How To Promote Your Music Online - Part 2: Building Your Brand
In this second part of "How To Promote Your Music Online", we'll be talking about branding, as this should be one of the very first things for you to figure out in your overall strategy. But first, we should get some things clear: What is a brand anyway and why would you possibly need it to grow as a musician?
What is a brand, anyway?
Some people think of a brand as just a logo, but in reality, that logo it's only a tip of an iceberg. Branding is, in fact, the sum of all the ways you're presenting yourself and your work to the crowd, all the ways how you're telling your story - and the story itself, too. That includes the visuals you put on your releases, the design of your website and your merch, the style and content of your videos, your own appearance, your values and beliefs that guide your actions, the way/tone of how you communicate with your audience and of course, the vibe that your music delivers to people and much more.
Why would you need your own brand?
Simply put, because it helps you to stand out of the crowd and better connect with people. As basically anyone nowadays can crack a copy of FL studio and start creating music, the internet got quite oversaturated with it. (You can try keeping a track of all the music videos/links you run into during 24 hours, and I'd bet you'll get to a ridiculous number). Strong branding can make people notice you in all that digital noise almost instantly and that attention is all that makes the difference.
Let's take a look at Chillhop Music - I believe that most of the people who read my blog already know Chillhop Music quite well. Their iconic Raccoon chillin' in his cozy room, accompanying people who are listening to their 24/7 YouTube stream is not just a cute mascot tho'. but actually a perfect example of really strong branding. The distinctive graphic style of all their visuals is easily memorable and at the same time, it's setting a perfect tone (or background if you will) to the music that Chillhop Music releases. And don't you just love that cheeky little Racoon, anyway? Well, if you do, then you're already quite connected with the brand :)
When you're hooked up like that, you really start noticing 'em. You can pass 100 "no-name" lofi anime video edits when you're scrolling through your timeline, but as soon as you run into a post from Chillhop Music, you actually NOTICE it. You see the familiar graphics and you immediately know that when you turn the sound on, it's probably gonna be dope. And this is also the long answer to the question of why you need good branding, too.
How to start building your own brand?
The process of building your own brand should start by asking yourself a lot of questions, like:
- Who are you?
- What is your story?
- What is your style?
- What are your values and principles?
- Why are you doing it?
- What makes you different?
- What are you possibly best in?
- Why should people pay attention to you?
- What are you trying to communicate (or achieve) with your music?
- What feelings and emotions does your music deliver to the listener? What do you want to say to the world?
That's obviously a lot of questions, but once you get the answers figured out, there'll be a pretty solid chance that you'll already have in your mind
a decent picture of the direction you'll want to move in. And when all the pieces finally fall together and you have the complete image of how you want to present yourself to the world, you can start developing your brand and applying it in real life.
Be authentic and stay true to yourself
The best recipe for running your brand is not trying to be something you're not. A good brand is based on authenticity and it should be coming from your true self, rather than a completely made-up persona - it will be much harder to maintain the fake personality over time and people will eventually see through your facade anyway, which can make them turn away from you as no one likes being lied to.
Regarding authenticity, I should also mention the so-called "outside-in branding" which describes a case when an artist focuses too much on the other artists and their style (or a certain genre aesthetics) while searching for inspiration for his own brand. And despite being inspired by other people is perfectly fine (as everybody is inspired by somebody else), trying too much to be like someone else or trying too much to fit yourself into certain "box" only results in becoming an imitation, giving up your own uniqueness and originality.
Choose the artist name that works best for you
I have no intention to preach how you should make your artist name, most of you already have one (or more) anyway. But at least I'd like to pinpoint a few mistakes to avoid if you're by any chance just about to choose one. The first big mistake is making your name difficult to remember (and therefore, hard to find, too). As you definitely want people to remember you, why making it harder for them? The second one is not doing thorough market research to check if there aren't already twenty other guys with the same artist name as you wanna use, which is maybe even worse as people who are looking for you might end up confused, listening to a completely different artist.
A good thing, on the other way, is having a name that's not hard to say or spell in a conversation, as having to reach for a business card or a cellphone every time someone doesn't catch it right can get quite annoying (and trust me, I've been through a lot of such shit with my drum and bass producer name). And even better bonus, in relation to the topic of this article, is when your artist name somehow adds to the whole brand. To demonstrate my point - as a lofi beatmaker, you should probably leave names like "Stinkhole" or "The Night Of The Murdering Zombie Slaves" to hardcore metal bands and rather go with something more fits better the mood/style of your beats.
