“Building the brand” is such a corporate sounding phrase, isn’t it? Unfortunately, reading this post is a lot like saving all your gear receipts and keeping track of your mileage – it’s a necessary evil if you’re taking your music career seriously. I know it’s unpleasant….I’ll try to keep it short.
The Band Brand
Your band is a brand, whether you have made a conscious decision to make it one or not. Your fans are your customers, and based on things like your music, artwork, website, and appearance, they have a perception of you. This perception is your brand.
A brand is much more than a logo. It is the sum total of a customer’s (or fan’s) experience. In the corporate world this can include things like how the phone gets answered, what color a uniform is, or the look of a delivery vehicle. In the musical world it can range from website and album artwork to how a band dresses and acts on stage.
Building your brand is about making conscious decisions to create a customer experience that is unique and memorable; that motivates your customers to consume more of your product – your music.
To build your brand, you must:
1. Make your message consistent. Your visual image should match your music…and itself. Don’t make the artwork on your website grungy when your flyers look sleek and futuristic. If you’ve built a brand on serious love songs, don’t wear a duck costume on stage (unless you’re Elton John). Your music should be consistent too. If you you’re a metal band, save your zydeco songs for a different project…or perform them in a way that incorporates them into your sound. Always make your music and marketing material immediately identifiable as you. And remember: you will get tired of your brand long before your “customers” do. Don’t flip flop every time something new catches your eye. Keep your message consistent.
2. Be unique. What do you do that is different from everyone else? Is it your epic 15 minute songs? Your bicycle horn solos? Your elaborate light show? Do you do reggae versions of Elvis songs? Find your niche and exploit it. In the white-noise of modern music, this is what makes you worth paying attention to.
Your Logo and Beyond
A good logo is a critical first step. It should be a visual representation of what your music and band are about. Designing a good logo goes beyond just being able to draw. Important considerations include:
1. Relate-ability. Does it represent your music well?
2. Legibility. Can you read it at a glance? (Don’t get me started on 80’s heavy-metal logos!)
3. Size-ability. Does it look as good on a giant banner as it does on a tiny MySpace icon?
4. Recognize-ability. Can a fan identify the logo by its shape alone? (A fact: customers don’t read logos…they recognize them.)
Sometimes a “non-logo” can become a logo. The shape of the Volkswagen Beetle is as much a logo for Volkswagen as the “VW” on its trunk. Examples in the music industry include Journey’s “winged scarab”, Slash’s top hat, and Eddie Van Halen’s striped guitar. Each is an instantly recognizable symbol of a brand.
Build on your logo by thoughtfully creating marketing material that has a common look and feel. If you maintain a presence on multiple website be sure that they match as much as possible. Make sure you use the same profile picture on each of them – it’s how people recognize you. Your printed matter should echo what you have established online. Use the same colors and fonts. Set the same tone. A fan should be able to recognize your “look” at a glance.
Branding in Action
Below is an example of a well-branded musical act. When you visit the websites pay close attention to the consistencies in look, feel, and tone. Notice how the graphics and videos support the music, and how they all work together to make this band unique.
Unknown Hinson Website
Unknown Hinson MySpace
So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear it.
*Photo by Gregalicious