fbpx

The Ultimate Guide To Music Branding: Stand Out, Be Remembered, And Leave A Lasting Impression On Every Person (And Future Fan) You Meet

Traditional branding methods do not work with music. This does.

As an artist, do you struggle with music branding? Do you think it’s harder than it should be, almost like a fog is surrounding you? No matter what you do, you can’t see through it? If there was a way to clear that fog and brand your music, would you?

That’s what this guide is all about.

Before we start, I gotta level with you.

As a musician, branding music is hard…but the reason for that might surprise you.

If you’ve ever seriously researched music business, you already know the importance of branding.

I followed traditional branding advice. No matter what I did, nothing felt right. The result was never getting a brand that fit my music.

All that changed when I started following the steps in this article. This article will show you how to…

  • Hit the ground running with a consistent and authentic brand, streamlined on all platforms.
  • Match the visual designs and graphical elements of your brand with the sound of your music.
  • Make strategic decisions about which venues and events to perform so you get better results, faster, and with less effort.
  • Make decisions about your direction without second-guessing yourself.
  • Draw people into your fan base instead of working hard to convince them to tag along—your brand will do it for you.
  • Stand head and shoulder above other artists—earn more income, have a larger fanbase, get better gigs—even if you’re not as talented.

Having a strong music brand will ensure you stand out, are remembered, and leave a lasting impression on every person (and future fan) you meet.

And if that doesn’t frost your onion, I don’t know what will.

Let’s start with the three steps to brand music. Then we’ll bring these steps together in a case study with actions steps that you can apply immediately to brand your music.

Step 1: Forget Everything You’ve Learned About Music Branding

Just as Yoda cautioned Luke when training him to be a Jedi, you, too, must, “unlearn what you have learned.” Because when it comes to branding your music, following conventional branding ‘wisdom’ just ain’t gonna work.

Music Branding 101

Think about it, what have you been taught branding music is all about?

  • That your brand is built around the mission of your music and what you want to accomplish?
  • That branding music is about finding your ‘ideal audience’ and matching their expectations so they buy what you’re selling?
  • That it’s about how you dress, so people instantly know what you’re all about based on how you look and act?
  • That branding music is all about your ‘elevator pitch’—you have to convey who you are in a sentence or two?
  • You should look at existing artists and model what you do and how you act after them?

Sound familiar?

It’s what we’re told… But it’s not the whole truth.

Before we continue, I don’t want my criticisms to be misconstrued as disrespect. These folks are doing their best to help.

And some of the wisest branding aficionados get close to what branding is really about.

They say that branding has nothing to do with graphics or logo or genre; it’s all about planting a perception in the minds of other people so that they perceive you in a certain way whenever they think about, see or hear you.

If you were a traditional business, this is what you’d be shooting for.

But to brand your music, it’s not good enough.

We musicians have to go deeper. I’m going to show you in a moment, but first, you need to understand something:

IMPORTANT: Business branding and music branding are two different things.

To brand your music differently, my 3 Ways To Brand Your Music cheatsheet will show you. –> Download FREE cheatsheet.

Music is personal. It has the unique ability to impact people in a way that a simple product or business never could.

This presents a unique challenge when branding your music. Because you’re competing with all the great musicians that have come before you. The ‘great ones’ have already claimed a space (a “brand”) in the minds/hearts of other people.

That bond is rooted waay deeper than a traditional business because it was fused though music.

To create that same bond, you must first communicate why you are different.

We’ll cover this topic more in Step 2, but to get you thinking, start by answering this question:

Why should someone pay attention to me, when there are thousands of others, why me?

As A Music Artist, There’s Only One Way To Be Original

In truth, there is nothing new under the sun. Everything has been done before. Even music.

There is, however, one unique thing to in this world: you. You are the only thing that has never been done before. Of which your music is a direct reflection.

To hook people’s attention, you must exemplify and convey the ‘spirit’ of your music through your brand. The most effective way to do that is through graphics and design.

Here’s the thing. Music is abstract. In order to brand your music effectively you need to convey the abstractness of your music through visual representations.

Match Your Brand With The Sound Of Your Music

Now that you know branding music is different, and traditional branding isn’t good enough and what to do instead, where do you start?

How can you brand something that has that much power in one communication medium (sound) and duplicate that feeling in a completely different medium (sight)?

