Music licensing and distribution platform Songtradr recently hosted their fourth “Happy Hour” livestream event, Balancing Branding with Artistry. During the hour-long discussion, two prominent branding professionals discussed what artists should – and shouldn’t do as they work to craft quality tracks and develop a loyal following in today’s quick-moving music industry.
Digital Music News attended the virtual function, which was moderated by Songtradr CXO Victoria Wiltshire.
The panel featured Jive PR + Digital co-founder and CEO Lindsay Nahmiache, who honed her marketing and promotional skills working for E! Entertainment in London, as well as Mumbai, India’s Contiloe Films.
Additionally, branding expert Mike Tunnicliffe, who launched and built the Universal Music Group Brands division, provided the roundtable audience with the invaluable insight that he acquired across more than two decades of high-level roles. During his time with UMG, the Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising veteran spearheaded marketing opportunities and brand partnerships for artists, including Lady Gaga, Nick Jonas, and Shawn Mendes.
Artists must look at themselves as “products” when branding, but authenticity is key.
Towards the discussion’s start, Lindsay Nahmiache emphasized that when it comes to branding, artists must look at themselves as products – at least in a general sense – to enjoy far-reaching career success. However, authenticity in music and appearance is the key to resonating with fans; musicians who strive solely for commercial results will have a much more difficult time connecting with listeners.
“For an artist, you have to look at yourself as the ‘product,’ but you can’t productize yourself,” said the United Nations Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship.
Elaborating on the point, Nahmiache indicated that brands – including artists – should demonstrate personal transformation to a select portion of the market. Individuality, branding, and marketing – which many believe are contradictory – will bring about results from the solid foundation of authenticity.
“The most successful brands in the world, what they do for their consumers is to make them feel like they’re somehow going to receive a personal transformation. For me, I think artistry in branding is how you can create personal transformation,” stated Nahmiache.
Tunnicliffe agreed with Nahmiache’s assessment and, drawing from his expansive career and branding background, described the multifaceted nature of brands for artists.
“Branding is very intangible. … It’s all facets of experiences that you give to a consumer, or in the case of an artist to a fan. How you look, how you feel, what you stand for, what causes you support, how you communicate with them, what your stage show’s like, what sort of content you produce,” Tunnicliffe explained. “That’s the number one thing: Have your own style, your own identity, your own story, and make sure you communicate it incredibly well.”
In this way, branding, promotion, and creativity are not mutually exclusive.
Brand marketers offer useful advice, and artists should respectfully strike a balance between expert recommendations and their own opinions.
It’s sometimes difficult for creators – and especially artists – to strike a balance between authenticity and the recommendations of brand marketers and record label employees. But it’s imperative that they civilly communicate their feelings and resolve disagreements, bearing in mind all the while that third parties are there to help.
“If you can figure out how to have your communication and negotiation style be open, I think you’re going to go a lot further in getting what you want weaved into what you do. It’s just the nature of relationships,” said Nahmiache.
Tunnicliffe concurred and described the benefits of managers and creative teams who help their artists to grow and change in tandem with fans:
“The record labels have got – and this is what I loved at Universal – the most incredibly skilled executives. The really good labels and the really good label heads, the marketing people, the A&R people, are people that can help shape that artist’s career.”
Genuineness, kindness, and remaining open to opportunities go hand in hand – even if it doesn’t always seem to be the case.
“The basics” are essential components of both artistry and branding.
The roundtable participants agreed that artists often overlook “the basics” – high-resolution headshots, performance videos, functional websites, regularly updated social media profiles, bios, and logos among them – to the detriment of their brand and their reach as creators.
To be sure, fans rely on these items to better understand and associate with artists, as do companies and professionals, albeit while they’re considering proposing strategic partnership opportunities to musicians.
“We’re [the Songtradr team are] always looking for artists to feature, but we’re not always able to feature them because they don’t have a good headshot or a good image,” Victoria Wiltshire relayed.
Nahmiache took the idea a step further, indicating: “You need to have a bio written. Have a 25-word bio, a 50-word bio, and a 100-word bio. Just because, like you said, you would feature these artists if you could, but because they don’t have that, you can’t. You’d be surprised how many tactical elements you don’t have in place that aren’t hard to do.”
And Tunnicliffe stressed the significance of logos for artists – particularly because they’re more commonly associated with companies and products:
“They [well-established artists] have a look, a logo. And I know a lot of people might throw their hands up [and say], ‘Oh my God, I’m not a product, I don’t need a logo.’ … Drake, or Billie Eilish, or Justin Bieber, or Ariana Grande, they’ve all got a brand, look, and feel, which sometimes is a logo. You definitely need that consistency in terms of image.”
Nahmiache also noted that up-and-coming artists don’t have to break the bank when setting themselves up with bios, logos, videos, and other career assets.
“If you elevate yourself, you’ll look bigger and more established to people, and you’re going to get more opportunities that way. But it doesn’t have to be a huge financial investment,” she said.
Accordingly, there’s nothing stopping tomorrow’s stars from equipping themselves with the tools they need to garner the popularity that they deserve.
Fans can catch the full replay of the Songtradr Happy Hour on YouTube. The next edition – scheduled for Thursday, July 9th – will explore music’s role in the world of gaming.