While talent and a unique sound can get you into the music industry’s door, your brand singles you out and promotes you as an artiste. Lacking a unique identity will deal a massive blow to your music career. Without a brand to single you out from the myriads of other artistes making music like you, it will be impossible for you or your music to stand out. Sure, marketing and radio plays will get you the reach you want, but if people have to ask, “Who is this?” Every time they hear your voice, you will be one of the first things to fade from memory because there is nothing specific about you for them to remember. You may not be recognized again after the first few times.
What do you want to stand for? What do you want to be known for? When your name is mentioned, and someone doesn’t recall it, what can be said next to prompt your persona? A brand answers these questions and more for you as an artist.
Perhaps you are stumbling upon branding as an artiste for the first time, or you are looking to discover what the artist is. Here are some of the ways you can build a strong brand identity by creating a unique persona for your music:
A Brand helps to keep you authentic and original consistently
Staying true to yourself reflects a great deal in your music. Trying to sound like someone else consciously and outrightly copying their style could make you sound good, but it doesn’t make you stand out. While you can draw inspiration from an artist and learn from their craft to improve, copying and pasting what someone else has done will perpetually put you in their shadows. Even if you garner more publicity due to the imitation, you will continually be compared with them and become second-rate at best, eventually stunting your growth as an artist.
For instance, a Nigerian artiste who tries to sound like an artiste from the UK would feel smooth to listen to but may never go far. The artiste is most likely saying and rapping about things the average Nigerian can’t relate to and telling stories they have little experience with. They may even be living a life that is antithetical to what they genuinely believe.
A lyric lie, ‘Running up on the opps in the ends and I pull out my Glock.’ sounds nice, but the average Nigerian doesn’t know what an opp is or what ends mean. It is not a part of the cultural scene in Nigeria.
You will find greater and lasting success by being your original self and sticking to what you know. Nigerian rapper Odumodublvck is one of the most successful artistes who did things his way, going mainstream with big numbers. What draws people to him is the unique way he does hip-hop, mixing his experiences, cult paraphernalia, and street slang into his lyrics. When you hear Odumodublvck, you know it is him because of how he sounds. You can tell where he comes from and what he stands for.
Staying true to your identity works and gives your career longevity. But remember, the brand has to be built from the authentic you that you are.
A Brand directs your musical career using a Brand archetype
A brand archetype is a universal character or personality under which your brand usually falls. There are 12 of them, ranging from the rebel, the jester, the lover, the explorer, etc. Take Afrobeats artiste Fireboy as an example. His archetype is the lover because of the type of music he makes, or Odumodublvck has chosen the archetype of a rebel, subcategorizing as a gangster because of the way he raps about his struggles and life. These archetypes have their strengths, weaknesses, and traits that guide you. While an archetype helps you know the kind of artist you want to be and the type of music you want to make, it is essentially a tool for connecting with the audience that your music is intended for.
The archetypes are not limited; you can explore different archetypes and even invent new ones if you are creative enough.
Brand Archetypes make one thing possible: the concept of Alter egos. Since an archetype is a character, artists have often developed alternate characters to appeal to a different aspect of their fanbase, experiment with new sounds, or make things interesting. Alter Egos allow artists to break their boundaries and stretch out from their niches, granting them space to be versatile and evolve. Alter egos have even helped music fans connect more deeply to the artiste.
Eminem did that when he introduced Slim Shady and Marshall Mathers as alternate versions of himself. It helped him stand out and keep fans glued to his music as he experimented with it. This helps make an artist unique and could make them more popular than expected. But only if they have a brand as a foundation to center their career.
A Brand determines how you look, appear, and dress.
This is the face of your brand and how people recognize you. It is the basis for evaluation and communicates who you are as a rap artiste. This should align correctly with your brand, its archetype, and the people it wants to appeal to.
Appearance is a huge part of your brand as this is what people see and base their first impression on. It would be best if you were cautious about this. There are artistes whose fashion style puts them in spaces where their music won’t take them normally.
Lady Gaga is known for her outlandish style, which people still talk about, even years after she dominated the music charts. Ayra Starr, who has always been interested in fashion, has wielded it as a tool to garner more publicity and define her persona. She’s known for wearing mini skirts, and it has begun to shape culture as people have christened a particular style of mini skirt as the Ayra Starr mini skirt*.* Eva Alordiah, one of the best rappers in Nigeria, also hacked that with the coloured afro, she used to rock. She managed to build that unique persona for her brand.
A unique visual style promotes your persona and tremendously helps your musical career. It also ensures longevity and gives you real estate in people’s minds. A Brand is the best way to carve a visual style that appeals to your audience and keeps it consistent.
A Brand takes your marketing and promotions to an entirely new level
Making great music is never enough. Putting your music out there and encouraging people to listen are essential steps in your growth as an artist. Whether you’re an independent artist or signed to a record label, personally promoting your music boosts your audience reach and visibility. Having a brand is the only way to make your marketing worth it.
Marketing is no use if people cannot remember you. It is your brand that you put in people’s faces as you go on to market your music using strategies. This brand carries all of your visual identities, core message, purpose, vision, and character that make people feel or remember something when they are marketed to. It is also this brand that people will fall in love with, recommend, and even worship if you have played your cards right.
No excuses, build a brand
Creating a strong brand identity as an artiste is practically the most impactful thing you can do aside from making music. Even if it is the only thing you do, it may be enough as your music can promote itself. Branding is the first thing a label will do when they sign you. Thus, you already have a foot in the door when building a brand. These days, most labels would want you to do the work of branding yourself for them since you are already a sure hit.
Check out this resource on how to create a brand as a rap artiste.