So I wanted to spend a minute with the idea of the visual aspect of your brand. Now this doesn’t involve a visual gimmick, or at least it doesn’t have too. I think this is a big part of why people look like shit on stage. Now here’s how I look at it – your band is a business. You are supposed to look professional. You need to have a distinct look on stage and one that people identify you with. There’s an Ozzy quote expressing his frustration with how you can’t tell the difference between the people on the stage and the people in the crowd and this is very true. You want to be able to put on a show that makes people remember you. When you get off stage you want people to know who you are, to come up to you so you can interact with them. You don’t want to desperately say “Oh, I’m in the band” but you DO want the way you look to suggest that you aren’t just another schmuck who paid his 10 bucks to see some local bands.
How do you have an aesthetic on stage that isn’t dorky then? Well a lot of bands understand they need to have an aesthetic and then put all the focus on the lead singer. Usually this means having the frontperson dressed very differently in order to attract attention. Putting attention on the frontperson in an appropriate way is certainly a valid tactic but I feel like when that happens bands frequently forget to dress up the other band members in a way that is appropriate. I know that some band members just want to fade in the background and that’s fine, but can you please fade into the background in a way that makes you look cool? Even if you just wear a black button down people are going to take you a lot more seriously and think that you are part of a band if you’re one of only a handful of people at the club not wearing a band shirt. I know that’s weird to think about but it’s true.
I’m not saying don’t wear band shirts on stage. Obviously some of the biggest bands in the world wear band shirts on stage. It’s cool it’s something people can connect too and allows you to rep your friends. That being said if you are going to wear a band shirt on stage make sure you don’t look like shit in it. Make sure the clothes you wear on stage look like you could be a rock star. Remember that foundational rule, the girls gotta want to fuck him and the dudes gotta want to be him. You can’t do that in a baggy Day-Glo abortions shirt. I know this sounds pretentious as fuck, but even consider this – if you have band members who are somewhat skinny maybe at least make them wear tank tops with band logos on them – that worked for Noisem. You gotta figure out what looks good on you and go with that. At the end of the day – the main rule of fashion is wearing clothes that fucking fit. If you do that you will end up okay.
So think about how you want people to see your band and have that define your aesthetic. If you want to be viewed as consummate professionals then wear matching button downs with maybe your singer dressed in a different color. If you want to be seen as ‘one of the people’ then wear band shirts and some of accouterments that define you genre. Remember that when people see a band they always want a fantasy that they can buy into. You need to have this fantasy and it can be done surprisingly subtly. So like if you’re a metal band with 80s punk influences then maybe wear a few studs, cowboy boots, show off those big belt buckles, capture the Lemmy vibe without trying too hard. You want to figure out what the fans are looking for and sell it to them in a way that seems cool. If you’re not sure if it’s cool ask your friends for feedback, if they are honest then they will let you know if your new stage look is working for you or not.
This isn’t easy and I totally get it. You’re going to run into band members who don’t want to partake and you’re going to find it harder than you might expect to get a clear image for your band. This is an essential part of branding, if you look at the biggest bands of all time they all, to some degree or another look like a band. If you don’t look like a band then how the fuck are people supposed to know you’re in a band? IF you can’t show that sense of wherewithal and put togetherness then people are going to start wondering what you are worth in the first place. Looking good on stage is the first step in being able to have a performance that gets people buzzing. Again this doesn’t mean y all need to match or whatever, but you do all need to fit a certain aesthetic. Things need to make sense from a fan perspective when looking at the band and you need that perspective to be blatantly clear.
Having something that you can feed into and having a distinct brand that people want to connect with is going to be important if you are trying to separate yourself. People need to have a reason to fall in love and a reason to differentiate your live set from the countless others they will see that month. If you can be clearly the most professional, over the top and exciting band out there then you are going to find a lot of long term success. If you just look like everyone else then that A&R person you were trying to impress is just going to wonder where you went after your set, unable to differentiate you from a legion of longhairs. Think about this. Think about how you want to be presented, after all you are the brand.