Lastly, but most importantly - make sure that you really like the name and that it really expresses your personality in some way. This will allow you to grow a way better relationship with your own brand - and the more love you feel for it, the more energy you will be able to put into building it. Also, it will drastically lessen the chance that one day you'll no longer like your artist name at all, making you want to change it.
Dress your brand in a bold visual identity
Visual identity is an inseparable part of branding and, as humans are visual creatures, I'd dare to say it's also very important, too. Besides the obvious logo, there are release covers, promo shots, profile pictures and timeline covers on social media, flyer designs, website design, Spotify artist profile image, Soundcloud cover image, business cards, merch design and much more... All that should follow some united brand vision going hand in hand with the vibe of your music and enforcing the message you're trying to deliver, but most importantly all that should together create a certain aesthetic style people can connect to you, exactly like in case of Chillhop Music. This might mean to be using a certain set of colors and fonts, basing all your imagery on a certain graphic style matching the music (with anime being the obvious example in lofi) etc.
If you're not sure where to start with this, you can try to put your music on, go on Pinterest (or just Google Image Search) and look for anything that relates to the feelings you're getting from your beats. Sooner or later you'll find something that will not just fit aesthetically to your music, but that will also deeply resonate with your heart - and that sweet spot is what you're looking for. Once you find this first piece of inspiration, you can start basing new searches on it, which will help you get even more relevant results. And when you have enough inspiration, you can finally put it all into the big melting pot and distill your own visual style out of it.
Maintain your social media presence the right way
Being present on social media is a great way of communicating with your fans on a daily basis and also a very good place for telling your story in the most kinda personal fashion via photographs, short text statuses where you share your thoughts or updates, live videos and a lot more. But remember, as everything else, even all this social media communication should also go along with your branding "guidelines", helping you to reinforce the vision you're trying to show the world and making the impression you're creating stick into people's minds.
That may include using a certain kind of language and tone, a matching set of photo filters, a way how you talk on your videos, a specific kind of humor maybe - you probably get the idea. If your music is super depressive and you're trying to reflect that in your branding, wrapping up your social media profiles in bright, pastel colors while writing positive and cheerful posts on Twitter accompanied by photos from sunny beaches will probably look pretty weird.
Bonus: A case study on my own brand "Beats By Pao"
In order to better illustrate all the theoretical stuff I've been talking about in this blog post, I've decided to include a little bonus in the form of a case study examining my own brand. It felt as a best choice because as opposed to talking about someone's else brand, here I can share with you every single decision that made my brand what it is today.
So, who am I?
Okay, writing this feels a bit weird, but for the sake of this example, let's do this, too, as those answers are an important part of the process of building my own brand.
I'm, in fact, a quite ordinary, a bit introverted guy, who just really loves music to the point of making it the purpose of his life, and who also needs to constantly create something in order to stay happy. (Who are you, why are you doing it?)
I'm too big of an idealist, but at least I have strong moral principles. I believe that when one works hard enough and stays true to himself and to the craft, it's the best way of doing things even if the grass can be often greener somewhere else. I also hate attention whoring, fakeness and people who only post their selfies. Being humble is my way to go. (What are your values and principles?)
I hate suits, love colorful shirts, designer t-shirts and zip hoodies and as I'm bald now, I've grown quite fond of snapbacks and hats. I love the sun, palm trees, beaches, sea waves, but also nature and all green in general (including the devil's lettuce :)) On the other hand, I'm quite a night owl with the night (and nightlife) kinda fascinating me, too. (What is your style?)
Unfortunately, my music is nowhere near being some unique, marvelous one-of-a-kind experience, but I possess a quite interesting set of skills (graphic design, programming, web development, writing in a foreign language, social media knowledge) and I work really hard, which can set me ahead of the competition, in a way. (What are you possibly best in? What makes you different?)
Besides making (hopefully good) music, I also love sharing my knowledge and creating stuff that is actually useful and valuable for other people and I generally like it when I can be helpful. (Why should people pay attention to you?)
I don't have a certain sound (yet) and my tunes are each a little different, but with each one, I'm trying to tell a little story. And most importantly, I am trying to make people FEEL something when they are listening to my music. (What are you trying to communicate with your music?)
And that is really, in fact, a purpose - to be happy through creating music (and other stuff), making my mark in this world by creating something that can outlive my human body, and to (What do you want to say to the world?)
