13 Mar
 - 
Article

Artist Branding: How to Build your Brand in 2024

Artist Branding: How to Build your Brand in 2024

Imagine commanding a stage not just with your music, but with your artist branding. Successful artists like Beyoncé, Harry Styles and The 1975, have all built iconic brands that intertwine their music and identity seamlessly - with fans not loving their music, but wanting to be a part of what they culturally represent. 

Creating an artist brand for yourself involves a deep understanding of who you are as an artist. It’s your specific artist name, sound, style, values, story and personality that help fans recognise you, connect with you and helps you to attract your ideal listeners. Ultimately it is what sets you apart from other artists. 

Unlocking the Power of Artist Branding

Embark on a transformative journey towards establishing a robust artist brand tailor-made just for you. An artist brand isn't just an accessory but a fundamental pillar for your growth and recognition in the industry. Here's a comprehensive guide that delves into essential strategies to help you create a compelling artist brand that sets you apart.

  1. Defining your Artist Brand Identity
  2. Developing your Visual Identity
  3. Messaging
Miley Cyrus, Drake, Little Simz brand identities
Miley Cyrus, Drake, Little Simz

Defining your Artist Brand Identity 

Taking time to clearly understand your unique artist brand identity is key. In order to identify your USP (Unique Selling Point) you music recognise the elements of your influences, genre, production style, technical abilities, vocal style, and signature effects (if any) that are unique to you and set you apart from other artists within your genre. This will help you begin your artist journey authentically, help you stay recognisable and forge real connections with your core listeners. 

Genre

Considering we are in a new age of genre blending, it can be hard to put your music into a specific genre. But people will still try to do it as it can be helpful to figure out which niche people you relate with musically. Each genre usually comes with its own style and trends, so it is important to be aware of these.

When you think of your genre, what artist comes to mind? Think about how they represent themselves through their music and then ask yourself - what can I do that is uniquely me while still respecting the codes and culture of my genre?

Genre-blending pushes artistic boundaries and encourages listeners to embrace new sounds and experiences. Experimenting with new sounds helps artistic growth, enabling you to explore and incorporate diverse influences, develop skills, foster artistic expression and push creative boundaries.

By fusing different elements and influences artists can attract fans from different musical backgrounds and preferences, potentially expanding their fan base and reaching new audiences. 

As we see through the likes of Rosalia and Tame Impala genre blending is embedded in their artistic expression, creating not only exciting musical projects but opportunities for cross-pollination collaborations - Rosalia ft Travis Scott, Tame Impala ft Lady Gaga.

Artist Name

Pink, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Cardi B, Eminem
Pink, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Cardi B, Eminem
  1. A name that's easy to pronounce, spell, and remember tends to stick in people's minds better. Pink for example, chose her artist name to match her unconventional hair colour. This was a way for her to rebel against the music industry's manufactured pop image and represent her more authentic, non-conformist persona right from the start.
  1. Do some research to ensure your name isn't already taken or too similar to an existing artist or band. 
  1. Your name should ideally reflect or compliment the style of music you create and the image you want to portray. While spicy food was the basic inspiration behind “The Red Hot Chilli Peppers” band name, the band purposely chose their eye-catching name to reflect the LA punk ethos, as a sexual metaphor, and because they felt it embodied the hot, sweaty, hard-rocking funk vibes of their artistic identity and performance style.
  1. Incorporating clever wordplay, initials, or words with personal significance can make your name more intriguing and memorable. Belcalis Almanzar, aka Cardi B, grew up with the nickname “Bacardi”, her artist name is a play on words mixing her childhood nickname and her Caribbean heritage with “B” being a nod to Bacardi rum.
  1. Choose a name that you can grow with and that won't limit or pigeonhole you as your sound evolves over time. 

Don’t forget to run your potential name ideas by friends, family, and/or fellow musicians to get their input and gauge their reaction.

You could also go down the unconventional route. For example, Ashley Frangipane aka Halsey chose the anagram "Halsey" as her stage name, as the street she grew up on in Brooklyn was called Halsey Street. Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino chose this name as an alter ego, with "Childish" referencing his youthful mindset and "Gambino" being a nod to his favourite Wu-Tang Clan member, Ingacy "Ghostface Killah" Lam.

Remember, the perfect name is subjective, so trust your instincts and go with something that resonates with you!

Artist Persona 

Your values will not only guide your music but also influence your interactions with your audience. If you value authenticity, your persona should reflect this in all aspects, from your lyrics to your social media posts. When your audience aligns with your values, it forms a deep and lasting connection.

For example, when we think of Reggae, the first name that comes to mind is Bob Marley. Why is that? It’s because not only his music reflected the genre, but his attitude, lifestyle, outlook on life, and style all echoed the genre of Reggae. His track “One Love” touched on multiple subject matters that resonated with him as a person. Getting the “One Love” message out, so much so that 45 years later his name is synonymous with his message. 

  1. Your Roots/Influences
  • Consider your upbringing, cultural background, and the experiences that have shaped you as an individual outside of music.
  • Identify the genres, artists, or movements that have inspired you and your sound and explore how these elements have influenced your artistic expression and the message you want to convey.
  1. Your Vision and Values
  • Articulate your goals, themes or the messages you want to explore through your music, and the impact you hope to make.
  • Identify the core values and beliefs that drive your creative process and the principles you stand for.
  1. Your Narrative and Backstory
  • Create a compelling narrative that ties together your personal journey, inspirations, and/or the meaning behind your music. What do you do what you do?

You can initially do this on social media via organic posting and overtime bring these stories to interviews, press and any other promotional channels to be seen and heard! 

