Breaking an Artist in the Digital Age Pt. 3: Branding 101

When it comes to artist recognition, understanding the essence of branding is essential.  Artists have many considerations when developing, altering, and even understanding their personal brand.  For instance, who owns the brand – the artist or the label?  Many times the answer is in formal and informal agreements, found by following the cash flow associated with building the brand, or determined through tireless and expensive litigation.

Additionally, figuring out what it takes to create a brand is nerve-wracking – especially for indie bands, publishers and labels looking to make a start in the music biz.  Fortunately, many aspects of artist branding share commonalities with product/company branding in the business world.

As with the launch of any business, artists must determine what exactly they seek to brand – their music, their merchandise, their look or them as a franchise?  Songwriters, for instance, may want to brand their music since they desire to remain behind the scenes writing for others who will eventually perform their creations.  Bands, however, will want to brand themselves as a franchise since seek they stardom as performers.

Once the artist determines what she/he wants to brand, artists needs to understand the demographics of their potential fan base and how to break into that demographic.  There are many artists of various fame levels who have broken into their fan base by luck.  Although luck is a huge factor in breaking an artist, that alone should not be the artists’ game plan.

According to the 2007 Interbrand Brand Marketers Report, the six most important aspects of successful branding are:

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  1. Consistency of the Brand – Making sure the artist presents the brand in a way that does not confuse the fan base, dilute the brand, or try to please the public as a whole instead of the fan base.
  2. Understanding of the Customer or Target – This is pretty self-explanatory.  If an artist wants to brand him or herself as a country music star, he or she should probably know what attracts country music fans.
  3. Message/Communication – A brand will die off if the brand is never communicated to the potential fan base.  An artist needs to have some sort of marketing plan, or a public relations campaign, in place so that the artist can reach the target market.
  4. Creative/Design/Brand ID – In a world that is becoming more reliant on technology and entertainment, it is detrimental for artist to hone in on the creative aspect of the brand.  This could be visual or oral – sound is just as important as a look, which is just as important as the feel of the brand.  This applies to the music, personas, live performances, and any other form of communication.
  5. Relevance – Marketing efforts used to brand the artist should relate to the artist.
  6. Differentiation/Uniqueness – Fans don’t listen to music because it is exactly like something else that they like.  They want something different, something unique, out of every song and every artist.  Even if a song or an artist is similar, something unique should exist.

Artists should also consider the technology that is available and used by potential listeners.  We live in a mobile society where technology is present in most aspects of our lives.  However, just because a new technology has emerged doesn’t mean that the artist should create a marketing plan specific to that technology if it is not being used by his or her fan base.

According to a 2011 study by Aimia, Inc., 79% of persons age 19 to 29 have a laptop, as compared to 65% of persons not within that age range; only 8% of 19 to 29 year olds have a tablet, as compared to 47% of persons outside of that age group; and 47% of 19 to 29 year olds have a smartphone, as compared to 30% of persons outside of that age group.

Even with the insane amount of digital devices that are available, TV is more relevant than ever.  Given this fact, artists should continue to take advantage of it – via videos, commercials, endorsements, show appearances, etc.

When it comes to other forms of media, artists need specific marketing plans since not all communications are transferable over different mediums.

For example, computer marketing campaigns should give listeners a sense of competitiveness.  According to a 2011 report by Aimia, Inc., 44% of persons between the age of 19 and 29 are willing to promote brands through social media in exchange for rewards.  Offering a sneak peek to an upcoming album, advance ticket sales, etc., can benefit the artist.

Effective campaigns are  something that the listener can easily share or show off to social media contacts.  In the 2011 Aimia, Inc. report, 72% of 19 to 29 year olds used Facebook often or very often, and 17% of that age group used Twitter often or very often.  With that in mind, remember the importance of viewer friendly campaigns, as branding efforts are easily accessed by younger, or more sensitive, audiences.

Likewise, mobile marketing campaigns are best crafted specifically to this medium.  Because an artist sends the campaigns directly to a listener’s personal mobile device, the best campaigns are those that are more intimate.  These intimate marketing campaigns should show that the artist knows and understands his or listeners, otherwise it will seem obtrusive and may cost the artist a potential fan.

Creating the right marketing plan, that takes into consideration the demographic of the fan base and the mode of communication, is essential in effective branding.


Similar posts:

Breaking an Artist in the Digital Age Pt. 1: Odds, Facts and Figures

Breaking an Artist in the Digital Age Pt. 2: Avoiding Premature Hype and Pigeonholes


2 thoughts on “Breaking an Artist in the Digital Age Pt. 3: Branding 101

  1. Pingback: Breaking an Artist in the Digital Age Pt. 4: Factoring the Branding Figures | Music 2.0

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