Portland musicians like to experiment with their sound and style. Many of our local musicians prefer not to be grouped into a specific genre, or affiliate with a musical stereotype.
There’s nothing wrong with that, I guess, but let’s take another page out of the mainstream music industry’s book –they are experts at branding.
In a previous post, I discussed the need for a well-thought-out marketing plan, and I suggested some ideas to grow your fanbase without requiring a million-dollar budget. Before you execute your go-to-market plan with any product, you have to be clear about what you’re marketing and why someone should use your product. To put it simply, branding is crucial to the success of a product.
To clear up any confusion, branding is not marketing. Branding involves strategy to determine what the product is and why it even exists. Branding comes before marketing; the brand is the lifeblood of the marketing plan. Marketing is a tactical plan that requires execution, and after it’s complete, the brand remains and keeps customers loyal.
Branding is consistent, from the message to the product.
As a musician or a band, you need to think about the message you want to send to your fans and whether it aligns with the music you’re creating. If the music and message don’t align, then you need to address your brand. This may be the reason your show attendance varies –you can’t get your fans to come to another show.
Your message and your music need to be consistent across the board. The sound quality, music style, genres, album artwork, band logo (make a band logo), font type, performance venues, performance lighting, clothing, appearance, and even the band personality affect the brand and the message conveyed. Any time you change the what and why, you’ve effectively changed the brand, which results in a net change to your fan base.
Take the infamous marketing story of the “New Coke,” for example. Coca-Cola grew to become the most popular soft drink in the world through consistent branding and successfully executed marketing, as well as having a decent product (sorry, I’m a Pepsi fan). In 1985, Coca-Cola changed its formula for the first time in nearly a hundred years and rebranded as “Coke.” This outraged loyal customers, causing them to react, hoarding Coca-cola, and demanding the return of the original Coca-Cola. It only took three months for consumers to convince the company to correct their mistake.
Now, changing the Coca-Cola formula is quite drastic. But think about your music and how it will affect your fanbase if you decided to experiment with the sound they fell in love with –the reason they keep coming to shows and buying your albums. Some may love it, others won’t.
Have some consistency across albums. Our contributing writer, Molly Jones, reviewed Ben Union Volume II. She noted significant differences between this EP and Volume I, saying that “many of the tracks are lackluster in comparison to Ben Union’s earlier work.” Although Ben Union was consistent across other factors in their brand when releasing this volume (as they have been in previous releases), they made a significant change to the product itself, which completely changes the direction fans think the band is going.
Musicians, your fans judge you whether or not they vocalize their opinions. Build a strategic brand to keep your loyal fans and use the reasons your fans are loyal to tell other local music supporters why they should love your music.