Something I find very frustrating is the common musicians unwillingness to build their personal brand. I guess the thing that drives me crazy is that aren’t musicians supposed to be self centered? Yet they don’t want to take the time to produce the regular content that is needed to guarantee long term success. A lot of this is not hard, but having a personal brand is key in any business venture. Having personal brand success is a big way in how I measure my success as a professional. For me validation came when I was recognized in the bathroom of a festival for my daily Instagram videos. Of course I don’t play in bands – so that’s what I’m driving for – people in bands to know me so I can get them to pay me to give them advice. If you’re in a band the goal is obviously much larger – it is to get more people to come to your shows and be invested in your music. You need to be spending time to grow this market and that isn’t going to make a ton of sense initially because at first building a brand kind of blows.
Think about all of the great and iconic musicians from throughout history. No really – think about them. Look at someone like Little Richard and how goddamn weird he must have seemed. Or take into consideration a more modern figure like Gerard Way. Both musicians started a movement both in music and in fashion. Both musicians looked like no one else and both spent a lot of time focusing on their personal brand. They release a lot of content not necessarily directly related to their music but showing that they were these weird iconoclastic outsider figures. They spent a lot of time emphasizing how different they were though and this led to long term success. By the same token look at people today like Lil Pump. He’s still a kid but he’s getting far in the game because he is constantly pushing his brand. It’s like that SHARK article I wrote the other day – remember you are the brand.
So how do you build your personal brand? Well by using the channels that are both relevant to your audience and which are accessible to you. This can mean pushing yourself on a variety of platforms – but most obviously it’s going to be on social media. The form of social media that presently has the highest form of interaction right now is Instagram. This has the added bonus of being one of the easiest forms of social media to post on – despite how complicated some may make it seem. All you need to do is just snap pictures of your day to day, add some relevant hashtags, and as long as the pictures are coming in regularly, not too blurry and hopefully kind of cool then you are going to see success. The more important thing though is that all of the content you put out on social media has to tie into your aesthetic. The art you create needs to be reflective of how you want your fans to perceive you – realizing this will shape your career.
For me this took a few rather simple forms. I had a goal of how I hoped people would perceive me – essentially as a millionaire black metal Adonis with a passion for some of the sillier sides of rock music and then set about making that goal happen. In the back of my head I had that key notion dialed in – that perception is reality and hoped to use that to actively turn myself into this millionaire black metal Adonis – and right now that seems to be working. I’m nowhere near those goals but people definitely see my pushing towards career development and a healthy lifestyle and respect it. That’s because most of the content I post to social media, so therefore most of the written record on how I live my life, reflects that. This has of course been trimmed down from a variety of selfies and general happenings throughout the day and I definitely go back and mine old posts because not every day leads towards that reality, but I try to make it look like it is.
Now I’m not going to lie – this takes a lot of energy. However it also takes a lot less time than you expect. There was a study that suggested the average person could remake their life in 66 days. If you push hard on your brand every day for 66 days then you are probably going to see that sort of success. Conversely though I see a lot of musicians who take years to build up their brand largely because they never pushed too hard for themselves personally they just sort of got their through longevity. Now think about that – Lil Pump has a stronger brand than most musicians who have been playing longer than he has been alive. Simultaneously – if you do a little digging it’s pretty easy to find out that a lot of people who you view as lifers have only been active for a few years. That’s not to say there’s anything bad with that – but be aware that if you grind hard then you can rapidly establish yourself in the world of independent music.
People respect hustlers and they want to be able to have a brand which they can affiliate with an individual. They want to be able to say “Mike Smith – oh you’re the pagan black metal guy’ or “Bob Hill – you do all that crazy guitar stuff.” Everyone says that you are what you do, but not only that – you are what you present yourself as doing. If you do something but do it it in almost complete obscurity no one is going to care. However if you take the time to release content that is valuable and helpful then you are going to see the sort of long term success for your brand that is going to make people connect with you.