Crafting Your Personal Brand as a Musician

Crafting and managing your personal brand as a musician can seem complex. Technology continues to play a major shaping force in the evolution of music careers. With any innovation comes the fear of change, but also the opportunity to excel in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago.

by Daniel Leeman

Take the breakout classical crossover violinist and dancer, Lindsey Stirling, for example. In 2010, Lindsey was rejected in the quarterfinal round of America’s Got Talent and was told, “What you’re doing is not enough to fill a theater in Vegas.” To her credit, as of this writing, Lindsey has amassed over 800 million YouTube views.

I can’t imagine many parents would have responded positively to their daughter’s desire to brand herself as a “dubstep violinist,” but it’s by a combination of practice, innovation, and personal branding that more young musicians are able to utilize technology to cultivate a global audience.

Here are five tips to help guide you in the right direction.

1. Think about your target audience.

If you’re a composer, who do you want to perform your music? If you’re a conductor, what kind of musicians do you want to work with? If you are a performer, what kind of audience do you want to build? Understanding your audience (and more importantly, what your audience wants) is key to building your brand.

2. You are the product.

As musicians, we ourselves are our product. If a new recording by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is being released, people want to hear it because it is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, not because the world has never heard Beethoven before.

The beauty of claiming yourself as the product is that no one can ever take your place, or identically replicate what it is you have to offer the world. Finding meaningful ways to incorporate your personality into your music will help you establish a more recognizable brand.

3. Promote and encourage others.

Musicians are a close-knit bunch. If you can go out of your way to constantly encourage and promote other people, positive musical karma is in store for you! Promoting others helps you position yourself as someone who gives back to the music community. Others are more likely to share and interact with you if you take interest in their work.

One great way I’ve found to build up your social media following and solidify your brand is to write a positive, meaningful review of similar musicians in your niche. A single, well-planned review can lead to new mutually beneficial relationships with other musicians, add new followers to your social media accounts, drive new traffic to your website, and positively brand you as a contributor in your musical community.  Post the review on your website, and share a tweet tagging the musician on Twitter. Musicians love the free publicity, and many will take the time to retweet your review to their followers. A retweet by the musician you reviewed can suddenly send dozens (if not hundreds) of relevant new visitors to your Twitter profile and website.

4. Share your creative process.

We often worry that our audience only wants to see our finished product. But showing your work and creative process can help more deeply connect your audience to your musical work.

If you’re an audio engineer, compare the differences of before and after recordings with specific postproduction techniques. If you’re a composer, guide your audience through the form of your piece with the thematic material you are creating.

5. Crafting your personal brand is a journey.

It can be exciting to try to do everything all at once, but be willing to learn from your mistakes. If you haven’t considered personal branding before, don’t try to hop on every social media platform all at once. Start one one platform, or with a single goal, and gradually branch out as your schedule permits.

What do you think? Which musicians do you know who have a great handle on managing their personal brand? Do you have any tips based on your own successes?


Daniel Leeman is co-founder of sheet music startup notestem.com. Through his work as a music educator and consultant, Daniel works with musicians to build brand identities and think as entrepreneurs to grow their audiences.

Comments

  1. I’m glad I came across this. The subject of branding needs to be heard by many budding musicians. So many reject the field earlier, leaving their talents undisplayed.

  2. Well stated, and such a simple, yet needed, reminder of what it means to manage and market yourself as a musician. Your example of the “dubstep violinist” is especially poignant. I believe that too often, classical musicians especially pigeonhole themselves into this one-track career. For example, as a singer, I have been taught that you go to school, go to a young artist program, win competitions, get an agent, and the rest is (supposedly) history. For so many singers, however, it doesn’t work out that way. As a result, artists either leave the industry or resentfully stay. If we instead thought about branding ourselves in a way that leads to an audience we wish to perform for (point #1!), we will not only create new opportunities for ourselves, but also for the music industry as a whole. We probably will also be more emotionally and maybe even financially fulfilled in the long run. It’s daunting to imagine something outside of the track we’ve been taught; too many feel that somehow they’ve “failed” if they don’t go that way. Your words remind us though that there is no failure to be found in re-imagining yourself and your career. Thank you!

    P.S. To answer your question posed at the end, I think Joyce DiDonato is amazing at this. She markets herself as a down-home singer who loves to connect with her audience and bring classical music into the 21st century.

    • Hi Kristen,

      Thanks for your comment! I completely agree with your assessment. That’s a great point that personal branding can also lead to emotional and financial fulfillment; taking time to connect with the right audience early on will lead to rewarding opportunities that occur as a natural extension of what we do, rather than feeling the need to conform to stereotypes within our profession.

      Thanks for the example of Joyce DiDonato! I’ll definitely have to check out her work.

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