Published on January 20th, 2010 | by Hugh Hession3
Image branding and artist promotion
While record companies continue to struggle with withered profit margins even with the new 360 deals, more music artists are stepping up and taking control of their own destiny, rather than leaving their fate in the hands of a record company.
The premise behind music image branding isn’t new, however the way it’s being done, is. Branding is the process of increasing the perceived value of a musical artist through positive associations to the brand name (the band or artist). The goal is to maximize brand equity – a term used to define what your stake is in the minds of the consumer; which in your case, would be your fans.
Many think of equity in terms of real estate. If you have equity in a house, this means the house appraises for more than what you owe. You can sell the house for a profit. This holds true with building equity in you. It increases your value in the market place.
In the past, a record company would break a band by choosing a single, procuring one of their beloved independent promoters and buying…uh, I mean, obtaining air play. The approach was the same: the hit single and radio.
Your number one objective with brand imaging? To create compelling reasons for people to purchase what you offer. -Hugh Hession
Now, artists understand the value on building their image to connect with their fans. Social networking, music blogs and other DIY resources are equipping the artist to do create their brand, enabling them to DO YOU!
Mariah Carey is one of many artists who are taking control of their careers, successfully redefining who she is to her fans, while building brand equity. Though her model isn’t for everyone, it serves her well in establishing her name on a global scale; not just her music. For example, Elle Magazine is dedicating an entire issue to Mariah. However, first you have to purchase her CD to get it; creating the “reason to buy” scenario. She also maintains a considerable presence on social networking and connects with her fans by specifically targeting select fan groups with updates on her appearances.
Perhaps more noteworthy is her acting career. Mariah has shunned her sex appeal in the new movie Precious, and getting acclaim for her role. That’s a big leap from Glitter, which almost killed her music career. Yes, it’s still about the music, but she is promoting her name and building her brand image around it.
So you may be thinking, ok, this is all nice for someone like Mariah who is a well-known celebrity. What can I do locally or regionally as a musician?
1) Start thinking in terms of how you can enhance your image and not just specifically the music
This is often the most neglected area of a local/regional band or artist. I’m not advocating to neglect the music. Your music should already be top-notch. But if you think of yourself in terms of being an entertainer and a personality, your marketability expands.
2) What synergistic marketing opportunities can you capitalize on in your area?
Synergy is when you team up with another organization or individual to create a win-win scenario for the end-result. Do you have a certain appeal when you speak to people? Maybe you can MC a local beauty pageant. For volunteering, you will not only be enhancing your brand, but you may get a spot in the program for your personal bio where you can mention your band, and work out free advertisement on the back, complete with your MySpace or personal website.
Don’t think so narrowly and close yourself off to opportunities. The goal is to expand your identity, your perceived value; but your music needs to be associated with it. The ideas are limitless and will take a bit of thinking on your part. Get out of the box, grab a pen and notepad, and go for it.
3) Use FREE to sell
The word FREE is powerful and it can create revenue and enhanced brand equity. I went to see Prince at Phillips Arena (Atlanta, GA) on his Musicology Tour. I paid for the ticket and they handed me a FREE CD at the door. Talk about building the brand! Every concertgoer on that tour got a CD to bring home. It has since become a typical business model for music artists: use the CD as a loss leader.
Chris Anderson (the man who put the “long tail” approach, front and center), wrote an excellent article in the March 2008 issue of Wired, called FREE! He lists different scenarios where free works. It’s common anymore, but it creates perceived value. Cell phone companies give you a free phone in exchange for a 2 year plan. Gevalia has been giving away coffee makers for years and focus on selling their coffee. Record companies used to promote their clubs by giving away 12 records in return for a commitment to buy a set amount of records in so many years. In the modern age, digital music sites like emusic.com do the same thing.
So is FREE used for selling or branding? The are completely interconnected. Remember, branding is the process of increasing perceived value and building brand equity. Your goal is to create compelling reasons for people to buy.