This is a story I’ve told time and time again — and here I am telling it again: The industry is FULL of artists, just like you, vying for the same spotlight.
A few decades ago, if you wanted to record an album, you needed a record label.
If you wanted to distribute your work, you needed a record label.
If you wanted to market your work, you needed a record label.
But today, if you want to record, we have studios around every block or in your (talented) buddy’s basement. If you want to distro your work you have entities such as TuneCore or CD Baby that can distribute your work internationally for a small cost.
And if you want to market your work — major labels do have the connections, the network and budget — but social media and independent folks such as myself can also help an artist tremendously.
Now, this isn’t me making a point about record labels being unnecessary. A label can still make an artists career, as long as you’re aware of your deal and all the intricacies.
My point, however, is the fact that the playing field is now level. The digital landscape has opened the door to allow anyone to “be” an artist. Whether we like it or not.
We currently have hundreds of thousands of artists pushing their work online, clogging up journalists inboxes and spamming fans DMs. We also have the ones who are professional about pushing their work, but even if professional and sound in their strategy, there’s still a lot of artists out there. It’s hard to stand out from the static.
While, I already detailed the benefits of acting professionally, there’s another way one can stand out, and that’s by having a cohesive and developed brand, that’s continuing to evolve.
In other words: Artist Development.
My background’s heavy in developing artists — from big picture branding, down to how they carry themselves online and in interviews. Development is a huge field, and could mean a dozen things!
But nonetheless, let’s start small. Rather than me writing what an artist should do to develop themselves I wanted to write a major question that an artist should ask themselves.
This simple question will really help in positioning and developing your brand.
Artist Exercise: Find Your USP
What makes you different? This is the biggest questions every artist should ask themselves. It’s also a very simple one.
What makes me unique than the 1,000,000,000,000 suckers out here doing it? Now, first and foremost, it should partially be your sound. You should be sonically different than your peers — this is why “I sound like a mixture of Migos and Future” is a bad selling point.
Because every trap rapper is out there copping that same sound.
You have to be different! Sure, you can have a similar style to an artist, but what’s going to make fans more likely to check you out.
Think of it like this: You’re pitching a journalist your work. You’re a new artist, so it’s your introduction to the world.
What’s your story? What’s your selling point?
Is your selling point that you dropped new music? No. That’s not a story. Because this isn’t news — there’s plenty of artists out there dropping new work. So, what makes you newsworthy? What about you and your brand that makes a writer want to write about you?
Are you getting attention online? Were you cosigned, mentioned or shown love by a major artist? Was there a guest feature on your album by someone notable?
Or maybe something smaller but important — you pulled off a successful regional tour, or you’re pulling in lots of merch sales.
Now, some of those are more career highlights than your brand, but it matters. You have to stand out as an artist in order for people to really get behind you and start paying attention to your career.
And once they’re paying attention then find even more ways to stand out:
- Unique visual branding such as logos and certain colors
- Videos, and other imagery that shows your personality
- A strong marketing campaign tied to your latest release
It’s a simple question, but a very telling exercise.
So, what do you have?
Did any reasons come to mind? Or are you struggling with an answer? If you’re having trouble, don’t worry! We all start from the same place.
But this is key to finding out how you are going to separate yourself from the rest.