Amusement parks, tourist traps, or circuses are not for everyone. They are garish, colorful and usually very loud. However, when it comes to personal branding, if you need a vision, you really cannot beat them as a metaphor.
For ideas on how to distill you down to your essence, your new best friend might just be the caricature artist. Usually known as the short-order cooks of the art world, they’re a double-edged sword. They manage to combine a very basic knowledge of human anatomy below the neck but an ability to highlight the one feature about you that makes you unique. That could be your Dumbo ears, your teeth that would make a horse jealous or anything else. The point is, they help highlight the attribute or attributes that make you who you are, not in your own mind, but in the way others might see you.
Branding is a lot like this, but with a bit more flexibility. If you brand yourself well enough, your fans will follow you as your music evolves. Look at Hootie, and look at Darius Rucker, and a lot about them is the same. So are the people who go to their concerts.
Now, we certainly are not forcing you to buy overpriced soda, ice cream or funnel cake, although taking a trip to relax and enjoy these doofy sites is a lot of fun. But bear with us: whether you look at the rides, the caricature artists or any other element of an amusement park or resort town, people are paid large amounts of money to define exactly what makes them who or what they are. That same idea is how you need to approach expanding your presence, whether it's online or off.
If you've been following along on our other posts, you've already started to establish a basic online presence, or at least learned about how to start when you’re ready. From this and paying attention at your concerts, you should be able to have established what your audience appreciates about you as well as your music. If you haven’t, we suggest asking them. One of the things people love about social media is that their hero musicians will often engage with them, especially when they are just starting out.
You can complement this with any shows that you do or feedback received for your music. Then expanding your offerings should realistically be based on where you are at in terms of your audience, album sales, and concert attendance.
For example, merchandise with more expensive logos and designs don't really make much sense if your best audience reaction was 12 people applauding quietly in a coffee shop. On the other hand, if you have a following from social media or otherwise, you might not need a website which can take time away from finding the paths to get sales and word-of-mouth that will help you expand your presence.
If you’re looking into audio engineering or production, you probably want to ensure you have the right graphics for the final product. That means a custom font, a brilliant cover art design, or a logo, if you haven’t already got one.
You can find plenty of inexpensive options for people who can draw well and get you well on your way. Can we ask a tiny favor, though? Please keep it to the country where you live. Ideally, you might be able to find someone local who you know who draws, or even someone you’ve met touring. Working with local creatives keeps things on the level, limits misunderstandings, and can ensure that what you get matches what you really want. It costs a bit more, but it also helps keep us all connected. We like that.
That doesn’t mean you have to spend an arm and a leg. A lady we work with wanted to make a silly shirt for her fiancé. She posted about it on Twitter and had people respond just by using hashtags. Since you’re already there, you can do the same thing, or post on Facebook for referrals or advice. Talk to other artists whose logos or cover art you like and ask how they came up with them.
Plenty of people with the talent you need are just like you, starting out and wanting to make a name for themselves. Or they’re students looking for a way to offset the costs of partying… to each their own!
Merchandise itself is pretty easy. Print-on-demand services abound online, so it’s as easy as comparison shopping companies like VistaPrint, CaféPress, and others. We’d offer more details, but it’s dependent on what you want (Buttons? Hats? Shirts?). Reach out to local artists or friends to get a sense of what kind of items you should stock If you have a website or a tour in the near future, or come up with something quirky and uniquely you.
Companies that can afford to advertise their website builders are making hand over fist. That doesn’t mean that GoDaddy, Wix or SquareSpace are the right fit for you. It means that they charge enough money each month to pay to get on your TV. They also prey on people who think that they aren’t skilled enough to do it themselves.
You’ve already gotten this far, though. Making a website isn’t that much different from expanding on your Facebook page. If you buy a hosting plan (which you’re already sort of doing if you’re paying a monthly fee to a SquareSpace or a Wix), you pay a couple of dollars but have full control over how your site looks. Not bad!
Here’s a link to a tutorial using WordPress, a common way to set up a website. All of your information stays on one page, and it looks great on mobile devices. Also, it’s free. You just pay for the hosting itself and the domain name: https://onepagelove.com/create-a-one-page-website-with-layers-and-WordPress
Now, if that seems daunting, don’t worry! We get that. If you don’t have the time or the energy, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using a SquareSpace or Wix. They offer templates, you can integrate product offerings, it’s nice and easy! We get that. It just also costs more. And if you’re just starting out, it can be tough to pay a lot of money when you also need to account for studio time, mixing work, etc.
That’s kind of the baseline. If you’ve got ideas that you think complement ours or any tips, feel free to contact us! After all, this isn’t zero-sum: artists helping other artists benefits everyone, and that’s the model that makes the most sense when branding yourself, too.