Analysis

Experts panel: making stand-out artist brands in a hyper-competitive world


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Music Ally’s Global Experts Panel is an international group of industry leaders. Each month we put a single, vital question to them about today’s music industry – and ask them what should happen next.

An artist’s brand has always needed to be crystal-clear, but in 2021 it’s more important than ever. There are more artists competing for fans’ attention than ever before; and more music too – Spotify say that 60k tracks are uploaded every day. Good songs will always be the most important starting point, but there’s more of them available than ever before, as well. 

Meanwhile, music is no longer siloed by territory: a song can blow up from any corner of the world. Plus, listeners are now hyper-choosy, craving knowledge of every aspect of an artist’s persona or brand before they commit to true fandom.

So, how do you create a stand-out artist brand in this highly competitive modern world?

We asked our panel of experts this tricky question, and have broken down their thought-provoking responses into a few main categories below. 

Plus, our experts from CD Baby, Sandra Croft and Henriette Heimdal, wrote us a guest column called “The 5 E’s of fan engagement in music marketing” – which you can read here.

ana rodriguez

Ana Rodríguez

Authenticity – communicating it, and understanding what fans want

Ana Rodríguez, Co-Chair, IMMF
The most important competence is not about quantity or visibility; it is about the ability to communicate the artist’s intentions, commitments and convictions, and do it clearly so fans can relate. From there, everything is about attention and caring – identifying your family and taking action in the immersive web. Build a relationship with your fandom: that is the trend for the industry’s monetization – and can’t be done without an artist brand. 

Adel Hattem, Founder, DMusicMarketing
I really believe the main ingredient to standing out is having great music and a good story behind the music. The story – and the way it’s told, either via images, short reels, videos interviews etc – must be genuine.  I also think that artists that talk about daily real-life stuff and are accessible and personable are standing out. As an audience member, you can sense if an artist is speaking from the heart, and that’s key to authenticity: someone who isn’t afraid to truly show who they are – their quirks, flaws, and insecurities.

Gaurav Wadhwa, Co-Founder / CEO, Big Bang Music
Build out a narrative and tell them your story – every artist has different inspirations, journeys – tell them about yours!  Just like you can’t ghost your friends, don’t do that to fans either! Consistency is everything when it comes to building your brand. Make the fans a part of your journey, look at it as a shift from an acquaintance to friends. 

The most important to building a long-term brand is being honest and true to yourself. If you’re projecting an image of someone you’re not, chances are that you’re going to do it for a year and then stop! Be yourself on social media, and in everything that you do – YOU are the brand! 

Aibee Abidoye, Executive Vice President, Music, Chocolate City
Having a clear understanding of the brand improves marketing strategy, narrows down the market size, and enables optimization of spend. 

Authenticity is important if the brand is about being down to earth and approachable […] However, if the brand is about being aloof and removed and “coded”, then you will see a lot more pictures on Instagram and less engagement on Twitter. So it starts first with the Artists brand.

Sandra Croft, Artist & Promotions Representative, UK & EU; and Henriette Heimdal, Market Development, UK & EU, CD Baby
Instead of using your artist brand as the primary influence to engage with your audience, recognise the power that your audience must be influential in their own right. Celebrate your fans as their own influencers of your artist brand, and engage in external initiatives (social causes, social movements of importance, for example) to encourage ideas that are important to your fans. Not only get to know your fans, encourage your fans to better get to know each other, and provide spaces where a community of your fans can form. When you lead by serving fans, you don’t limit their influence, you empower it.

– You can read Sandra and Henriette’s “Five E’s of fan engagement in music marketing” guest post here.

