Many musicians distrust the idea of personal branding because it seems corporate and limiting — in reality it is everything but. While ‘personal branding’ has long been dismissed as a bit of an unnecessary hoo-ha, building a personal brand, for singers, is an important creative process. It will help you understand yourself as an artist, make better music, and build a bigger, more engaged audience.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding, is a method of communicating your identity and values — the things that makes you unique — through everything that your followers can see, hear and experience; whether that’s your album artwork, your social media posts, your videos or the clothes that you wear on stage.
Just like music, branding yourself can be an art. It is about understanding and re-creating yourself in a way that best reflects who you are and what you stand for.
Personal branding? Isn’t music what matters?
Popularity and record sales in the music industry is closely linked to celebrity culture. Though many celebrities are musicians, don’t be fooled: it isn’t purely music that awarded them this status.
A musician’s brand is much like any other: when we wear brands, we sub-consciously (and sometimes consciously) think “What does this say about me?”
We do exactly the same with the music we listen to and the musicians we associate ourselves with.
Our music choices and those we choose to look up to can affect how we dress, how we talk and even who we spend time with.
Elements of a personal brand for singers
Don’t attempt to create a personal brand that doesn’t reflect your values — it will appear fake and forced. Instead, focus on your unique attributes and enhance them — make them more distinctive!
Define your unique identity and communicate it through a set of brand elements. This can include the following:
- Your stage name(s)
- How you perform
- Artists you associate or collaborate with
- The style of your music videos
- Your digital and printed media — logo and the colours you use across your website, emails, posters, etc.
- How you communicate publicly — emails, website copy, social media posts, etc.
Understand your personal brand (a practical guide)
Here are a few questions that will help you better understand your branding. Go through each of them, writing your answers in a notepad; take your time, be honest with yourself and ask your friends to help — their answers might be surprisingly helpful.
- Which music genres are associated with your musical style?
- Who inspires you and your music?
- Who are your most likely listeners? Where do they live, how old are they, etc.?
- What appeals to them in your music and in your image?
- What are your other passions and how do they influence your music?
- What do you want to communicate to the world?
- What makes you unique? How are you different to other artists in your genre(s)?
Write down all of your answers, search for what connects them and summarise it in a single statement. This will be your brand statement.
How to communicate your personal brand
Your personal brand, as a singer, is communicated through everything you do. Your job is to be consistent. For example, before posting to social media, ask yourself if this post deepens or conflicts with your brand’s values.
Personal branding in the music industry — a case study
Alicia Keys at the Walmart Shareholders Meeting 2011 flickr photo by Walmart Corporate shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license — cropped
Alicia Keys (real name: Alicia Augello Cook)
- Stage name: Alicia Keys
- Associated genre(s): soul, R&B, jazz, pop
- Lyrics: involved, emotional, complex with clear and positive messages
- Image: elegant, classy, wealthy, natural, embracing a multi-ethnic background
- Traits: classically trained in music, talented, capable, strong, empathetic, growing as a human and helping others to grow
- Values: actively supports women’s empowerment and many humanitarian causes.
- Social media presence: direct, “real”, seemingly uncurated.
At this stage of her career, Keys can afford to show many facets of her personality as part of her musical brand, but the image remains consistent and clear while being versatile.
She appeals to the mainstream public across many different social groups and it’s easy to see why, but you don’t have to be a beautiful, classically trained pianist from Manhattan to be successful.
What to take away
Building a personal brand will not only help you to relate to your audience, but equally it stands to deepen you as a human being.
Communicating a message in this noisy industry can be tough, however, through a deep, consistent personal brand, you will be able to connect with those who would listen to and follow you, increasing the likelihood that your career will be long-lasting.
If you analyse the personal brands of ‘successful’ recording musicians, you’ll see that, in personal branding, depth and consistency are key.