When there’s so much information available, it helps to simplify your options.

To brand your music, there are actually only four models you can follow. I call these “archetypes”.

Let’s start with a simple breakdown of each archetype:

  • Thematic – where you follow a theme
  • Personal – where you create a personal brand
  • Persona – where you create a persona
  • Genre – where you model your brand based on existing artists

Which archetype do you think is best for your music? My 3 Ways To Brand Your Music cheatsheet will show you. Get it free here –> Download FREE cheatsheet.

So, here’s thequestion.

If your goal is to be authentic and create a brand that matches your music, how do you know which archetype is right for you?

That brings us to step two.

STEP 2: Forget About Your Music And Go Deeper

Yep, that’s right—forget it!

You might be thinking, “But, Greg, you said that to brand my music, I have to connect it with a visual design. How am I supposed to do that when you’re telling me to forget my music?”

What A Nazi Prisoner Taught Me About Music Branding

To understand why this is, we need to consider an important lesson from a World War Two prisoner.

Viktor Frankl wrote a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning”, which tells the story of how he survived the Holocaust. And shares how living in a concentration camp led to him to a meaningful life.

During his torture, he envisioned his life after the war, and how he’d use the experiences to inspire and help others. Because of that, even during the most brutal degrading moments he found a higher purpose for them.

Mr. Frankl concluded that when an individual is not aware of their purpose, that that is the cause of all their struggle in life. Including a lack of focus, feelings of meaninglessness, fear, doubt, resentment, indecision, and even frustration. And referred to this as the difference between living life from the “outside-in” vs. the “inside-out”.

He talks about discovering what he called “the last human freedom” and how, every day, he had to make a decision: to submit to the Nazi’s attempts to break his spirit, or continue to use the experience to follow his purpose.

Branding Music: Outside-In vs. Inside-Out

If you have no purpose guiding you, no internal compass, you leave yourself open to become the victim of circumstance. Your freedom, creativity, and flexibility are subordinate to the decisions, opinions and actions of others. Stated another way, things that happen outside of you that you cannot control end up controlling you. You’re living your life from the outside-in.

Compare that to living from the inside-out. When you discover your purpose and use your daily life to live it out. This gives you the ability to make decisions free from outside manipulation, corruption. This unchanging core within you, empowers you to use your unique talents and abilities to impact the lives of other people in a way that gives you meaning and fulfillment. In other words, you’re free to act instead of being acted-on.

You’re probably thinking, “Greg, WTF does this have to do with branding my music?”

Most of us are taught to brand our music from the outside-in. We look at…

  • Other people
  • Other musicians
  • Other genres
  • What other people like
  • What other people think
  • Fitting a style of music

Labeling ourselves so that people see us in a way that we might be accepted and placed in a ‘box’.

All of these things exist outside of us. Traditional branding doesn’t teach us to look inside: to ourselves.

What Happens When You Brand Music From The Outside-In?

When you brand music from the outside in, you:

  • Lack originality
  • Imitate other people
  • Lack confidence, direction and guidance
  • Feel uncertain and unfocused

You don’t know how to brand authentically and consistently, because you look at the surface and don’t know how to look below it.

Consequently, you don’t “believe” in your own brand because you know it’s based on someone else’s expectations instead of your own.

This makes it especially hard to stand out and grow an audience because you aren’t clear—in your own mind—how you’re using your music to impact the lives of other people in a way that gives you meaning.

It’s not authentic. It’s superficial—and it doesn’t work.

music-branding-from-outside-in

Branding your music from the outside-in.

As a musician in today’s world, that is a death sentence.

You have to go deeper.

Here’s how…

Branding Your Music From The Inside-Out

Branding music from the inside-out means getting to know your ‘self’. Thinking deeply about who you are, what you believe, how you want to impact the world, and the legacy you want to leave, not as a musician but as an individual.

And here’s what happens:

  • Your purpose and vision become clear and are consistent with your music.
  • You’re able to align your music with your values and express yourself instead of imitating what others do.
  • You go beyond simple style and visuals to something that can connect on a deeper level with people.
  • You become a leader and an influencer.
  • You have a greater ability to impact the lives of other people through your music in a way that is true and authentic.

