It’s all well and good to take a ‘fight the man’ mentality when it comes to your band. You want to retain the rights to your music, you want to control what happens with every aspect of it – after all, it’s your intellectual property. Good for you! But refusing to brand your band under the assumption that it means ‘selling out’ is really just shooting yourself in the foot.
Your brand is essentially your image. It’s how people perceive you. So that encompasses your online presence, your stage presence, your promotions – your whole ‘look’. Many bands don’t like to think about the big picture, but from an awareness perspective, it can make or break you.
What does a symbol and the colour purple mean? They both form a solid foundation for the instantly recognisable brand of American artist Prince, or “The Artist Formerly Known As…” – but he is one of thousands that take advantage of having a good, solid brand.
Here are some super-simple tips to help you create your brand:
1. Be unique. In marketing, we talk about finding your USP, or unique selling point. What makes you different from every other metal band? Why do you stand out from every other pub cover band? Why should fans want to listen to your music before anyone else’s? Why should promoters or venue managers pay to have you perform over that other band that sounds just as good as you? Figure out what makes you and your music stand out. Find your niche, then yell it from the rooftops. Include it in your bio. Mention it in your interviews. Put it on your social media. Get your current fans talking about it and bring in new ones by telling them about it.
2. Keep your online presence uniform. Social media is one of the best tools you have to maintain direct contact with your fan base, advertise upcoming shows or releases, or just initiate discussion with your followers. But in order to use it to full effect, people need to be able to find you. You don’t need 20 different platforms with 15 different user handles. Do a bit of research and find out what your fans are using the most (eg, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Reverbnation, Vine, SoundCloud, Pandora), look around and see what those you look up to are using to connect with their fans, then create your accounts with the same user name/URL. Preferably, your band name! If your chosen handle is unavailable, alter it slightly. Also, ensure each account provides links to your other accounts, so if somebody stumbles across your Twitter account but prefers to use Facebook, they can connect with you easily on there. When you hear of a new potential medium to reach out to your fans, pounce on that bad boy and reserve your handle, even if all you put up to begin with is the links to your other accounts. Even if it turns out to be a flop and nobody uses it, it’s better than missing out on owning your unique handle on the next Vine or Instagram. Remember, many platforms cross over these days – for example, you can link your Twitter account to your Facebook, so that anything you tweet out to fans is automatically broadcast to your Facebook account. Which brings us to the next point…
3. Be consistent. Go beyond your URL and handle – be consistent in the images and fonts you use, the language and tone you use – create the same, or at least a similar, theme and feel across all of your touchpoints with your audience. When a fan goes from your web site to your social media accounts to your gig posters, there should be a fluid feel to it and they should begin to instantly recognise that this is your material just by glancing at it. This can be achieved through use of colour scheme, logos, texts, graphics, photographs, fonts, etc. Find something that suits your style of music and your target demographic and stick to it. Also maintain the same voice and language when you’re blogging, tweeting, posting on Facebook, or whatever it is you’re doing, so that people recognise it as uniquely you. Don’t forget to check your spelling – simple mistakes that often get overlooked can be picked up on by the wrong people.
4. Be genuine and engaging. Obviously one of the main goals of creating a brand is making something easily recognisable to help you sell music and book shows. But it’s not all about advertising. Nobody wants to see constant advertisements. In fact, most digital marketing experts will tell you the maximum split should be 20 per cent promotional updates versus 80 per cent community engagement. So, engage with your followers. They like you enough that they want to be virtually connected with you – show them that you feel the same! Ask them for feedback on where you should play, or what songs you should include in your set list. Update them when you’re on the road, or in the studio, or at a show. Tell them what other bands you’ve been digging lately, or what songs you’re trying to learn, or just whatever’s on your mind. When you do post news of a show or new release, give them a special preview or a chance to buy first tickets, or a special video message. Show your fans you appreciate them, and they will return the favour.
These four simple steps will help you turn your band into a brand. There’s no need for a record deal, or a big budget, or a bunch of smoke and mirrors to know how to effectively brand yourself. Just by knowing your niche in the market and communicating it effectively to your current and potential fans is all you need to create a brand. Create something unique and genuine that makes them feel included, and your fans will become devoted promotional agents who will share your music with everyone they know.