The Brand of You – Skinny Artist

The Brand of You

Branding Yourself as an Artist


Who are You?

by: Angela Cross

Brand (verb) – To mark indelibly.

Think of branding as a stamp, by which people will be able to recognize you. Branding is a process of clarifying who you are as an artist and what your goals are. A strong brand can capture a potential fan or patron’s attention and have them remember you and connect with your work. If this happens often enough, you will have a budding fan base.

Though branding yourself as an artist is important, lets face the facts: great branding does not make you a great artist, and being a great artist doesn’t make you into a profitable artist.

To achieve success, we need to have a strong balance between our art and our business – and the best way to do this, I have not found yet – BUT after a few years of devoting myself full to time to it’s pursuit I do have some organic approaches to building your brand.

There are many great resources about how to design and run your social networks, build a newsletter, etc. I’m going to focus on the foundation of branding your artist self; having a strong and clear idea of who you are, who you want to be around, and what you want.


Branding an artist and keeping it real.

You as a human being will grow and change in your lifetime, and you have many layers to your personality. In branding, you don’t want to share every single layer with your audience – you want to be real, but not too real.

For instance, some artists make their brand centered on a sexual image, like Madonna or Lady Gaga. That isn’t the totality of who they are, it’s just a brand that particularly exhibits one part of them.

Artist Branding

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, a vocalist had many different public brands before rising to fame as Lady Gaga. Her jazz singing, her early pop music – all of these different acts were just reflecting an artist developing her work. Your personal identity as an artist may be the well-spring of your work, but your brand is the vehicle that makes you money.

The real question is how do you hone in on what parts of yourself you want to present to your audience?

Well … who is your audience?

Your brand is the foundation of your relationship with your audience – so be mindful of who your audience is (and no, it’s not “everyone”), what they want, and how you can connect with and serve them.

For instance, Kanye West is both a rap producer and a christian musician. The christian music scene is almost completely country-folk-rock influenced. So, did Kanye start off his career by producing tracks for bigger and bigger church bands? Fighting his way to the top against a current of twang? No, instead he worked as a producer making hip-hop for Jay-Z – carving a solid place for himself from which he can branch out into less mainstream sounds and topics.


It’s not (always) about you

Spend a little more time concerned with your audience than yourself. Those people that you want to surround your life with – what do they want? What would serve them? Are you going to shock, please, or inspire them?

You see, branding can be as artistic and purposeful a journey as sitting down and writing a song or chiseling a statue. Artist who rely on a manager, or publisher to ‘make them’ run the risk of losing their artistic integrity, and can lose their most loyal fans by ‘selling out’ in their eyes, or rather, making a huge artistic and branding shift that alienates their fan base. (aka. selling out)

As an artist you are free to explore and create whatever your inspiration leads you to, but as a businesswoman, you owe it to yourself to limit your output. You want your artistry to drive your brand, but be careful that branding doesn’t consume or limit your artistry.

So how do we ride that line between clearly representing who we are and allowing ourselves the freedom we so inherently desire as artists?


Define success for yourself

If you define your idea of success, you can achieve it. Too many skilled and creative people adopt an ubiquitous idea of success and then wait for a manager, publisher or Wish-Fairy to make the money start rolling in. Define your idea of success in specifics, and be clear on WHY you want that so bad. Money is not a very strong force of motivation in and of itself, it’s usually the things that money can buy.

So what is it underneath the money for you?

Is it the ability to support a family while making art full time? Why do you want to make art full time? What would you make? Who would you make it for? What is so important or valuable about that?


Here’s a handful of artist branding tips to get you thinking:

  • Brand consistency: Connection of colors, images, logo, writing voice among all of your platforms (web site, facebook, twitter, instagram deviantart, Bluecanvas, etc.)


  • Story time: A great story attracts fans and press alike. Make sure to have a few different versions of your story. Ask your friends, family and enemies what is interesting about you. Have a few versions that are no more than a few words. (exe. Cowboy artist lost in space with camera.)


  • Community: Our career exists in a community, so take care of yours. Artists and musicians have a bad habit of being self-interested and self serving. Know your peers, appreciate them and look for every opportunity to give value to others. If everyone’s talking, nobody is listening, so take a moment to shut up and listen – you may even like it!


  • Ask for what you want: Do you want grants for public murals? A record deal with Def Jam records? What do you want, what is that golden egg? The only way you can be sure that you won’t get it, is by never asking for it. Make it clear what you are interested in achieving in your career, so that your community can support you. This may even be as simple as, “please subscribe to my newsletter.”


Artists function in a community and for the community — so take a moment to share your thoughts with us!

What lessons have you learned about branding yourself as an artist?


