What is My Artist Brand? Being Seen and Heard in a Competitive Market
Based on the content of Episode 27, The Magic of Songwriting with Francesca de Valence
With over 100,000 songs being added to Digital Streaming Platforms each day, how can you ensure your next release will be heard above the noise?
Below, we share some simple foundational steps that emerging artists can take before releasing their music that will allow for the best chance to be heard above the noise. If you have been asking yourself the questions: who am I as an artist, how can I make the most of my music release, and how do I build an audience, then read on.
Standing out in a highly competitive music market
In 2022, there were over 100,000 songs each day uploaded to Digital Streaming Platforms (DSPs), and of those, 42% attracted 10 or fewer streams throughout the year. And of these, 38 million songs across all major Digital Streaming Platforms attracted ZERO plays! (Source: Luminate)
After recording your new body of work – whether that’s a single or two, an EP, or even an album – you no doubt want to take the next step and get your music onto these Digital Streaming Platforms. But how can you ensure the music you’ve spent years writing, refining, recording, mixing and mastering doesn’t fall into the silent depths of a heavily saturated market?
Artist brand – beyond making music
If you’ve been spending years writing songs, refining your craft, and then getting into the studio to record your debut album, chances are you’re clear about what your music sounds like. But there’s more to the artist development phase than simply recording music and getting it up onto digital streaming platforms.
Those that have been artists for some time might feel that making music is one of the easiest and natural parts of being an artist. But there are many facets of being an artist that goes beyond making music.
There’s the development of an artist brand, the creation of promotional assets, having a clear release strategy with aligned marketing and social media campaigns, not to mention the business aspects of being an artist: understanding your income streams, growing your business opportunities in a sustainable way, to name a few.
And it’s these other facets that many emerging artists can struggle with. Often because they simply haven’t done this before or haven’t learnt a process that works for them. Whereas they’ve been making music for quite a while, so it stands to reason that this aspect is beautifully developed, but not the marketing and business side of things.
Music is only one facet of an artist’s brand
Given how much we interact online, potential fans can go from hearing your music at a live show, on the radio, or on a playlist one minute to following your social media accounts online the next minute. Now that they are following you, how do you keep them following you and interested in your work?
The way you engage with them at this point onward is bigger than your music.
Many emerging artists don’t know how much of themselves to share online and they can go into a release process with no clarity around this, and so they don’t do anything on social media except announce the new music and constantly tell people about the it. This would be like standing on a soap box and yelling out into the void that you have a new song out and that people should listen to it.
How do you develop a relationship with your audience that is beyond the song that you have recorded? How can this relationship develop over time so that this audience can continue to support your future work?
Your artist brand
If you can see your artistic project as a business and your music as one of the products and services of that business, this can help open up a space for creating a greater foundational place where this music resides. And this greater foundation place is your artist brand.
Your brand includes who you are as an artist, what you stand for, what you are here to do, what your audience can expect from your brand and how this audience can experience your brand. It’s like the hearth of your artistry – what drives you to make music and speak up about your music.
In our artist mentor program called Level Up Club, we mentor emerging artists to help them discover and develop their artist brand. It’s foundational, purposeful and clarifying work.
Some of the feedback we get after they do this work is that they feel their work has a conscious, meaningful purpose and it feels like the fullest version of their artistic expression at the time – more than just making great music. And they say this clarity on their artist brand allows them to interact on social media with so much more ease than before they did this work.
What is an artist brand?
Your brand is bigger than visual images and a logo. In fact, your brand does not need to have a logo at all. That is “branding” and is different from “a brand”. Your brand is who you are as an artist – your artist identity – the promise you make to your audience, of how they are going to experience you and interact with you in a consistent way over time. It’s not 100% you, it’s parts of you, real parts of you as an artist, and creating your artist brand is about creating a perception for your audience of you as an artist.
You can pull together a brand statement that could incorporate all these things. That would be one way of clarifying your brand.
If your brand is clear, consistent and connects with your fans, they will likely continue to engage with you and overtime become loyal fans. This is all part of the process of establishing yourself as an artist and this will take time and work to become clear on your brand and for others to recognise and experience your brand.
Go and explore some artists who have a clear brand. What does that brand feel like, look like and what can you learn to expect from this artist?
Whilst it may be tempting to go ahead and just move on to releasing your music, you might be missing some valuable opportunities to empower your artist project in a holistic way.
Your brand assets
Once you have clarity on your artist brand then creating promotional assets alongside your release will be so much clearer, connecting with your audience will be so much freer, and collaborations and other projects will feel so much more aligned.
Your brand assets include the visuals that will accompany the release of the music – like your album artwork. But also, other promotional assets – including your artist bio, promotional artist images, a press release or EPK.
With empowering assets that support your brand ready to go, the next thing I would recommend you do is put together a release plan that is realistic and allows you time to build skill, audience and momentum along the way.
Beyond your artist brand – What’s your release plan?
If there are 100,000 songs uploaded to DSPs every day, what is your plan to release music in a way that allows you to be heard above the noise?
It’s imperative to have a clear artist brand and promotional assets that are in full alignment with this. Then give yourself time to create a release plan – including identifying objectives and a strategy to achieve those objectives. This is bigger than how you will be promoting and marketing your music. This is about using each release as a tool to build a long and successful artist career. And this is not a process you want to rush.
Successful artists don’t rush releases. They sit on their assets – including their music – until they have mapped out their plan for their release and the timing is right. This is a business strategy. It’s asking the question: how can I optimize how I release my music so that it’s got the best chances of reaching people?
In your release plan, be realistic about the time it will take you to use your music to its full extent to allow you the space to build skill, audience and momentum. You might also find it helpful to have some guidance and support around releasing your first tracks.
You’ve spent years honing your songwriting craft, artistry, performance and recording skills and all of that accumulated skill and wisdom can culminate in a body of work that you want to share with the world. So take the time to do some foundational artist development work on your brand, on your visuals, collating some quality promotional assets that amplify the work that you do, alongside a realistic release plan, and strategy to help you increase your chances of being seen, heard and loved.
Seeking guidance in clarifying your artist brand and release plan?
If you’d like to know about our professional development mentoring opportunities in I Heart Songwriting Club, to get mentorship support around your recording, release and marketing processes check out Level Up Club.
Episode Show Notes:
Get your creativity, confidence, and songwriting output flowing. Join The Club and receive the support and structure to write 10 songs in 10 weeks and get feedback from a private peer community. This is THE essential writing practice that has changed the careers and lives of 1000s of songwriters worldwide.
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Podcast theme song: “Put One Foot In Front Of The Other One” music and lyrics by Francesca de Valence
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