encompasses many aspects of industry expertise in any industry, and for music it includes many fields including artist development, management, marketing, public relations, image development, photography, and design. The latter three areas are where the root of my personal expertise lies, but more on that later on. Branding requires a centralized effort in which everyone involved shares in the common goals. This is crucial for an artist’s initial launch, but it’s equally important throughout the process of promoting the artist and project. All of these areas combine to build stories around the brand and create an ongoing narrative that connects people to this brand/reputation. (As another example see Keith’s post about Nashville’s boutique jeans makers Imogene + Willie)
For the music industry, the longer-term effort is career-level brand-buildling; but the boots on the ground are typically working on one project at a time (typically an album or a tour), and usually each project has its own unique brand aspects which, though they relate to the long-term branding effort, are part of that project’s unique identity.
There are many artists out there who have leveraged branding well throughout their careers…
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