A Simple Branding Guide for Musicians
Looking for quick and simple tips on how to create a brand for yourself?
These tips are largely based on principles you’d use when, say, starting a business, or creating a product, but if you’re feeling stuck you might want to look at using them in your own visual identity as a music artist.
I’d say it’s very rare that an artist or band will rigidly stick to branding guidelines like a TV show might with its merchandise, or a range of shower gels. For those other realms the visual connection to the source material is hugely important, and they’re thinking about what a series of products will look like on a shelf together, so in that regard it’s important there is a lot of visual coherence.
You’re making music, so your sound is what does that. How much you extend that into your visuals is your call. None of the below aspects are things you need to include, or adhere to, as any artist’s visual brand is going to evolve over time, and its down to how much visual coherence you feel is necessary. In any case, I lay them out to help you start thinking about it!
Maybe you want a logo or a wordmark. Maybe you don't. To stress just how optional this is as a thing, I'll present two examples.
First is AJR (a band I absolutely adore and very excited for the One Spectacular Night show they're putting on on Boxing Day).
AJR have a compact wordmark of their initials that has featured on their album artwork, and is consistent across their website. They'll mix it up a bit as far as texture and colour goes, but the overall form is static and thus helps recognisability.
The other example is Billie Eilish (again, love her too). A well known icon for her is the 'Blohsh' figure.
While present in a lot of her work and merchandise, it isn't used as an all-encompassing symbol for the artist herself, or on album artwork. When you view any of her social profiles, it is her as a person that matters moreso.
That said, I will be interested to see if the upcoming documentary goes into any detail on the symbol's creation and significance; as apart from fans theorising on reddit I couldn't find anything directly on this! If you know please tell me as I'm a very uncool 30-year-old, hah!
That's your first exercise. Determine how important a logo or wordmark might be to you. And then how flexible you are about its usage.
Eilish brings us onto a next point beautifully. Where you may not care for a brandstamp across everything you do, you could opt for a colour. In Eilish's case, it's inarguable that her current brand image is synonymous with the bright lime green of her hair. This shows on her website in various places, and through swathes of her Instagram feed. If I think 'music' and 'green' I think Eilish. Also Green Day.
Again though, there are no hard and fast rules with how you roll these things, and with her recent single Therefore I Am there is a sea of deep red.
As for another example... Well the clue is in their name! I'm also personally a sucker for duo-tone so I love all of these from BLACKPINK.
I would put this as one of the least important elements, and as I said at the start, moreso what you'd do releasing a product range. But if you have a certain look and feel with particular typefaces that you enjoy, keep with them.
If you're stuck thinking on text elements in your work, I've got another blog post you can read about it, which also features a list of places to find fonts you can use.
Aside from the recurring element in Blackpink's example above of the square peeling back, gnash is an example of recurring visual themes. This feels less about branding and more a consistent application of simple nature forms. The most recent we suggesting a greater degree of complexity.
I won't try to write up some fancy-sounding bullshit about why I think it works really well, because as we know I'm no formally-trained art critic, just know that I really think it works so so great.
To remind ourselves though, all of this is just how you feel about it as an artist. My all-time favourite band The Dollyrots have such varied and incredible album and EP covers, that ultimately are about the expression of themselves held in that moment in time.
In any case, hopefully these small bits of information have helped you start forming a stronger idea in your mind of what you're looking to achieve. Still looking for more input and advice? I've got just the thing.
Join Indie Music Feedback on reddit and Discord! This is the only music community worth being a part of on the Internet, and I stress the word community because no where else will you find such valuable feedback from other independent artists, as long as you put the same effort into it.