by: Brandon Countee
If you have read anything that I have written before, then you know that I see musicians as entertainers, not just as artists. Entertainers have to always make sure that their image and the perception that display is just as important as their material. Too many times artists feel that if their music is good enough, it will cover up their short comings or confusion with their brand. That just isn't true and if you don’t put as much time in your brand as you do your music, then you will find yourself and your career in a perpetual limbo. With that said, I wanted to share 3 good tips for building your brand in entertainment.
1. Understand what branding is
Branding has been defined so much and thanks to Google, you can easily find a definition for it, so I want define it here. What I will say is that branding is a central component for success. Why is branding so unique in entertainment? There are two reasons why people buy something: it serves a function(coat,shoes,food) or it feeds a perception/symbolic need(Brand name clothing like Gucci,Versace, etc). Now if you can choose something that fits your needs(coat) and can fit our perception need(Highly rated brand like Gucci). Entertainment falls in the function category, but it has to be symbolic as well. If you are old enough you remember in the 90's and early 2000s when rap was becoming more commercial, many artists had to have "street cred" in order for their brand of music to be accepted. The music (what is actually being consumed) was not as important as the perception of the artist(the brand). Think about that! You want a 2014 BMW 740I Black on Black with less than 2000 miles. You find a car that fits your criteria and are ready to buy. Are you going to say no because the dealer lied about actually owning one? Your music should fit your brand and vice versa. Your brand has to be something that is both internal and external.
2. It’s ok to change your brand
"I'ma tell you what Banks told me:/ Cuz, go 'head switch the style up/ If N****s hate then let them hate and watch the money pile up" (50 Cent, “In Da Club”). Don’t feel that your brand has to be set in stone once you figure out what it will be. Most successful entertainers and companies only have continued success because of their ability to change their brand and self-awareness of it. Many of your favorite artists have songs or even albums that they released before they found success. Many also insured that their brand fits with the changes in their genre as well. Below you have music mogul Jay Z’s four album covers. Look at each one and find what is always consistent, but what is different about each one.
3. Self-awareness and honesty
I have probably upset many inspiring artists that have asked for my help by being honest on my evaluations of their music and image. There was a musician *Danny Dan(not his real name) that was an inspiring R&B singer. We met at a local show and he asked for me to help him with his PR and co- management. Now I'm not a producer and don’t care to be one, but his music was not well produced and lacked any real commercial value. He didn’t have much musical ability with his voice and it was apparent. When I brought this to his attention and suggested ideas for improvement, his manager (brother) and he accused me of being a hater and not knowing music. Dan continued to try to make it in music and last time I saw him he was working at H-E-B still trying to get over the hump. Now if you really read what I said in the previous paragraph about Dan, I never said that he didn’t have potential or was a horrible musician. I simply stated where I saw weaknesses and needed areas of improvements. Dan not being self-aware and honest when it came to his music, hurt his own brand even though it wasn’t his intention. He didn’t take into consideration that his brand is going to be defined not by him, but by consumers. He never asked "How do listeners perceive or think of my music?". He felt like his brand was strong and all he was missing was the big chance to showcase himself. You have to be aware of where your brand lands in the minds of consumers. In conclusion, branding is a lot of work and it’s ok if you don’t get it right the first time. Most of what I gave you is more of what not to do than a detailed blueprint.
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Brandon Countee is the founder and Chief Design Director of Majestic Raven (MR). He specializes in branding and marketing, along with artist management and artist development.