Ok, so we want to bring up branding AGAIN. Why? Because it’s really freaking important. End of story. Ok, you get that (sorry). We’re diving back into it because there are almost endless aspects of it to bring to your attention. We’ve talked about branding yourself. In that post we established that your brand is your identity. We’ve also talked about doing your homework as a general concept. This post is intended to take that a step farther. This is a specific task that you should constantly have on your to-do list: pay attention to what’s going on around you.
When you’re first starting out, it may seem silly to think about branding. Maybe you don’t want to have a “thing” and that’s ok -- we’re not asking you to dress in costume and pretend you’re something you're not.
However, it is very important to establish who you are as an artist and the visual representation that will help potential fans understand what you’re all about. There are some people that automatically have an idea of what they want their project to look and feel like. Most artists are a little lost on this. Or if they do have a concept, aren’t exactly sure how to execute it. That’s why when you’re starting out, it’s extremely important to do one simple thing: PAY ATTENTION.
If you’re itching to have industry or fan support and it doesn’t seem to be coming along as quickly, it may have to do with how you’re presenting yourself.
Many times, if the whole project doesn’t look professional, it’s a no-go. These days everyone has access to graphic and editing apps, so there is no excuse to look unprofessional and out of touch. Don’t fall into the 90s alt-rock trap. You know it when you see it: perpetual scowl, at least one photo of you with your back against a brick wall (looking sideways of course), overly edited/high contrast photos… YOU KNOW THE LOOK. Why so many bands have that as their go-to look is a mystery to me, but I see it daily.
Here are a few ways to make sure you look relevant and pro:
Pick a handful of artists that you admire or who inspire you and check out what they are doing every single day. If you are having creative roadblocks with your brand, this will help shake out ideas.
Do a literal side by side comparison of your brand with other similar (and slightly more successful) artists. What needs work? Are your photos a little too amateur? Stylistically speaking, are you in the same era?
Look at all aspects of your own brand - do they match up? Do your photos match the feel of your songs? Do your videos reflect the same look as your photos? Is the font the same across all graphics? These are small, but very important notes.
Think about why fans or potential fans would want to be a part of your movement and follow you. Do they come for beautiful content? Do they come for your personal brand of ridiculous humor? Whatever it is they seem to like, DO THAT. Ask yourself why YOU like to follow other artists - I'd imagine it's pretty similar to how people should feel about you.
Pick a theme. If you’ll notice, a lot of your favorite bands have photos that looks pretty similar. Try to choose one edit that you do on all of your photos -- it’ll get your socials looking pro in a snap.
Last, but not least, if you are paying attention to other successful bands, you’ll notice that they aren’t promoting non-stop. Fans want to feel like they are a part of your world, not just a part of your promotional cycle.
My future plans include giving a full run-down on cheap/free, easy to use editing apps, but here’s a few to get you started:
Fonts: Da Font / My Fonts / Calligraphr (create your own!) - please note that not all fonts are available for free for commercial use. If you plan to use something on an album then you should definitely check into the usage policy. Usually the creator just asks for a small fee.
Of course, if you want to really go pro then try and learn the Adobe suite of products. They are AMAZING once you get them down. The buy in is pretty pricey, but if you can learn to do literally whatever you want, then it just might be worth it. Otherwise, the options above are more than capable of putting together something legit.
REASON TO IGNORE THIS ADVICE: You are a 90’s alt-rock band! Scowl away!