The development towards digital business environment affects music industry in many ways. There are major impacts through for example marketing, distribution and community management. Still I would argue that the most important aspect is the “product development”.
With the product development I mean A&R works of labels and even more so the efforts the artist takes on to develop not only the music, but the brand overall. Today, music is not enough, and you HAVE to consider the (visual) identity of your music.
This article consist 5 steps on how to start thinking of your music as a brand. I myself worked as a musician signed to EMI/Virgin in early 2000’s, therefore I base this list on my experience and scientific essay’s I wrote while studying Arts Management at London South Bank University.
1. Audience is more fragmented than ever
Business analysis usually link artists and audience as cash transaction and ignore social relationships, focusing on consumption rather than on reception. Please do yourself a favor and understand that networked communication polish the traditional concept of audience and replace it by countless sets of limited variety. Media of mass communication is less mass-oriented.
Therefore, for you stand out for the ever more fragmented fans of your music, the only real way is to create a simple enough message for them to understand. That is your brand…and yes simple does not mean dump in this context.
2. People consume brands that signify themselves
In the post-modern world, people have abundance of choices and therefore have to constantly compare and contrast signifiers of the brand. These signifiers are your value to the listener. More precisely, the emotional value, because music mainly fulfills the emotional needs of human.
The “free choice”, that we believe we have, is actually choice between different social signifiers. People consume products that signify the self.
Your listeners do not consume your music. They consume your brand that in the process creates their identity.
3. Emotional loyalty is a source of unlimited power
Because people consume music that signifies themselves, they are willing to see that music to gain more attention. So your brand should have a meaningfull message that the fans would like to attach themselves into.
Think how much power there are in bands that have a “mission” to change something. Think how much you would gain more loyal fans if your music and brand will stand for something meaningfull.
4. Attach this identity into everything your music connects to
And I mean everything. Just a little simplified list:
– images and “cover arts”
– distribution channels
– live shows
– mobile apps
Create a symbol and a short message that signifies you. Create a deeper meaning to that message and try to change the world to a better place. Even just a little bit.
With these steps, I guarantee people will remember you much better.
5. Music does matter
However important the branding is, music is still paramount. It is like product development. First make sure your music is good. Do not start scaling up these branding ideas before that.
Otherwise people just end up getting excited about a great signifier. An artist that has a great message, but in the end is just a hollow shell without good music to listen to. -Teppo Hudson
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