Most importantly, branding from the inside-out allows you to make strategic, deliberate decisions about your music career.

It removes doubt and fear and the final result is a crystal clear brand that fits perfectly with your music.

And people then have no choice but to pay attention to you.

Want to brand your music from the inside-out? My FREE cheatsheet shows you how.

And the best part?

Get clear on this—from the inside-out—and you become equipped to answer, for yourself, every question you’ve ever had about how to brand your music.

music-branding-from-the-inside-out

Branding your music from the inside-out.

You can begin to align everything you do—decisions you make, music you create, etc.—with your purpose, without second-guessing yourself. This gives you the freedom and flexibility to be creative and visually experiment, and still maintain a strong brand that never contradicts itself.

All because you have clearly defined for yourself who you are, what you want, and how you want to impact the world. You can start asking yourself…

How can I use my music to do that?

…whatever “that” is.

Once you’ve managed to nail this part, all you need to do is follow a framework of branding and design best practices to start putting visuals to your music…

Want to brand your music from the inside-out? My FREE cheatsheet shows you how.

Step 3: Music Branding, Focus On 3 Things

Once you’ve identified how you want to impact the world with your music, you’re ready to connect the dots between the sound of your music and a visual design.

This is where traditional branding tells you to start; but you’ve gone deeper. You have the advantage.

Remember what we said about how to brand music in step one? You’re looking for your branding to:

…. convey the abstractness of your music through visual representations. To match the visual elements of your brand with the way your music sounds in a way that is consistent and authentic.

So how can you begin doing that?

The three key elements for branding your music

There’s no need to complicate this. It’s quite simple:

  1. Color
  2. Graphics and art-style
  3. Logo

These are explained in detail below, with specific examples of how they can be applied in practice…

1. Color

Color is the first thing people notice when they look at your brand. People’s first perceptions of your music brand and the way those people “feel” about it is 90 percent influenced by color.
The science behind this is that colors bring forth different emotions when we look at them. They affect our psyche.

To explain, I want you to picture yourself in a room painted all yellow, and then a room painted all blue. You’ll feel different things in each room because of the mood created by the color. This is the best way to pick your brand color to match the sound of your music.

Example: How To Pick Your Brand Color

Say a musician is going through this branding process, and discovered that their purpose is to make people happy. They write music always with this in the back of their mind. They like the color red but discover red alone actually conveys anger and violence. That doesn’t represent their music.

Instead, they list all the emotions they want people to feel when they listen to their music. They look up every color that conveys each of those emotions and discover that bright, fun colors are the best fit for them.

Then they follow a guide to pick a color palette to use in all their music branding (image below). Logo, graphics, biz cards, social media posts, fliers, etc. everything is consistent. Now, every time someone looks at their branding, they “feel” their music. All this is done through color.

music-brand-color-wheel-sample

2. Graphics And Art-style

What are graphics and art-style and how can you use them to brand your music?

Think about graphics and art-style as if they were a picture. A picture is worth a thousand words, allowing you to say many things at once through a single image. That’s what you want to achieve with your graphics and art-style.

Graphics and art-style are the visual elements you use in all your marketing collateral: images, merch, graphics, biz cards, social media posts. etc.

music-brand-marketing-collateral-sample-image

Courtesy of Depositphotos.

See how the above branding mock-up is unified and consistant? You want to create a similar unified branding for your music.

Here’s how…

How To Ensure Your Art-Style Is Visually Consistent AND Fits The Vibe Of Your Music.

There are three types of graphics and art-style you can work with…

  1. Images – provide detail, literal, physical, like real life objects.
  2. Patterns – graphics that repeat, good for backgrounds. Fun and professional.
  3. Graphical (illustrations) – images that are designed in 2D. Graphics-based and designed on a computer.

Which is best?

Remember, you want to be visually consistent AND fit the vibe of your music. How do you make the best choice for your music?

An easy way to achieve that, is to always ensure you use the same colors. But what else? There’s actually a process you can go through to guarantee you pick what’s right for your music and be visually consistent.

I’m going to demonstrate that process using images, but you can follow these steps to pick patterns, graphics and anything else.

You begin in the same way that you picked your color—but with a little twist.

First – Find an image that you think best represents your music and save it to your desktop. To find your image, I recommend using Google Search. (Remember, if an image is worth a thousand words, you’d use this image to describe your music.)

