• Branding is what others say about you when you’re not there.

While it’s true you can’t control what everyone thinks of you, you certainly can influence that perception one way or the other. In today’s market, you must be steadfast and strategically manage your online reputation.  If you are doing something you are passionate about, if you consistently put out great content, if you consider the needs or wants of your customer or fan and if you present a real and authentic version of yourself to the world, you will be creating a positive personal brand.

In the music industry, much like the world of sports, the artist or the sports figure is the brand. You are the commodity, and you must look at yourself as the product.  You will be known for what you stand for, how you handle situations and the level of performance you deliver consistently in every game or show.  In today’s world, with technology everywhere, once you choose to become a brand, you must be on your game 24-7 because you are rarely out of the public’s eye.  Even when you are just going out to the store, how you look and what you’re wearing are symbolic communications of who you are to the world. How you interact with the people around you at the store or dry cleaners becomes actions that create your brand. You are really building a perception of you that you will need to carefully manage daily for the rest of your life.

Even if you aren’t in the public’s eye, if you’re working behind the scenes, you are still building a personal brand.  In ancient times, you know before cell phones, people could misbehave, and it might hurt their reputation, but it was really just he-said-she-said.  No one knew for sure if people were just gossiping or if the rumors were true.  Now, everyone is armed with a camera and a video camera that can capture all sorts of bad, or good, behavior and blast it out to the world in an instant.  If you are a school teacher, a doctor, a repairman or a business owner your reputation matters to the health and welfare of your job or business.  Every one of us must now be concerned with managing our online reputation. Public relations and crisis management people became even more essential overnight.

  • You are selling a perceived value more than a physical product.

As an artist, you must understand that you are providing your fans with an intangible value.  You are providing them with an experience more than a physical product.  Fans may forget all the little details of your concert or basketball game, but they will never forget how you made them feel.  My friends just went to a KISS concert in Memphis.  Did they love all the actual realities of that concert? Mass traffic and parking that was a nightmare. Long lines and bad arena snacks.  No.  They went because they love the feelings they get from remembering all of the great memories that happened throughout their lives to the soundtrack of KISS songs. KISS music makes them feel happy, makes them feel young and reminds them of great moments in their lives.  And now, by seeing this show together, they have built another great memory or experience that they will share together based on the music and stage show of KISS.  Now, what would have happened if KISS suddenly came out and started playing jazz songs instead of their hits? Suddenly, what they mean to people emotionally would plummet.  There would be no emotional connection to the jazzy KISS and people would leave their show feeling disappointed and let down. They would have created a negative experience. I mean, you paid a lot of money and had to deal with all this traffic and long lines to see them, and they didn’t give you what you were expecting! If you notice, KISS has never changed their branding.  They know what people want and expect from them and they deliver it at a very high level and consistently at every show. They have had a very long and successful career because they have a significant emotional bond with their fans that they don’t change.

  • You must create meaning.

What is it you and your music mean or represent to your fans?  What do they connect with and experience through your life and your music? Think about your own life, if someone means something to you, you’re more inclined to spend time with them and enjoy their company. How do you create meaning?  Fans must get to know you. It means letting them get to know everything from what you’re really good at, singing, playing, songwriting, etc., to the products you produce, your hobbies, how you think, where you travel, and letting them see how you act.  How you think and how you act on a personal level really distinguishes who you are, and by becoming more transparent and letting people really get to know you will develop a meaningful relationship with your fans. And how do you do that, if you are not sure what personality traits to promote and work on? You might ask yourself what one positive quality that everyone attributes to you is?  Are you fun, happy, silly, serious, smart, caring or loving? Once you really know how people see you, you can show more of that side of yourself to the world.  You’re not really selling the value or function of a product anymore, you’re selling the emotional value or relationship your fans or customer has with you.  And most personal relationships are best when the other person means something to you.

  • You must create trust.

In a recent presentation, Dr. Talaya Waller said, “92% of people trust the recommendation from a person over a company” (Tedx Talk, 2018). If you think about that, even though we can look at consumer reports, don’t we still look through lots of customer reviews?  However, in the end, a personal recommendation from a friend that we know, and trust is far more effective in our purchasing decision than even some online review from someone we don’t know.  How many times do you watch a show on Netflix based on a friend’s recommendation versus the email that shows up in your inbox? So how do you create trust with your fans?  Be reliable, be transparent, be authentic, be amazing at what you do, and follow that passion because that is the unique gift or value you have to add to the world. If you consistently show people who you are, you will find your tribe, or rather, they will find you.  In today’s world, the grassroots effort of developing personal relationships has once again replaced the corporate marketing and imaging of an artist. Everyone is vulnerable now, so be the person you know you can be.  Your life is on display whether you like it or not. What is it that you want to be known for? Being an awesome songwriter is a beautiful thing, but isn’t it the person behind the songwriter that drives all of that anyway? Like a piece of corn, you have to peel away the husk to reveal what it is that people really want.


Tedx Talks (Producer). (March 2, 2018). The Future of Branding is Personal. Talya Waller. TEDxPSU [Video file] Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEHL8eLJCkc