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Advice to musicians who aren’t getting major league results

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Advice to musicians who aren’t getting major league results: Artist Development Workshop: Image Identity Materials (I2M) Formula

by Tom Stein

Cam Nacson, SongwriterFor the most part, in today’s competitive music business, the responsibility for Artist Development has changed hands. Independent labels and entrepreneurial music artists have inherited the responsibility of nurturing new talent by fine-tuning their artistic and business development, and slowly growing their careers over several album releases. Developing a music career for the long haul is all about controlling one’s own destiny.

As an artist development consultant, aspiring musicians and artists regularly approach me with the question: what are the next steps I should take to develop my career as a recording/performing musician? I’d like to offer a few friendly pointers with this post to answer this common question.

Not knowing where to start can certainly feel overwhelming, because there are indeed many stages to developing an artist career, and many areas that need to be addressed. Over time, I came to see a pattern of perceived helplessness. I would need a much larger space to address all the aspects of artist development, so for now I am going to focus on the creation of your image identity materials, which I call I2M (pronounce: “I squared M”).

Bring Order From The Chaos

As with any complex endeavor, one must organize the work into sections, and devise strategies for dealing sequentially with each area. It is wise to take the perspective of music as a business, as a way of understanding the patterns of success and adopting the techniques that will lead you in that direction. I always recommend that artists study successful business role models and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. Information and inspiration are your weapons.

Most musicians sense that marketing is a key to “breaking in to the business” but again, don’t know how to begin. You can learn much from how others successfully promote themselves. Considering marketing strategies from the very beginning of your artist business development is one way to bring order to what seems like a plethora of tasks. Focusing on marketing your music will help you to organize all the other aspects of artist development in alignment with your goals.

A Magic Formula

I like to build and test models for everything I do in my own career. A potential formula for this early stage of artist development would be expressed as:

I2M(B + R) = Ma

Or: (Image Identity Materials) times (Branding plus Resonance) equals Market access. I could express this in several other ways that are considerably more complex, taking into account the demographic of the target market, viral marketing techniques, and social media, etc. but this simple equation will serve our purposes for now. I like this kind of simple equation because it helps us to focus on what we can do right now, and why we need to do it. Let me explain each part of the equation.

What Is I2M?

I abbreviated Image Identity Materials this way to highlight that your image and identity are intertwined, and each supports the other in a synergistic way. Image identity materials include, but are not limited to:

  • Artist/band name
  • Professional video
  • Photos
  • Color schemes, artwork
  • Special fonts
  • Websites
  • Social media pages
  • Recordings
  • Artist Bio
  • Attire
  • Press Clippings
  • One Page”
  • Logo
  • Posters, flyers
  • Merchandise
  • Stage set design

Your visual materials are super important because people decide in a nanosecond whether they like you based on visual impact, whereas it takes a bit longer for them to process the music aurally. In the digital era, if you don’t have compelling visual images people won’t likely ever make the decision to click a link to listen to your music, or go see you live. Images are key in defining who you are (your identity) to a potential listener and fan, and they do it quickly.

Your image materials should immediately convey the alluring aspects of your identity, forcing people to listen to your music. Importantly, your I2M needs to make sense to the viewer and match up with your music in a clever way.

*(B + R)** is Branding and Resonance*
*Branding* used in this context refers to the execution of your image identity strategy. It can refer to the crafting of the messages, the professional quality of your materials, the memorability of your name, your logo, color scheme, fonts, plus any other unifying elements that create superior impact. Successful branding is certainly crucial to the success of any marketing campaign. There is an overlap between I2M and your branding execution.

*Resonance *I use to describe how well your materials are received by your target demographic. In social media marketing circles, resonance is a measure of how many people access and share curated content. When a YouTube video is released and quickly gets millions of views, this is because many people like it and want to share it. Highly resonant memes and videos are viewed and shared millions of times over a very short period. Most people are quite familiar with this phenomenon by now.

*Adding It All Up*
To summarize: when you add high potential *Resonance *and effective*Branding* together, and multiply it by your *Image Identity Materials*, (with a little luck) it should give you *Market Access. *This last term is obvious, and dependent on your actual goals. The instant accessibility of image identity materials via the increasingly interconnectedness of the web is a powerful tool for gaining traction as an artist. The next step is to devise a monetization strategy, but that topic will have to wait for another post.

*A Few Final Tips*
Now that you are organized in your thinking, make a plan around my formula. Look at it as a project, and apply tried and true project management techniques to getting things done (read up on project management techniques if you don’t understand them fully). That means making a list of milestones, and creating a timeline for completion for each milestone on the list. Figure out what you can get done on your own, and what you need help with. Write out a brief description of each milestone, and collect reference materials. If you need a budget, figure out how to get it, and conserve your resources where possible.

These are the things that most serious-minded artists do when starting out. Not every part of the process is equally fun; sometimes it feels like work, because it is. It’s important to seek out inspiration, and make sure to enjoy your time in the sun, when it comes as a result of your planning, hard work, and dedication.

I welcome your comments and ideas.

 
About Tom Stein:

Tom Stein is a visionary musical entrepreneur, music producer, artist development consultant, arranger, bandleader and performer on electric bass, voice and guitar. He is also a professional educator; he teaches at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and is the founder of Music Connectivity, a cultural diplomacy firm. www.tomstein.com

For more information on the IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), please go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

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