Branding can be a confusing topic for musicians. But when you strip it down, there are only four brand archetypes you need to know.
For example, when I was interested in branding my music, I started hunting around the web for inspiration. I was seriously bummed. After months of searching I couldn’t find anything that felt right.
But I kept going with it. And, finally, I started noticing there are brand patterns common to all artists, without fail.
All artists had one of four things in common:
- A personal brand.
- A created persona.
- A theme they followed.
- A genre they stuck to.
And, to brand your music right, all you have to do is decide which archetype is right for you.
Hold On A Second… Does This Mean I Need To Pigeonhole Myself?
I know, it might seem like I’m boxing you into a corner. That’s not what I’m doing.
The thing is, you don’t need to stick to any one archetype to brand yourself effectively. You can combine the archetypes – and I’ll talk more about that in a moment.
Plus, each archetype example is a broad enough definition. It’s not at all like adhering to a stereotype.
Unfortunately, musicians are often told to become a one trick pony. That you’ve gotta stick to one thing and one thing only. If not… whoo buddy, you’re in trouble.
What a crock. Some of the best music brands don’t stick to one thing at all. I explain this in more detail in my article about an elite music industry secret, which I think you should read.
Let’s not waste any more time. Here are the four music branding archetypes.
Archetype #1 – Personal Brand
There’s plenty of talk online about building a personal brand. Kind of important if you want to stand out in a specific niche.
Similarly, in music, if you want to stick out, you need a personal brand. I think a lot of people just try to copy brands that are already out there, but sometimes going in the opposite direction is to your benefit! Today, this is often called “disruption”.
Anyway, a personal brand is a great archetype to follow if you’re looking to form a close bond with your fans, because it’s all about authenticity and trust as well as relationships.
I don’t want to get too political, but elections in recent years have largely been won by the person who was willing to be the most authentic.
Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber are great examples of artists with personal brands – especially in the early days of their careers. It’s safe to say they have a different branding strategy now.
That’s because, as personal brands become popular, they tend to morph into personas.
Archetype #2 – Persona
This archetype is about creating an alter ego. Basically, it’s where you create an identity separate from yourself.
This is a good choice for music artists who want to personify their future selves, become their brand or develop a larger than life identity.
KISS is a great example of a band that created a persona by becoming comic book superheroes and creating the kind of live show they only dreamed about being at.
Modern examples include Gorillaz, Daft Punk, Slipknot and Manafest. And, I’m sure you can even think of a few of your own.
This isn’t necessarily about becoming something you aren’t. Think of it as becoming the extreme version of yourself, expressing your deepest, innermost self.
Archetype #3 – Theme
Themes show up in a variety of ways in the music industry and it’s easier to explain with examples instead of a lame and lengthy description.
I’m sure you’re familiar with Blink-182. Their music is great, but another thing that keeps people coming back is their onstage antics.
Their theme revolves around being immature, humorous and full of teen angst. It’s changed over time, but this is what fans have come to expect from the trio.
Another great example is Tool’s fourth studio album, 10,000 Days. The title piques curiosity all its own.
10,000 days refers to the orbital period of the planet Saturn (which, as it turns out, is 10,759 days or 27 years to be exact).
Maynard James Keenan explains this 27-year period marks a special time in which one can choose transformation – let go of the past and embrace a new life.
Another great thing about themes is that you can combine them with any of the other three archetypes. That flexibility makes it a great archetype to take advantage of.
It’s like scales and rudiments. Once you learn them, you can use them everywhere.
Archetype #4 – Genre
As I’ve hinted at earlier, many musicians are told to choose one thing and stick with it. Honestly, this is not the best way to go because many artists end up creating music outside of their chosen genre. So, that can end up creating an identity crisis.
But it has worked well for some bands like AC/DC and Metallica, who’ve basically stayed within a stylistic framework for their careers (with AC/DC being the more extreme example). And, the fans aren’t any worse for wear despite jokes about all their albums sounding alike.
Many classical artists, composers and jazz musicians have branded themselves based on genre too. But that’s why so many of them never cut through the noise.
Frank Sinatra, by contrast, didn’t brand himself based on genre but rather persona (see archetype #2).
But if you’re stuck and don’t know what archetype to choose, or if your band focuses on one genre of music, this might be a good choice for you.
Get The Music Branding Cheatsheet
Now you know what the four music branding archetypes are. But keep in mind that if you don’t do anything with this knowledge, it’s not going to make a difference for you.
In my cheatsheet, I explain how these archetypes work in practice. I’d like to encourage you to grab it before you go so you can get your branding right!