If you’re in a band, getting your name out there requires much more than releasing the odd Soundcloud track and Tweeting now and then. Your image and music should go hand in hand, not be mutually exclusive.
You need to bring your band to life by building a defined brand which acts as a personal identity for the group. When people think of your band, what do you want them to see? What do you want them to feel?
Creating a brand and applying it to everything you do – whether it’s writing a song or marketing your music – will give you the best chance of connecting with your audience.
Here are our main branding tips for bands.
Pick a brand that tells a story
Wherever your band’s brand appears – whether it’s artwork for an album or single, visuals for a gig, a social media image or general merchandise – it needs to say something about you.
Your persona, your values, your experiences. All these facets separate you from the rest and form your band’s narrative, which is captured by a tangible brand. The brand should resonate with people enough that they buy into it and integrate it into their own lives.
It’s like the saying goes: action creates emotion. In other words, a clear brand creates a loyal fanbase made up of people who identify with said brand. This is why it’s so important to consider what emotions you want your brand to trigger.
Take the Sex Pistols as an example. From their promotional posters featuring a torn Union Flag to their infamous live performance of ‘God Save the Queen’ next to the House of Commons – every aspect of their brand was aimed at a niche group of people who were disillusioned with the establishment.
Credit: Sex Pistols
The Sex Pistols’ brand reflected successive governments’ failings of the young working classes and made the Sex Pistols arguably the most revered punk rock band of all time. This brings us nicely onto the next tip…
Know who you’re targeting and why
While some musicians pride themselves on their universal appeal, others like their audiences to be much more defined.
For instance, when Public Enemy were starting out, their primary target audience was members of the African-American community who felt marginalised by both the mainstream media and the ‘powers that be’.
So before you pen a single lyric, choose a single font or write a single social media update, consider who your brand is reaching out to. What age range do they fall into? What’s their background? What are their values? What challenges do they face? What lifestyle do they have?
Knowing the answers to these questions will inform the kind of music you make and how you visually showcase yourselves. After all, every logo means something to someone, as this NME article shows.
Don’t be afraid to spend some money
Sticking with this idea of your band’s values being visually brought to life – if you’re outsourcing design work, the last thing you want is to end up with a mediocre representation of your band because you cut corners.
Perception is everything when you’re a band and your image defines how people perceive you and your music. That’s why you should always strive for the highest quality, most aesthetically pleasing branding possible, whether this means investing a bit more money or not (provided you have the money, obviously).
There’s an abundance of specialist design agencies that can help you achieve the right look and feel for your band – it’s just about finding the most reputable and reliable. A simple Google search of ‘graphic designers for bands’ will give you an idea of what’s out there.
Communicate across different channels
Gone are the days when bands would create a half-baked website and update it once every few months. The digital age is in full swing, and the likes of MySpace don’t cut it as engagement platforms anymore.
As touched on above, modern day aspiring bands and musicians have refined websites containing regularly updated content such as blogs, along with supporting material such as monthly newsletters. Engaging with your audience in a meaningful way will tap into their interests much more than if you appear disinterested in giving back to them.
Doing some paid social media activity to promote your band is another great way to build a following and engage with the people you really want to reach. You can target people by age, location, interests – and even native language!
Paid social is not the only type of media you can use to engage with your audience – earned, owned and paid media all have merits in maximising brand exposure. Here’s a comprehensive guide to all three.
Change is a good thing
Once you’ve got a brand, don’t feel like you have to stick to it indefinitely. Many of the world’s best-known artists have changed their image throughout their careers.
Just look at David Bowie. One minute he was Major Tom, the next he was Ziggy Stardust – and yet, he still managed to retain a loyal fanbase while attracting new audiences along the way. Bowie was the master of the rebrand and his fans not only bought into his music, they bought into his varying personas and stories.
Arctic Monkeys are another good example of successful rebranding. They’ve just updated their website with a brand new logo and, from 2006 to the present day, they’ve had five different logos. In fact, the artwork for their first four studio albums featured a different logo from the previous record. Despite so many visual changes over the years, it’s fair to say they’ve still enjoyed a successful career.
However, if you’re looking at rebranding, maybe don’t go the extremes of Prince and change your band name to an unpronounceable symbol. While we’re all for creative flair, this kind of move is likely to end your career before it’s even begun.
Most importantly – be yourself
This is perhaps the simplest branding tip we can give you, but it’s arguably the most important. Everything you write, perform or say is unique to you in some way, so your brand needs to reflect this. Differentiate yourself from other bands out there and show your true colours as a band (in both a literal and metaphorical sense!)