A Guide to Music Branding 2021 and Beyond

Branding is one of the most important aspects of a music career these days. Read on to find out how this has changed in digital and how it can benefit your music career.

An article invited by Janelle Borg by AmplifyYou

Streaming, NFT, brand partnerships, crypto, communication strategies, social media calendar… right minds don’t go into music to face all those buzzwords!

However, changing consumption patterns and emerging technologies show no signs of stopping, and the music-technology partnership has established itself as one of the main “breakout stars” of 2020. As a result, artists need to explore less traditional avenues when promoting their wares and build meaningful relationships with their target audience.

Creating a 21st century artist brand requires artists and their teams to consider all of these digital platforms. A successful branding campaign must aim to reach new fans, allow the artist to stand out in the competitive and often oversaturated worlds of streaming and social media platforms, engage current fans, turn casual listeners into dedicated fans. and monetize the fanbase while remaining authentic to the artistic vision.

But what is musical branding, anyway? And how can branding take an artist to the next level?

Musical branding: in brief

Let’s break down the often confusing buzzword that is branding.

According to Collins Dictionary, “The brand of a product is the presentation of it to the public in a way that makes it easy to recognize or identify. “

Music branding encompasses an artist’s overall message, image, values, ambitions, music, lyrics, themes, personality, etc. In essence, this is what makes the artist unique and recognizable, help the fans identify with the artist, his image and his music.

A successful marketing and communications strategy must differentiate Artist X from its competitors and create a cohesive experience that builds loyal followers. A branding strategy should include a clear roadmap for building brand identity, brand awareness and brand loyalty.

Brand identity refers to the visible elements of a brand, such as your artist name and logo, your website, and social media color scheme. Branding takes branding a step further – it focuses on the intention behind the choice of specific themes, this ultimately leads to the brand image that is to say the real result.

The brand awareness strategy refers to How? ‘Or’ What you will make your target audience aware that you exist and what sets you apart from the competition.

Finally, brand loyalty is fandom. Your fans should start to feel like they are part of a community. In addition, it is your heart public which tends to serve as a megaphone in the digital sphere. They are dedicated to your music and art and are the ones who are ready to buy your concert tickets and merchandise.

Branding in the Age of Streaming

The rise of ambient television and ‘backward’ music (visual elements and music that technically function as screen savers on a daily basis) has made background music one of the genres most popular on DSPs. As of May 2021, Spotify playlists such as “Peaceful Piano”, “Deep Focus” and “Lo-Fi beats” have approximately 4.5 million subscribers each.

Due to this trend, lo-fi producers are racking up millions of streams. However, there is a disparity between the number of monthly listeners on DSPs and the actual number of loyal fans. A chamber producer can have over 500,000 monthly listeners and be included in playlists curated by a high ranking editor. However, when you go to their Instagram, they often only have a few hundred or thousand followers, with low to medium engagement rates.

What is causing this huge disparity? Simple: it all comes down to brand loyalty. The tunes from these bedroom producers serve as mood tracks that people listen to while in a cafe or relaxing at home (and baking bread). They are not loyal to the artist per se – they are only loyal to their carefully curated playlists.

Use branding to enhance your profile

Our visual memory is an extremely powerful facet of our mind. When people see an artist, they associate specific visuals with him. The visuals add an exciting layer to the artist’s story and reinforce the sound element, cementing a song or artist in people’s minds. Therefore, interesting visuals can help you stand out from the crowd of seemingly similar artists, as they intensify the memorable aspect of your project.

Social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok are primarily visual platforms that allow artists to connect with fans through a simple photo or video. The predominance of these apps on every individual’s phone means that artists need to step up their game, as a striking visual identity is needed to strengthen the connection with pre-existing fans and attract new followers.

The following marketing efforts combine innovative technology and creativity to create an immersive experience that engages fans:

  • Customization: Use platforms like Twitch and Patreon to deliver exclusive content to paid fans, as well as relatively old ways like interacting with your fans on social media, broadcasting live with your fans on Instagram, and sending niche-specific mailings.
  • Virtual reality: Interact with fans via VR headsets and collaborate with video game developers to create a virtual concert (See Travis Scott’s collaboration with Fortnite)
  • Augmented reality: create artist-specific face filters for Instagram as well as interactive music videos and merchandise designs.
  • NFT: Create non-fungible tokens and certified digital collectibles that your best fans can bid on.

How do I define myself as an artist?

Branding an artist can be broken down into three main stages: defining, building and marketing your brand.

Define your brand – Start by asking questions such as

  • What inspires you as an artist?
  • How would you describe your sound?
  • What subcultures and communities do you belong to?
  • What message are you trying to get across?
  • Who do you think sounds similar?
  • Who is your idol?
  • How would you describe your fashion sense?

Build your brand – Use your responses to create “tangible” elements such as your artist name, logo, color scheme, website, social media profiles, merchandising, and stage persona.

Market your brand – Identify the main marketing channels that would suit your brand and constantly seek to perfect and expand your brand to different channels and regions of the world. Channels can include, but are not limited to, live broadcasts, social media platforms, brands you can partner with, merchandise, and more.

What K-Pop can teach us about branding

K-Pop is one of South Korea’s biggest exports and accounts for 0.3% of the country’s GDP.

The most important element that makes the K-Pop industry successful is the way they approach branding and marketing. Prior to their debut, each K-pop group or artist had their own name, logo, color, visuals, website, fandom name, etc. The companies also carefully select the style and personality of each member within the group, allowing fans to choose and support their preferred member.

BTS, the biggest export of K-Pop, has redefined the branding and marketing of music. Their fandom – the BTS ARMY – is the epitome of brand loyalty: the group has the Midas touch, and their fans are ready to buy whatever BTS has to offer. Their million-dollar partnerships with Puma, Line Friends, and Mattel, among others, have made this group a global powerhouse. Through their constant interaction with fans on social media (they even have a unified fan-band logo) and their label’s savvy branding strategy, BTS has built an empire, with products and experiences ranging from a multi-city art installation – Connect BTS – at BTS Approved Fried Chicken. Western fans, in particular, appreciate BTS’s dedication to their fans and the fact that they interact with them on social media and fan channels. Additionally, they’re also drawn to the fact that the K-Pop industry requires artists to release multiple projects per year (called comebacks). This work ethic of one of the world’s tiger economies prioritizes fans over pure art, satisfying the needs of the 21st century digital consumer.

Where do we go from here?

The dominance of streaming and social media has led artists and their teams to come up with innovative approaches to age-old puzzles of branding and identity.

Social media platforms and innovative digital technologies have created a plethora of opportunities for artists to interact with their fans and create a totally immersive experience that completely shatters the concept of artist mystique. Artists such as BTS and their team managed to break down the fourth wall to create a powerful fandom that took the group’s success to new heights.

Overall, a branding formula based on the ever-narrowing gap between “artist” and “fan” is the way to go in a world where the boundaries between virtual and real are blurred.

Janelle Borg knows a thing or two about the music industry. Involved in the industry since the age of 13, she is now involved in a variety of music related projects and is always keen to share industry tips and tricks with other musicians.

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