Second – List three emotions that come to mind when you look at the image you picked. This is important, remember, because music is abstract. It’s all about stirring emotions in others. To translate those emotions visually, you have to be aware of what they are so that you can look for them in visual representations. This allows you to be deliberate and purposeful.

3. Logo

In addition to color and graphics, you need a logo that represents your music. This is the visual manifestation of everything we’ve talked about so far.

So how can you apply it in practice?

Combine everything:

  1. Purpose
  2. Color
  3. Graphics and art-style

Example 1

My logo: MusicianMonster

musician-monster-logo

My tagline: “Rock on and Prosper”. This phrase also represents my purpose: to help creative people prosper doing what they love.

Here’s an example of the type of graphics I use with my brand. It’s a visual representation of a “MusicianMonster”: a prosperous musician.

Musician-Monster-Guitarist-White-Outline

“Yo.”

Remember the four branding archetypes? Theme, Persona, Genre, and Personal.

Which archetype do you think I’ve followed in MusicianMonster brand?

That’s right, persona!

If you want to know which archetype is best for your music, download my 3 Ways To Brand Your Music cheatsheet. (It’s free.)

Let’s look at one more top level example to demonstrate how connecting purpose, brand, and music works before going into our case study.

Example 2

Say a musician is going through this process to brand their music. They loved comic books as a kid. They love them as an adult but people make fun of them. They are frustrated and their music reflects that but they aren’t sure why.

Identify Purpose – Through the branding process, they’ve decided that they love being a nerd and to hell what people think.

Connect Purpose And Music – They’ve realized that they want to use their music to give people like them a sense of belonging and identity.

Maximum Impact Via Brand, Design And Strategy – They play gigs at comic-con, and video game and anime conventions. They start a YouTube channel featuring covers of them playing anime theme songs. Their music has a mascot: a superhero. They drew it themselves. They put this on their merchandise. They’ve got a world-class brand and their fan base grows organically. And they are 100% true and authentic.

See how that works?

Let’s go through it together and I’ll show you how, if you follow this process, branding your music is easier than you probably expect.

Music Branding Case Study

Bree Noble, in addition to being the founder and CEO of femusician.com and host of the Woman of Substance Podcast, is an independent musician. And the guinea pig in our how-to-brand-music case study.

Identify Purpose

Bree and I started with a 30-minute chat. Following is a screenshot of my outline for the call and the simple questions to draw out regarding her purpose and how she wanted to impact others through her music.

She shared that she has glaucoma and how she’s had to cope with this without it limiting her. And through that, she finds meaning in helping others do the same. She said helping people “overcoming personal roadblocks” is why she does what she does.

Now that she was clear on how her music impacts others, the next task was to find a way to connect that with a visual brand.

Connect Purpose And Music

Remember that we’re trying to convey the abstractness of our music through visual representations. Here’s how Bree did that:

I asked her to use three words to describe her music.

She said “classical, refined, sophisticated”.

Then, I asked her to identify a picture that best represented her music.

She chose this one (below), the cover from her album entitled “Healing Waters”.

 bree-noble-music-healing-waters

Then I asked her to describe this picture in three words.

She said: ”deepness, calming, peaceful”.

We’re 75% done with the branding process.

And you’re probably thinking, “What??? Where are the designs?”

Once you have these questions answered, the rest is easy. To start designing, we need one tiny thing cleared up: to decide which of the four brand archetypes to follow.

If you want to know which archetype is best for your music, my 3 Ways To Brand Your Music cheatsheet will show you. It’s free.

Maximum Impact Via Brand, Design And Strategy

I asked her several simple questions to decide which archetype to brand her music with. Like you, Bree knows her music better than anybody else. She’s a “live performer/singer/songwriter”. On stage, it’s just her singing and playing the keys. She covers Classic Broadway songs in addition to her originals, and identified that the people who relate most to her live performances are folks who saw classic Broadway plays in their youth.

We settled on a theme of Classic Broadway.  And decided to follow that to brand her live performance. All her graphics would be consistent with that theme (archetype).

If you want to know which archetype is best for your music, my 3 Ways To Brand Your Music cheatsheet will show you. It’s free.

Here’s how we did it.