About the Author

Angela Cross is an audio alchemist, a painter of sounds, and a lover of life. She also plays most instruments you've heard of a handful you haven't, and also produces digital soundscapes from her solar-powered studio deep in the Pacific Northwest countryside. She often collaborates with producers and artists around the world, as well as with her 2 giant mountain puppies, Jean-Luc and Galilea. She can be reached through the mental aether, as well as various social media channels

Great article! Branding is definitely one of those aspects of an art career that I find myself at times resistant to :)…

I particularly resonate with the part about connecting to and clarifying who your audience is – and who they’re not. It seems like having a clearly defined idea of ‘my audience’ allows us to create our artistic selves more accessibly, and ironically makes us more attractive to anyone and everyone! Whereas if we try to be ‘everyone’s writer/artist/musician,’ we’re more likely to end up ill-defined and murky…

Great stuff :)

    I think you’re right Daniel, branding is too often one of those annoying buzzwords that gets thrown about by people who wear a lot of suits and ties, but branding really is something that’s important to think about for any type of creative artist.

    As Angela mentions in the post, creating a personal brand is (or at least should be) something that is deliberate. Not something that’s fake and stuffy, but something that we should really think about. How do we want our audience or clients to see us? What parts of ourselves and our work do we want to share and what parts do we want to keep to ourselves?

    If we don’t think about these things in advance, it’s a lot more difficult for our audiences to know what to expect. Musicians and artists in the past have learned that when you go against your audience’s expectations (i.e. your established brand) they can actually feel betrayed and turn against you (think Dylan at Newport).

    Now of course the real trick is to create a brand that still has enough wiggle room to change as you grow and evolve as an artist. Although you want to be consistent with your audience, you don’t want to be completely trapped by your public persona either.

      Angela Cross

      Daniel- me too :) It’s funny how resistant I, and many of my artist friends have been to branding. It can feel like a frustrating waste of time- time that should be spent making art, or making money! But in truth, the process of branding is both an act of artistic creation and business development.

      Drew, that is the trick! I have avoided branding myself- because I didn’t want to get boxed in- but I forget how important limitations are. A friend of mine always says that if you have scattered focus, you have scattered results. Time to focus on what I want, and how I can bring value to my community- and buckle down on my brand.

        That’s a great way of looking at it Angela. You’re right, creating a brand does kind of force you to focus your energies in a certain direction (at least for now!)

        I know that one thing that I’ve always struggled with personally is how much of my “experimental” side projects do I reveal and when, knowing that many of them are little more than curiosity gone wild. But I do think its important to find a way to focus your efforts and let go of competing distractions once you know what direction you want to go.

Like so many artists, I create art every day and have done so since I was a young child, which ultimately, like many of us, has become a part of who we are. I, like you, have an artistic muscle memory so to speak, like that of which an athlete or musician holds from early years of practicing. Whether I am working on a painting, drawing, writing or sculpting for my cake boutique, it’s a need that is worked on routinely, however there is another side that I work on, the business end of things. I am thankful everyday, because I have been in business with my husband for over 30 years which also has equally become muscle memory and which also has allowed me to feed myself and create at the same time. What the ins and outs of owning a business has taught me is that you have to wear many hats and two of those major hats are marketing and branding oneself. It is very true that there is a fine line of branding, almost like the line that an actor or actress has to be wary of in order to not dance on the grounds of being typecast. I have found that one really great way to lesson the role of typecasting is by doing a business plan, which in return forces you to go out and research who your target audience is, provide the demographics of your target audience and how much you plan to create and sell. This information will consequently help to set you on a clearer path to your goal of where you will want to be or at least plan to be in 6 months or maybe 1 or 5 years. I highly recommend that every artist take one marketing course. I’ve been lucky enough to have business basically forced upon me through centuries of family in business but creating has naturally come before for me, like you

I am now on a new adventure of ending my cake business so I can return to the love of painting and sculpting full time. I’m excited to venture back into my familiar grounds and again will treat my art as a business complete with business plan. Business and art together are the keys to success.

Best wishes and success to all of you artists out there.


[…] came across an article written by Angela Cross on the blog Skinny Artist in which she discusses artist brand. She defines […]

[…] The Brand of You Bringing it to an even more honest note than the above article, The Brand of You breaks down the fact that you’re human, and you’re going to change. Creating something that has the inability to change is not ideal, but something more organic that you can tweak over time is more natural. It also offers a reality that having a brand won’t make you successful, and the brand might not hit that sweet spot of the kind of work you’re doing/ the kind of artist you are or want to be. It’s a snap shot image that’s really one dimensional that leaves you, it’s creator, to fill in the rest of the story. A brand can’t live without it’s source of existence, which always comes back to you, the artist. […]

This was a great article to read. The value in branding is so substantial in resonating with an audience. Now that I come to think about it, the biggest names in music right now all seem to have a powerful brand image that sticks out. Think about Taylor Swift, Kanye West, G-Eazy, or even Miley Cyrus who experienced a brand evolution. They all have aspects about their music, personality and image that all fit together and represent a particular brand. It’s easily recognizable and communicated consistently, and that resonates in audiences who like them. The process of defining and strategizing how you’ll communicate that to the public should be taken deeply into consideration and not overlooked. Great post!!

    I think you’re right Taylor that the most memorable artists are consistent with their image. Even if it changes over time, they find a way to maintain that image in a way that resonates with their audience. Of course everyone is not going to like them, and the artists that you mention certainly have more than their fair share of haters and doubters, but they don’t let it stop them from following their path. Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us!

Hey Angela, this is a great introduction to artist branding! This is the first time I come across Skinny Artist, I bookmarked it.


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