Breaking an Artist in the Digital Age Pt. 5: The 20 Branding Commandments

There are no recipes or secrets that will ensure the creation of a successful brand, but there is a lot of advice that artist can consider when developing branding strategies.  Here are a few tips on branding that many business, PR people and marketers have used in the past, including some strategies that I have used when helping some of my (social media and SEO marketing) clients:

1) Take criticism with a grain of salt.  Some criticism is perfectly okay to ignore, but others may help artists to improve their brand.

2) Social media and online branding success is not about the technology itself; it’s about using the technology to create opportunities for your listeners to passionately invest themselves in your music.

3) Create an immersive experience.  Tap into the power of fandom.  Create more than just music that the listener can listen to, create something that listener can incorporate into their lives.  Let them live your brand.

4) Bond with fans. Fans are friends; they are looking for artists who they can relate to (via weaknesses, life experiences, interests, nerdiness, etc.).  Fans want to see a part of themselves in the artists they cherish.

5)Know who to please.  Are you trying to please your fans or trying to please everyone?  If you go after the wrong group, the appropriate group may abandon you.

6) Always seek new fans.  Look for opportunities to increase your fan base (collaborations, endorsements, etc.).  If an artist creates an “exclusive” fan base, the artist wills money.  Artists can actively target a particular demographic while passively gaining members of another demographic.

7) Choose your battles.  Beef can be good; look at the history of hip hop.  However, beef can be bad; look at the history of hip hop.  Having controversy with another artist, organization or product may help your brand, but may also ruin it; it doesn’t work for everyone.  Don’t destroy your brand, fan base or put yourself in legal jeopardy in an attempt to create and/or maintain a brand.

8 ) Be true – to yourself and to your fans.  Don’t compromise your sound to appeal to a wider audience.

9) Be unique.  Great brands offer listeners a unique experience.  Look at Lady Gaga…enough said.

10) Sell more than just your music.  Actually, don’t sell your music at all.  Sell the emotional and personal connection that will force fans to invest their person in you.

11) Be intuitive to your brand’s timeline.  When your brand’s timeline is coming to an end, consider reinventing your brand before it dies off.  This could be through new collaborations, exploring other genres, etc.

12) Know your enemy.  Know your enemy’s battle plan, ammunition and armament.  Know that having your enemy can help you increase your brand; by making yourself distinct from your enemy, you are creating uniqueness.  Remember, the music biz is a constant battle; win the war.

13) Understand economics, specifically, understand elasticity.   As your brand grows, and as your fan base increases, understand how supply, demand and cost will affect your fan base.  Don’t make assumptions or relay on other musicians’ experiences.  Each fan base is as unique as each artist, and various economic factors pertaining to your fan base will directly affect your personal economics.

14) Be ambiguous, but do so strategically.  A part of the intrigue that fans have towards artists is the vision that the fan has created of the artist.  Tell your story, but allow fans to use their imagination to fill in the gaps.  At the same time, being too mysterious may work for some artists and not others; and may work up to some extent, but not beyond that.

15) Work in the best interest of your brand when choosing between public relations and marketing: PR (having others talk about your brand), marketing (talking about your brand yourself), or a combination.

16) Be revolutionary.  People usually remember the unusual, not the norm.  If you do something has never been seen, fans can’t help but remember.  The unusual, however, is either a great thing or a detrimental thing.  Being different creates passion, but being creepy looses listenership.

17) Avoid, and withstand, the hype.  Too much hype creates too high of a pedestal.  Allow hype to come natural so that fans have a realistic expectation of you, your brand and your music.  And keep in mind that word of mouth is still one of the best methods.

18) Have passion.  Do what you’re passionate about doing. If there is no passion, it will eventually show in your music.

19) If you stand for something, live up to it.  Otherwise you risk losing your fans and risk looking phony.

20) Think like a high school psychology student.  Learn more about the impact that psychological, conversational and social impacts have on your fans.  You don’t have to be a psychologist to figure out what moves your fans and what influences their music choices.

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