Music marketing and artist brand development

Brand development is a key element of any marketing strategy. As an indie musician, your artist brand includes everything that helps you maintain a unique position in the market.

This includes your:

  • Artist/band name
  • Artist logo
  • Image (dress, graphic art style)
  • Musical sound
  • Color palette
  • Community outreach and interaction
  • Live performance

Your artist brand is not at odds with your artistry; on the contrary, your artist brand should reflect the genuine approach you take to your art, your community interaction, your live show, and your message. As an indie act, your artist brand is the approach you take to every aspect of your career and the way you present yourself to the market and your fans.

It is important to reinforce and nurture your brand through your online presence once it has been established. With all the social media chaos and clutter, you need to make it easier for your dedicated fans to find and engage with you. Given that your artist brand can be anything that makes you stand out, here are some things you can focus on to flavor your online presence with your unique voice and style, with examples of ways musicians have leveraged social media to further develop their brand and make it easier for their fans to seek them out, engage, and deepen their connection.

1. Maintain consistency across all your social media profiles

This can be filed under "best practice" in regard to all your marketing. Every strong brand maintains a consistent look and feel. Your band website, being your online hub, should define the look and feel that the rest of your social networking sites follow. That doesn't mean it needs to be static: your band website should reflect the look and feel of your most recent work or release.

When Dr. Dog released B Room, you can see that the skinning, color palette, font, and imagery reflected the look and feel of the album cover. The band took this look and feel and expanded that experience beyond the website to their social networking efforts, including Twitter and Facebook.

2. Start a movement

Starting a movement isn't as simple as dreaming something up, but there’s no question you can contribute to the development of your artist brand if you can get people behind a movement you start or spearhead. Cleveland-based rapper Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) not only put a name on his "EST" movement, but he gave fans a calling-card in the form of an exclamation. MGK and his fans began using the term “Lace Up” as a mantra for positive thinking: Whatever life throws at you, lace up and move forward. "Lace Up" became a powerful statement of loyalty to the EST movement, which MGK used on his Facebook artist page to chronicle his journey and the journey of his unique fan base.

To cement his fans' emotional – and even physical – connection to the “Lace Up” statement, MGK's debut album was titled Lace Up.

3. Use of imagery to further develop brand

Lady Gaga with her ever-changing but always flamboyant look. Steven Tyler with his hair streaks and scarves. Michael Jackson with the one sparkly glove. The list of music artists and their identifiable imagery goes on. Your music and sound are all-important, but your image is also an integral component in the development of your brand. This is a concept that goes way beyond music – think Steve Jobs and his black turtleneck. Now, you might not want to be locked in to one look for the rest of your life, but one way of making yourself instantly recognizable to the market is to develop a look that is all yours.

Sometimes, it might be by embracing something antithetical that might work for you. Macklemore did just that with "Thrift Shop," which took a different take on hip hop's culture of celebrating designer brands. “Thrift Shop” set the stage for a niche that no one else was occupying, and Macklemore further developed the theme by taking to Instagram and posting photos of himself trying on one-of-a-kind thrift shop purchases from different cities while on tour. This endeavor helped Macklemore further develop his brand image, and style, to the point where it bled into his official press photos and high-profile appearances.

4. Consistent messaging

As an artist developing and maintaining a brand, it is important to maintain consistency in your messaging across newsletters, blog, tweets, and even your artist bio. Any copy you publish should maintain the style and substance that makes you unique.

Singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles has always done a great job with consistency in her messaging. She approaches her writing from a very personal place — in fact, her official bio is actually written in the first person, and she is honest about who she is and what drives her. Most importantly, Sara is consistent. As you can see, Sara’s Facebook bio (also in the first person) mentions the fact that she has a potty mouth, which she has also mentioned in blog posts (guess which person she's writing in?).

5. Monitoring engagement

OK, this is another best practice, but it is absolutely critical that you monitor all the aspects of your brand. Search for key terms that either directly reflect your brand (your band name on Twitter, and general Internet searches) as well as keywords that relate to your location, musical genre, or favorite artists, you will be able to identify existing conversations by new or existing fans and tastemakers – AKA people you want to associate with.

Why not take a page from Amanda Palmer's playbook? I know, you're tired of Amanda Palmer being heralded as the queen of the Internet, but the fact is, she knows what she’s doing. All of the attention Amanda garners from things like her $1 million Kickstarter campaign is due to the fact that she is not only engaging her fans, but she's monitoring and re-engaging with them all the time. The dedication of her fan base is a reflection of the dedication she shows them through her constant validation of their support.

Go through Amanda Palmer’s Twitter feed and you'll find her retweets almost match (if not surpass) her original tweets. Palmer is often seeking out fans who are speaking about her and retweeting them, showing her constant appreciation of their affection. Even with 1.15 million followers on Twitter, she still goes out of her way to retweet the fans that take the time to speak about her most recent show, TED talk, blog post, album, etc.


Jon Ostrow is Director of Sales at Bandsintown. Follow him on Twitter @jon_ostrow.