How did I come up with my name?
I must admit, that was a long run as I got already taught some lessons with the name of my first (and still active) music project. So, I came up with dozens of names, I even tried countless name generators to help me spark some bright idea but nothing felt just right. So one day, I decided to try something different and I put my real name into Google Translator.
As I was clicking on the translations to different languages, suddenly "Pao" came up and in the split of a second, I knew it's what I've been looking for the whole time. It was short and straightforward, really easy to say in conversation and easy to remember as well, there's this kinda friendliness coming out of that and mostly, it just felt extremely right - it just sounded exactly like ME. To my surprise, all my close (and even not those so close) friends adopted this new name almost instantly and nowadays they don't even call me by my real name anymore - a nice proof that it was probably a good choice. The only problem of this name is that is not really unique and when Googling it, you'll be probably greeted with a ton of Kung Pao chicken recipes first. Googling "Beats By Pao" works flawlessly, tho'!
What is my visual identity like?
Well, I hope you already noticed at least a little bit ^^ Anyway - as I was always fascinated by the sceneries from my little mountain hometown, especially when it was right after the rain and all I could see were mountain forests covered in mist. This kinda mysterious feeling got so deep under my skin than when I was thinking about what visuals I should use for my brand, this was a clear win as it also metaphorically resonates with some of my personality traits AND also with the kind of vibe I really like in music. If you don't know what visual I'm talking about, just check out the homepage of this website, or pretty much any of my social media / streaming platform accounts, as I'm keeping the visuals consistent across all of 'em.
Given the color palette of the main "forest" photo (black & white), I've chosen red to be the main color of the brand (despite my all-time fav color is green), as its quite striking and works really well with monochromatic colors, creating a nice contrast.
My logo was, to be honest, made in like 15 minutes. I wanted something simple but bold and easily recognizable, and by that time I mainly wanted to upload my first beat on SoundCloud without having to spend a lot of time designing the logo. For lofi, I could have probably come up with something more fitting to the whole lofi aesthetic, but my first beats were in fact not lofi so hence the not-so-lofi style. In the end, I've grown quite fond of it, because despite it's not the most beautiful logo in the world, it actually WORKS well - and that's what counts.
For the covers of my releases, I have opted for using a beautiful free stock photos accompanied by my logo in the middle in order to create a kind of "unified" style that can get easily stuck in people's minds and recognized later (in a similar kinda way as Chillhop is using the graphic stylization of their visuals and their raccoon). The reason for using photos is actually the same as with the logo - I wanted to go for something that won't take me too much time instead of focusing on the music itself or other important things and those free stock photos offered a good solution for all of those requirements.
How do I push my brand on social media?
As I already mentioned, I keep all my visuals in check across all the social media and streaming platforms and I have also a unified style for creating video clips for my music. The tone of the communication is casual, friendly, but also grateful and encouraging, which also aligns nicely with the answers on the "Why" questions I've been talking about earlier. Besides music, I often share my blog posts and other stuff that I hope people might find helpful and valuable, such as updates about my Spotify playlists and submissions I'm getting for them, the resource lists I'm building here on the website, and a lot of other informative stuff (like this for example :))
And that's all for today! If you made it all the way down here, you have my respect. This is probably the longest article on my blog I've ever written and I really hope that it will help some people to sort out their thoughts on branding a bit and maybe even motivate them to start building their own brand, too. Also, I'd like to encourage you to check out the articles in the "further reading" section as there are some really great insights and interesting thoughts on the matter.
In the next post from this series I'll be talking about websites and why is having a website one of the greatest things you can ever do for your music business, so stay tuned - this time it will get published much sooner ;)
- Don't Be Boring: A Musician's Guide to Branding
- A Guide To Branding For Musicians And Bands
- Music Branding: The Ultimate Guide To Brand Your Music
- 10 Branding Tips For Musicians
- 5 Challenges to Building a Strong Online Musician Brand
- Branding for Musicians: A Simplified Guide to Marketing
- What Is Branding? A Guide For Independent Musicians
- 7 musicians that nailed their branding campaigns
- A Musician's Ultimate Guide To Branding
First time on my blog?
Welcome! My name is Pao and I'm the person behind this whole website. Besides making music myself whenever I can, I also write this blog and curate Spotify playlists. Feel free to explore it here a bit - I believe you will find some interesting stuff around ^^