Artists and authors are talking about creative branding. But what exactly is a brand? And do you have to have one?
As a label and publisher, we get a lot of questions about artist branding. After marketing nearly 100 releases, we understand the importance of branding to an artist’s success. The differences between good and bad branding are as important as the differences between good and bad music. And it isn’t just about the packaging.
Your creative brand = who you are + what you do. It is the transmission of your creative identity to an audience. And yes, you need it.
Here are a few questions we’ve been hearing from artists.
Can you create a brand for me?
No. You already have a brand. Everyone does. What a creative branding person can do is help you identify your brand, and then help you to communicate it to an audience. It should be crystal-clear to your audience who you are (e.g., “acoustic troubadour from Duluth”) and what you do (e.g., “postmodern folk songs”). Your creative brand illuminates your identity and goals, deepening your relationship with your audience.
Aren’t my songs my brand?
No. They are a part of your brand. Your brand conveys the text, subtext, and context of what you do. The text is the song. The subtext is what you suggest or imply. The context is the frame you show it through. Your brand creates a definitive impression not just of the song, but of your identity as an artist. Sure, you might have songs and gigs, and that’s great. But so do jukeboxes. Your brand differentiates you — and elevates you above others making your kind of music. Use it to give your audience a window into who you are and what you do.
Isn’t my logo my brand?
No. A logo is great — just ask Van Halen — but it is not a brand. It is simply visual shorthand for who you are and what you do. Before you design a logo (the easy part), you need to answer the basic questions about yourself and your work (the hard part). If that sort of self-examination sounds challenging, you’re on the right track. Before you can know where you’re going, you need to understand who you are to yourself and to your audience.
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Your creative brand isn’t just something you pull out for marketing purposes. It isn’t just t-shirts and photo shoots. It is you. So while your songs (or books) might focus on subject matter outside yourself, you are still the creator and the delivery mechanism. If you’re doing it right, you are the only person who can do it. Without you, it could not happen.
A successful creative brand explains that essential truth to the people who matter — your audience.
So get to work — and put your creative brand to work for you.
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