You Are a Brand

I must admit: the whole idea of “branding” for musicians irritates me immensely.
Music should speak for itself, right? 
Musicians should spend more time perfecting their musicianship, not their outfit, right?
The amount of eye liner on a male musician is inversely proportional to his talent, right?

Well, wrong! I’ve been battling with this issue since I first joined a band, at the tender age of 13. My thinking was that no matter how much effort an artist spent on visual branding, if their music doesn’t stand on its own, then they’d failed as musical artists.

After all, this heavy insistence on the visuals, make up and fashion was the realm of disposable pop stars only; surely, a serous musician doesn’t care about that?

Just look at my favourite band, Sonic Youth, they don’t care about any of this!

Well, they do, and so do many successful artists from any genre, including jazz, classical, punk and so on. An anti-image is still an image.

Why is then the “image”, the visual representation of your musical art (i.e. “brand”) so important? Because it quickly communicates what you’re all about: what your influences are, what your sound is like, what your politics are, how you come across on stage, etc. It can give people familiar clues, or hooks into your creative world.

This way of communicating can be subtle: the colour scheme on your posters, the colour of your shirt, the type of shoes you wear, the logo, the type of guitar you play, who designed your dress…

Going back to my favourite band, Sonic Youth:

They look like post-graduate students, academics who listened to some punk when they were young. It’s a very subtle choice of image though. To me, it says that they’re intellectual, thought out, experimental, not for everyone. It’s an anti-image that loudly says that they care about the music, first and foremost; the music has substance and they are not at all concerned about commercialism, selling out or trying to please anyone but themselves.

It’s a very clear, concise and powerful way of communicating their musical ideas. An excellent brand indeed.

So, even though it makes me very reluctant to admit it and very nervous to work on it, our Autorotation visual brand needs further improvement. We started a few months ago with the help of our graphic designer, Craig Yamey, but more work needs to be done. We want to create a visual hook into our musical world by using a few familiar visual references from the artists we admire, but also by creating a visual mood and story that quickly and clearly communicates out current artistic interests.

It’s a journey of discovery, to use a cliché, and I’m sure we’ll take a few wrong turns. But, it’s also exciting in a way, trying to think visually about the music and who we are.

Stay tuned for the updates as we find out what works and what doesn’t.

Written by Igor Olejar

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