Artists in today’s music industry are a brand.
It seems we in the industry are hearing that phrase thrown around on a daily basis. It’s clear this knowledge is becoming increasingly widespread as case studies on Lady Gaga’s success are as trending as she herself. But while brands are worth developing, it is important to understand how they can be effective – only as part of a larger initiative. The most impressive examples of commercial entertainers are not successful because they are a good brand, but rather because they are leaders of a lifestyle and most importantly – of a community. Gaga’s success is attributable to her faultless positioning and unwavering commitment to her ideals of originality, expression, and confidence. But only by embodying these qualities and establishing her brand with authenticity has she become the industry’s most effective example of a leader of a community.
Branding is only a part of the picture.
Ever since its origins on cattle farms, branding has encompassed anything and everything done to clearly and quickly differentiate one thing from another. In the frozen pizza industry, branding efforts allow us consumers to make decisions based on expectation. In the music industry, however, it’s how we convey the most information about an artist in the shortest amount of time through coordinating every aspect of his or her presence in hopes that we’ll get a listen [and hopefully, a second listen.] Effective branding is imperative in our attempts to stand out amongst endless competition – but is only a part of what needs to be done to flourish as an artist. In order to effectively construct our own strategies or those of the artists with which we work, we have to consider our branding in terms of how it can establish community. As we understand, a brand means nothing without a loyal following and the most effective means of creating a following is to adopt a position that resonates with a group of people. When this group of people is able to rise through social ranks, whether through size or passion, the artist grows as well. To lead these supporters, an artist needs to be as much a member as she is a leader. As such, her ideals are understandable, communal, and inherently authentic. In terms of brand partnerships, which are quickly becoming more and more prevalent to combat dwindling record sales, there are only a handful of thinkers getting it right. More often than not, overt brand sponsorship agreements do not promote idealistic resonance with the increasingly discerning marketplace. We, as those responsible for marketing these values, need to pay attention to the potential effects of brand affiliation before accepting such deals.
Communities & Music
Community must not be considered only an artist-centric phenomenon. If the industry was really based entirely on artist branding efforts, there would be little explanation for the rise and fall of genres such as Electronic Dance Music or Indie Rock, which have far too much depth and complexity to be effectively branded. The surging popularity of both genres have coincided with a growing and developing family of fans. Forums for aspiring producers and illustrious electronic festivals have spread throughout the United States, establishing the required network of support for the EDM genre to creep its way into pop music and the country’s aural lexicon. Similarly, were it not for the a growing awareness of and interest in the quirky lives of hipsters, their lo-fi soundtrack of indie music could not have become a genre of choice for our nation’s youth and the speciality of 2013’s best new artist, fun.
Wait – I’m pretty sure we were making fun of those glasses last year. Why do I now own a pair?
Communities are powerful.
While Lady Gaga commands one of the most extensive and passionate families of little monsters, Justin Bieber’s legion of beliebers just may be the most devoted. Despite one of the most vehement slander campaigns from a horde of naysayers a million strong, Bieber’s fan-base has thrived and grown. The adversity has only served to create a tighter, more exclusive community of fans – one that new members are excited and proud to join.
The passion and support of a community is the driving force of success in our modern music industry. From local artists to the superstars, an artist’s family is a source of inspiration, creativity, sanity, happiness, and, of course, the money to continue creating. Thus, it is not the branding we need to focus on, but how the branding relates to and serves our over-arching efforts to lead a population of friends and fans. If we can succeed at that task, we can survive in the volatility of the music business.