Branding…you know how if you start humming that “ba ba ba baba ba baaaaa” melody from the Nationwide commercials, everyone in the room can hum along because Nationwide has been using that for years and now it’s stuck in our collective mind? Ever seen the cover of “Born In The USA” (with Bruce’s ass and the American flag) and notice how that record cover kind of looks the way that “Glory Days” sounds? None of that made sense? Cool. Never mind.
Today we’re going to talk about the importance of consistency within branding. What do I mean by “consistency?” Everything you do as a recording artist, from the records to the bio to the photos to the videos to your performances to your social media etc etc etc should feel like it’s coming from one place. The photos you use should attempt to convey some kind of idea about what the music will sound like, the website needs to have the same photos on it as the social media page so that when people see that primary press photo you’re using, they go “Oh! Yeah, that’s the This & That Band with that song Such & Such. Love that band!” Your videos should look like they make sense. Does this look like a video concept that makes sense for the This & That Band? If not, go back to the drawing board.
When you start out, remember that you don’t need to show people everything that you know how to do on the first single (or the first EP, or the first album, or on the first tour). There’s value in making a concise, straightforward statement in the beginning, so that people can readily understand (and then explain/share) what the identity of your project is. “Oh man, ‘the This & That Band’? I love them. It’s kind of like where Fleetwood Mac and Slipknot meet. Big guitars, super angry, they wear pretty far out masks, but the songs are pretty straightforward and there’s really tight harmonies. Listen to that song ‘Such & Such’ and watch the video; it’ll make sense.”
In the beginning, you should have a limited amount of photos available (bonus points for having the self restraint to start with just one and use it for quite a while) so that when someone shares your music, that one photo goes with it. So often, when people ask us for advice, we peruse their socials and their website and find that their ideas seem to be scattered, as if they are four or five different artists and not one clear-cut thing/plan/project. Make a simple, straightforward statement and then, when you’re done saying that, move on. Start by doing one thing at a time.
The idea is that you want people to associate the artist with the songs from the inception of your project; you want people to become fans of the artist and not just the song because you’ll (hopefully) have more songs moving forward. You want people to know that the song “Such & Such” comes from the artist “the This & That Band” so that when your next song “Other Stuff” drops they are keyed in and prepared to hear more from you.
This is a lesson I’ve learned through trial and (serious) error (hey, Ron here). Before Blair and I started working together, I’d never thought about “branding.” My roommate would take new photos of me when he had time, I’d throw them online, my website looked like it was run by a six year old (it might well have been, especially if he worked for free), there wasn’t any consistency anywhere within my project. I released boatloads of music with no clear rhyme or reason. Over the years, as my career started happening in a more meaningful way, this created all sorts of issues, the greatest of which is that many people had no real idea who I was or what I looked like and no one could really explain my “sound.” Since there was no clear-cut image that I was trying to get across, when I had a song that found some success on the internet, people didn’t always know who I was. (I met my cousin Corey out for drinks one night and at some point his friend said “So what kind of music do you make?” And Corey said “He sings that “A Drop In The Ocean” song. You know it.” And she looked at me with skepticism on her face and said “That’s a Ron Pope song.” And I had to reply, kind of sheepishly, “I am Ron Pope.” And she didn’t believe me. That happens to me all the time, for real. My Grandma is forever telling people “No, no; you have heard his music.” One day, when you have a global hit, your life will be made infinitely easier if your brand is clearly, readily identifiable so that when you move on to the next song people know to follow you wherever you’re headed. That is, without question, the single greatest struggle of my career (and there are countless struggles, so you know it’s a bear when I say it’s the “greatest” of them all).
Make one statement at a time and make that statement across every platform you work on. It’ll help build a clear-cut identity for your project which will help people identify the artist, the sound, the song, the whole thing as one thing. And then go from there…
REASON TO IGNORE THIS ADVICE: You don’t give a shit if anyone knows who you are or about your project.
What am I reading? Advice by the Slice is a weekly blog giving independent/growing artists small pieces of advice throughout the year. Through growing Ron Pope’s career from baby-sized part time gig to (what most consider) a successful independent full-time thing with millions of streams, sold out tours, and living as a mostly full grown adult, we get questions all the time about how to “make it.” Full disclosure: We are not experts and there is no formula. However, these are things we’ve tried along the way and have proven to be positive for an artist. Why one piece weekly? Well, we often feel like throwing a whole lot of advice/opinions at someone makes them want to crawl in a hole and say goodbye to the music industry forever, so this feels a little more manageable. Also, by the slice pizza joints are the best spots on earth, so this is also our homage to those guys. So, here’s to a year’s worth of tricks to try and slices of pie. Cheers!
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