Last article we covered what a manager is, what a booking agent is, whether or not you need them, and how to determine if you do or not. Chances are once you’ve hired one (or both), they’ll help you out with what we’ll be discussing in this article. However if you happen to be an artist who wants to do this thing totally independent, you need to know how to do this yourself.
That’s right. It’s time to talk about branding.
Some people may immediately think of pushing a piece of hot metal up against an animal’s flesh to mark it as their own when they hear the term “branding.” Or that might just be my Southern heritage showing. In any case, that is not the type of branding we’re going to talk about.
Branding Yourself as an Artist
The first thing to understand before you can begin to brand yourself is that you are a human. You will change over time, like all humans do. Your tastes will change, you will grow, develop, and adapt as life goes on. Your brand should directly mirror and reflect any changes you make to yourself and to your music.
Some artists start out with one brand, and then introduce another as time goes on. This contributes to your longevity as an artist. Being able to accurately identify yourself as an artist and gather a following by staying true to this identity is highly important because once you apply your brand, it will help narrow the audience down to your target audience and demographic. As you get to know this group of people, you can adapt your brand and music to cater to their needs. As an artist, you only exist if someone consumes your work. If the general public has no idea who you are as an artist, then you won’t get very far.
Also, this all traces back to knowing yourself as a person first. Do some soul-searching, find yourself out in a beautiful country far away from, do whatever you need to identify who you want to portray yourself as to your audience. This is probably the most important step you can take when you decide to become a musician.
My main influence is Chelo, who I’ve mentioned before blends Latin, pop, and urban music to create his own unique sound. One of the significant reasons I feel I can relate to Chelo as a musician is we share the same heritage. Chelo was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where I was also born. Unlike Chelo, I moved with my family to Texas shortly after I was born, so I don’t have the same relationship with my homeland as Chelo does who remained in Puerto Rico throughout his formative years. Though I didn’t spend many years in Puerto Rico, I still do all I can to stay connected to my heritage and understand the culture of where I came from. Seeing an artist like Chelo embrace his roots and portray that in his music inspires me to do the same. Because I feel so strongly about that, I know that a large part of my brand, or image, will be my Puerto Rican heritage and how that blends into my music.
That’s how I present myself to people when I share or play my music, and that’s the filter I put all my songs through so I can achieve that Puerto Rican heritage somewhere, whether that’s in a certain beat I use or in a certain lyric that references my homeland.
All of that to say: it’s important to remember where you came from, who you currently are, and who you may be when molding your brand. Don’t let anyone but you dictate your brand. I’ve known several artists who, in order to make it big, have agreed to a brand that they felt no personal connection to and, in the process, have completely lost themselves. They may be successful, make a lot of money, win awards, and gain recognition, but because it’s not rooted in who they really are, they will never feel total satisfaction with their music.
In other words, branding is a marketing technique. You are trying to appeal to as many people as you can reach who might identify with a piece of your brand. If they identify with your brand, they identify with your music. Hence they buy your music, come to your shows, and essentially pay your bills. To recap: branding is important, it should come from an authentic part of you, and it should be flexible enough to change as you change.
When I was first starting out, I was tight on cash and didn’t know enough people yet to secure respectable venues. But I still wanted to perform and get my name out there. So I decided to throw a pool party at one of my friend’s houses. We could serve BBQ, people could swim or lay out, and I would perform throughout to keep the party atmosphere going. Brilliant idea, right? Well, my friend didn’t understand that if a bunch of acquaintances and potential fans were coming to see me at this pool party that we the goal was to make an awesome first impression. Which included serving quality, well-cooked food, using the best sound equipment, placing people in specific spots to keep the crowd entertained in between my sets, and, most importantly, have a clean pool that people would feel comfortable swimming in. Most of those things were already taken care or were in the process of being dealt with. The pool? Not so much.
I had to call the local pool cleaning service to help us remove the mess my friend hadn’t cleaned up after his last get-together. Luckily, Katy Pool Cleaners were available almost immediately and they were very thorough. Pools glisten naturally because they are filled with water, but this pool had an extra layer of shine and sparkle to it when the pool cleaners were done, almost like they took Windex to the surface and polished it well. The party went off without a hitch, the pool functioned perfectly and drew everyone to it like a magnet. It was the perfect way to complement my outdoor performance.