Vickie Nauman

Social media – choosing which platforms to use (and which ones not to use)

Vickie Nauman, Founder & CEO, CrossBorderWorks

I recommend that artists and their teams experiment with tools that will cultivate a closer relationship with fans.  Understand your audience and measure success using different tools and systems. Perhaps direct messaging apps are right for your audience.  Perhaps a good ole email list will sell more tickets than any venue ads.  Maybe you always shied away from direct financial support in the past, but you may finally decide to try it and find that your fans were waiting for a way to support you directly.  Our digital worlds evolve fast and your strategies also need to be constantly refreshed.

Adel Hattem, Founder, DMusicMarketing

It’s key to communicate in all channels available: use the channels to reach people, don’t let the channels use you. 

Aibee Abidoye, Executive Vice President, Music, Chocolate City

Whatever makes the person stand out is what should be relied on rather heavily – this can range from the way the Artist looks, or is styled to the Artists tone or musical skills. Communication on each platform is largely affected by the way people engage on that platform. e.g. Instagram is largely about how you look, Twitter is largely about what you say. 

Gaurav Wadhwa, Co-Founder / CEO, Big Bang Music

Get the fans involved right from the time you enter a studio, till you release it! An Instagram Live about an upcoming song; teasers; creating a recall about the drop; Q&A’s to address their curiosity – these are all ways to reach out to the fans during a launch. But keeping the conversation going even when there is no new update is also essential. It could be relatable content, sharing of playlists etc. A way to bring fans closer to you is by constantly engaging, entertaining and connecting. 

Get to know your audience – they aren’t just numbers! Every fan has a story about why they like your music, or why they follow you. Get to know that and you’ll be surprised that a lot of them would have similar sentiments. Just knowing that is power for you to speak the right language on social media! 

Aibee Abidoye

Aibee Abidoye

Release strategy – and collaborations or endorsements from other artists

Aibee Abidoye, Executive Vice President, Music, Chocolate City

Cross marketing with artists that complement your brand – and equally-regarded or more-respected artists also help create the illusion that your artist is as good as the hype. 

Robyn Kennedy, Senior Sync, Bucks Music Group

One of the perks of being an indie label/publisher is that we can be more flexible with our artists’ releases. If we think a track has particular potential in sync, we can hold off releasing until we land a meaningful placement. Sometimes that added exposure can skyrocket a track and help give it a voice to be heard above the crowd – just look at Freya Ridings and her Love Island placement. Even after a song has been released, keeping track of placements (which can be hard if it goes viral organically on TikTok or is used under the blanket on UK TV) and shouting about them on social media is another way to connect with audiences – it’s like saying “if you love this TV show or that fashion brand, then just wait til you hear this song”.

Gaurav Wadhwa, Co-Founder / CEO, Big Bang Music

Direct-To-Fan is a lot of hard work but always the most rewarding! Think about your mailing list and what you’re doing to keep your superfans happy. They’re ultimately your evangelists and you’d always want to be in their good books to stand out! 

Since it’s not just one release, and an artist brand we are talking about, paying attention to nuances is important. Find your signature trait and own it! Find the one-line description for yourself on social media and stick to it.

Adel Hattem

Scarcity and exclusivity – should artists really be available on all platforms? And what if you’re working with a catalogue artist?

Adel Hattem, Founder, DMusicMarketing

Exclusivity is something we are not so much in favor of – especially for new artists.

Sometimes – but not always – it’s [easier to market] completely new music, especially the way kids are consuming today, and depending on the artists’ goals.  Working with catalog and having it stand out is a good challenge, depending if the artists are still active. For this, the main component is the creativity in the marketing around the music. 

Vickie Nauman, Founder & CEO, CrossBorderWorks

I recommend a broad distribution strategy for all artists – make your music widely available so all of your fans can easily have access to your new and older works.  Don’t give one platform an exclusive as that only punishes your fans who are on an opposing platform. 

I would also be remiss not to mention that artists should also evaluate and choose your label, distributor, publisher, or pub admin carefully and make sure your rights and metadata are clean and you are earning money from all the sources and services where your music is available.

Main image by Pexels from Pixabay

Joe Sparrow

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