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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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 AngelaMarieCross.com