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Top Ten Soild Tips for Presenting the World with Good Artist Branding

In this Guest Post, a friend and a branding manager for artists, takes you through the important points of branding that you should consider before putting your work out into the world. How people see you visually will effect how you are perceived before anyone hears a single note.


There is a reason why Nike put its tick on absolutely everything it sells. It re-affirms the brand where ever you see it. As a musical artist, you should do the same. All your tracks, album art, social media, and posts on the internet should tie together visually. If you think this is bullshit, Nike is selling trainers, you're making music, artists shouldn't have to brand, go think about Picasso. What comes to mind? He had a brand. You need to do the same thing. A visual that sticks in the listener's minds quickly and permanently.

Whatever you decide it needs to be simple, stark and strong. Go take a look on somewhere like Bandcamp, where anyone can post their work and look at other people's artwork. There will be some lovely photographs for artwork that are highly complex images where you can't see what the hell is going on. Avoid this. If it looks like a blur, something you can't make out, you've lost the chance to brand. Simple, strong, and striking at thumbnail sizes for the win. Don't believe me? Go look at the simplicity of the classics.

Another common mistake I see on self-promoted music all the time is the overuse of Black and White. People think it's classy, cool, elegant, timeless. This maybe true. But in 2019, on the internet, it just comes across as dull. At the other end of the spectrum, we have over-saturated multi-coloured images that have too much going on. Even if you're going for the synthwave 80s look you can pick two or three colours that will make branding more memorable. Pick colours that work well. Or a palette, like primary colours only, or pastel colours only. Stick to it. We remember colour.

Just because you're a musical artist and you have Photoshop doesn't make you a visual artist. Know your limitations. If you have a friend that's more visual, always get them to make you some artwork (put faith into them). Or pay a professional to do the work. Or even better, look for someone online who likes your music who wants to build their portfolio. Also avoid images stolen from Google Images, how would you feel is someone stole your music. And if you must do it yourself, always start with royalty free stock photos, which are relatively cheap, and are always high quality.

Pictures of skulls for heavy metal, moody landscapes for ambient, abstract technology for drum and bass, we all know the visual cliches. But how will someone know what music you make if you don't use a cliche. No, what they'll really think is your music sounds the same as everyone else's. And cliches can always be subverted. Take an idea and just side step it to the left or right. Make it into something new. A good way to do this is to go and search on stock image websites. Find something that catches your eye, because it will also catch potential listener's eyes. You might find a great picture of a glass skull for your metal band. How about you have all your releases with things made out of glass on them. And hey presto you've found your visual hook!

If you're an unsigned artist, just starting out and doing everything yourself, you need to be self-aware enough to know when to put your music out under your brand. The watch-word here is quality control. By all means put your half-finished tracks up on SoundCloud but under a different moniker, because you only get one chance with potential listeners. Serious listeners and labels are not interested in your 'journey'. Only release quality finished tracks under your brand. Don't be impatient. That's the way you build trust in your musical brand.

Also, if you venture off away from your trademark sound into new musical territory, don't confuse your core fans, create a new brand for that new project. Brand trust is easy to lose but almost impossible to get back.

This is pretty simple. The more music you put out and can promote, the more times you will be seen, the more you can push your brand. Think of a new track (or playing a gig) as a top athlete who Nike are sponsoring. The better the athlete and the more athletes that are out there, the more people see the brand. Constant quality is the key.

In the temptation to get more likes, subscribes, more followers there is a temptation to put out non-relevant content on your music brand social media, in the hope that these will convert to fans of your music, because they like you! Countless times I've seen musical artists trying to be known for tutorials or crappy podcasts or even for posting lots of memes about social issues that are on trend. There should be separation of state and church. Keep all non-music content away from your music brand, it will only dilute it. Remember these social affirmations are not more fans of your music. And actually take time away from your main goal. The music itself.

One of my favourite books on the subject of capturing and keeping people's attention from the last ten years is Riveted by Jim Davies. It's instantly quotable throughout, but this my favourite on the subject:

      "When we see visual patterns, we are delighted, because seeing a pattern is noticing
      a predictable regularity in the world that we might be able to exploit. Patterns are
      breaks in the chaos. Visual rhymes ..."

That's basically what good branding is and how it makes us feel. Humans like order.

Good consistent branding entices more potential listeners into listening to other tracks you've produced. If a listener really likes one of your tracks and is looking at the rest of your output, if the tracks are visually similar they will already have the confirmation bias that these other songs are going to be as good as the song they already like. This will translate into more listens, streams and sales. If all the tracks look different, they're going in blind, and are less likely to explore your other work.
Funk D'Void is a DJ and producer veteran with over 30 years experience. He has released records on Soma Quality Recordings, Outpost Recordings, ON IT Recordings, and Lost & Found. And has DJed around the world over the last thirty years. He now lives in Barcelona, where he plays table tennis and is here to out the next generation of talent.

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