For inspiration, we did a Google search for “classic broadway poster”. Looking for anything that evoked the words she used earlier to describe her music: “classical, refined, sophisticated; deepness, calmness, peacefulness.”

Scrolling through the feed, we stopped on the image below, a picture of a poster for the classic Broadway play “American in Paris”.

Deepness, calmness, peacefulness; classical, refined, sophisticated: doesn’t this image convey that?

How about the colors in this image? Yellow and blue. Do they fit with her music?

We googled “the psychology of yellow” and “the psychology of blue” and found that…

  • The color “Yellow” evokes happiness and optimism.
  • And “Blue” conveys calmness or serenity.

A perfect fit.

With our theme picked (classic broadway) and the image above as the guide, we’re ready to design. I’m going to show you why this is easier than you think. And anybody can do it.

All we did was go to Canva.com and used their templates to plug in in the information that Bree gave us.

Logo

To design her logo, we first found a logo template in Canva (below):

music-branding-case-study-bree-noble-logo-canva-template-01

Second, we replaced the template’s text with “Bree Noble” and removed the dark blue background by a single click in Canva (below):

music-branding-case-study-bree-noble-logo-canva-template-02

Next, we replaced the template icon on the left (image above). Remember, when Bree’s on stage, she sings and plays the piano. So we stuck to that theme and found a girl sitting at a piano (we typed in “girl at piano” in Canva image search). After a simple copy and paste, this is what it looked like in Canva:

music-branding-case-study-bree-noble-logo-canva-template-01

This took us ten minutes.

Business Cards

To design her business cards, we found a business card template in Canva.

music-branding-case-study-bree-noble-flyer-business-card-canva-template-01

We swapped out the text—copy and paste. To remain consistent, we popped in the girl at the piano graphic. (Again, copy and paste.) And here’s what it looks like in Canva:

music-branding-case-study-bree-noble-flyer-business-card-canva-template-03

Flyer

At a Broadway play, they hand out a “playbill” to every audience member. It’s a pamphlet that contains information about the play. So when branding her flyer to give out at her live performances, we found a playbill template in Canva and replaced the images.

music-branding-case-study-bree-noble-flyer

Again this was all done in Canva with copy and paste. And here’s everything together:

music-branding-case-study-bree-noble

Notice how everything retains Bree’s classical, sophisticated description of her music?

How did we do that? By using a classical piano instead of a keyboard; she’s wearing a gown so it feels sophisticated; the colors blue and yellow reflect her music.

It’s branded for her live performance and in line with how she wants to impact other people and her purpose.

See how following this simple process gave Bree’s audience clarity on who she was and what they could expect? Even with a simple ‘plug and play’ approach from a design point of view?

Now, imagine if this was you!

You could hit the ground running with a consistent and authentic brand streamlined on all platforms. Match the visual designs and graphical elements of your brand with the sound of your music. Make strategic decisions about which venues and events to perform so you get better results, faster, and with less effort. Have a brand that draws people to you instead of having to do the hard work to convince people to tag along.

What would that do for you? What would that change? Could that make the real difference between doing what you love for a living and music remaining forever as your hobby?

If you want to brand your music, my cheatsheet will show you 3 easy ways to get your brand. Get it FREE right here –> Get FREE Cheatsheet

Summary

Remember, branding your music requires breaking free form traditional branding advice.

Branding a business and branding a musician are two massively different things. <– Important!

You have to think differently to do it successfully.

You’re competing with all the great musicians that have come before you. They have already claimed a space (a “brand”) in the minds/hearts of other people. That bond is rooted waay deeper than a traditional business because it was fused though music.

To create that same bond, you must first communicate why you are different by branding your music from the inside-out. Then follow the process in this article to convey the sound of your music in a visual way. Having a strong music brand will ensure you stand out, are remembered, and leave a lasting impression on every person (and future fan) you meet.

And if that doesn’t frost your onion, I don’t know what will.

What Do You Think?

What is you number one frustration with branding music? What is most challenging to you? Have you taken courses or read books about this topic before? If yes, what did you think was missing? What you think it will be like after you successfully brand your music?

Let me know, in the comments below!

If you want a music brand, my cheatsheet will show you 3 easy ways to match your music with a brand. Get it here –> Get FREE Cheatsheet

Pin It on Pinterest