Remember! Cultivating genuine interactions and preserving authenticity with fans is the key to lasting connection and relevance but also be prepared to evolve and adapt your persona as you grow as an artist, while staying true to your core principles.

Cultural Pillars

Determine the cultural elements that are deeply rooted in you, such as language, traditions, social issues, or historical events and consider including them in your music, lyrics, visuals and overall branding. Use those pillars to create a strong connection with your audience and establish yourself as a representative of a particular cultural movement or community, if you feel that is something you are passionate about.

Remember, creating an artist persona and identifying your cultural pillars is an ongoing process that requires self-reflection and creativity. Consistently embodying and communicating your persona will help you build a strong, recognisable brand and connect with your audience on a deeper level.

The Evolution of Miley Cyrus

Take Miley Cyrus for example, in my opinion, she is the epitome of pushing boundaries and reinvention. Starting with Disney, to her provocative and edgy phase, then her experimental psychedelic era, a return to her country roots, and most recently, her rock-inspired reinvention. Her willingness to embrace personal growth, challenge norms, and explore different facets of herself openly has allowed Miley to remain relevant and foster a deep connection with her fans, even as her persona continues to evolve.

Developing your Visual Identity

Your visual identity is the outward expression of your artist persona, instantly communicating the essence of your brand through fashion, album artwork, merchandise designs, website aesthetics, and social media presence. Maintaining a consistent visual identity across all platforms is crucial, as it should reflect and reinforce your artistry.

Let’s take the below artists for example.

Artist visual idenities: Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Iniko
Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Iniko

Billie’s personality and imagery across socials align with the moody, introspective, and alternative nature of her music. Her dark and edgy fashion choices, along with her sombre demeanour, accurately represent the emotional depth and complexity of her songwriting and vocal style.

Lil Nas X's visual aesthetic incorporates elements of camp, exaggeration, and theatricality aligning with his playful artistic persona, challenging traditional notions of masculinity and embracing self-expression. His visuals often correspond with new releases, as he tends to genre blend, his visuals reiterate this - Like the image below, he chose to blend country traditions with an exaggerated LGBTQ style reflecting his track “Old Town Road”.

Iniko, identifies as genderless. She discussed in an interview that the gender binary we know today didn’t truly exist or was not enforced until colonisation. She stated  “before this people like me just existed” “These shamans were the medium between this reality and the divine”. She continued to question “How can we confine god into a he or she, god is universe.” Her indigenous style reflects her messaging and outlook on society and life  immensely.

To develop an authentic visual identity, take inspiration from artists you admire within your genre. Analyse how they portray themselves visually through photoshoots, social media, and live performances. 

Examine your own personal style and ask yourself – does it genuinely represent the brand and persona you aim to convey to your fans? I’m not suggesting you change the way you dress to match your sonic brand, quite the opposite. In reality, you probably already exude your identity in your style and appearance. I’m suggesting you lean into that and allow your branding materials to reflect your personality and performing style.

Establish an overall aesthetic by carefully curating visual elements that resonate with your artistic persona, such as a distinct colour palette, clothing styles, logos, and graphics. Consider how you want to present yourself on stage, in music videos, and promotional materials, ensuring that your visual choices align with and amplify your artistic vision.

Remember, it is essential to craft a visual identity that resonates with your target audience, speaking to their cultural references and aesthetic preferences without compromising your authenticity. By thoughtfully cultivating a cohesive and compelling visual identity, you can create a lasting impression and forge a deeper connection with your fans.

Messaging

Example of Artist Brand Messaging on X

Your messaging is how you communicate your personality, and brand to your audience. This includes your social media posts and bio. Think about your voice and tone and make sure your messaging aligns with your brand identity. Your messaging should be engaging for your audience.

  1. How do you want your audience to perceive you? And What qualities do you want to be associated with? (e.g., authentic, relatable, innovative, socially conscious).
  2. What tone do you want to convey? (e.g., casual, professional, humorous, inspirational) and maintain it across all your social media platforms.
  3. Define the central themes or messaging pillars that you want to focus on, such as your artistic journey, creative process, social/political commentary, or personal life experiences - Prioritise them, and ensure that your content aligns with and reinforces them!

Remember, social media is about building and nurturing a community around your music. By combining compelling storytelling, visually appealing content, strategic calls-to-action, and genuine fan interactions, you can create an engaging online presence that resonates with your audience and supports your artistic expression.

Here are some simple steps you can do to get started:

  1. In your bio include relevant links (e.g., music streaming platforms, website, merch) to drive traffic and make it easy for fans to access your content. Keep it and your profile up-to-date with your latest releases, tour dates, or notable accomplishments.
  2. Share personal stories, anecdotes, BTS, creative process, inspirations, or life experiences - Incorporate elements of humour, vulnerability, or relatable experiences to make your stories more engaging and authentic.
  3. Include clear CTAs in your posts, such as "stream my new single," "pre-save my album," or "comment your favourite lyrics."
  4. Respond to comments, messages, and mentions from fans. Ask questions, run polls, or initiate discussions to encourage fan engagement and gather valuable feedback. Repost or share fan-created content, such as cover videos, artwork, or testimonials, to show appreciation and strengthen the bond with your supporters Finally, consider live Q&A sessions, listening parties, or virtual hangouts to provide fans with exclusive access and real-time interactions.

To learn more about building and nurturing a community, have a look at our blog An Artist's Guide to Building a Fanbase From Scratch to guide you through!

You should now have the know-how to craft xompelling artist branding that is key to forming lasting connections with your audience in the music world. Maintaining a consistent and unified brand voice, content structure, and visual cohesion across all platforms will help you to establish a strong, recognisable identity that resonates with audiences.

If you would like to learn more about building your brand and promoting your music, get in touch with our team or join un:hurd music.

Written by Emily Heffernan