If you plan to, or are singing live, and want to do more of it, you need an artist identity.
Many times singers think the music will define them, but in a sea of cabillions….yes, CAbillions of people singing covers or originals in the exact same style you sing, you need to consciously make it clear what makes you different.
Your artist identity will determine everything you do from the colors and look of your website and marketing materials to the kinds of venues you should be looking for and the people you should (and shouldn’t) be working with.
Not starting with your artist identity is like packing the car with the goal of getting to a specific far off location without a GPS. You might get there, you might not. But you could greatly increase your chances, reduce your time and have more fun if you knew how to get there.
Wherever you are in your journey as an artist if you haven’t done this step back it up! Defining your artist identity will give you clarity moving forward. And you can do it by exploring these three things:
1. Develop Who You Are
What are the five characteristics that best describe you? Are you funny, sarcastic, a deep thinker, the life of the party? Think about the comments people make about you most often. This is the way people see you, not necessarily the way you want them to. Write down everything that comes to mind and narrow down the list to the top five.
For example: 1) caring, 2) funny, 3) quirky, 4) sweet, and 5) a good friend
These are the qualities we want to come through in your music, the way you will relate to people through social media, on your website and live. This is important because gaining loyal fans is more about helping them find a connection to you than your music. There can be a million people singing your signature cover tune but if your fans have come for you, none of them matter.
2. Discover Your Favorite Song Themes
Hardly anyone sings just one genre anymore. Pop artists are remaking country tunes, R&B artists are remixing old standards. So we’re not talking about what genre you like, but what kind of music. Do you like to sing songs with great emotion? Songs you can show off your funky moves to? Songs that get the crowd going? Sad songs?
If this one stumps you just open your iTunes library and look at all the songs you love to sing along with. There will be a few types of songs you lean towards. Maybe it’s just the ones with a great groove, but there will be a connecting theme. Write down the top three song themes.
Finding your favorite types of songs will help guide you when you have to build or increase your set list. There’s nothing worse than filling a set full of music just because you kind of know it and then bore yourself and your audience by having to sit through it as a time filler. This is also an incredibly helpful tool when it comes time to create your own versions of cover songs. You might find a song you want to do but want to change it up to make it your own. Where do you start? Shift the feel of it into one of your three main song themes. Make it what you like most and your fans will be getting on board right behind you.
If we want your fans to come hear you, then we need them to know what to expect from your music. That includes music you can bring your own enthusiasm and feel to.
For example: 1) songs with a jazzy flavor, 2) story songs, 3) introspective themed songs
Your artist identity is almost done.
3. Determine Your Target Fan
If we want people to come see you and know what kind of music to expect then we have to know who they are too. This is one of the biggest mistakes performers at all levels make: throwing their music out there and hoping everyone just loves it.
If your goal is to pack venues, gain loyal fans and (I hope) make money at some point, you greatly increase your chances if you start out understanding that you’ll have the biggest impact and the most long term impact if you narrow down who will really connect with your music.
Every corner of media pays professionals to come in and help determine their target audience so they can make the biggest bankroll.
Once the huge bill is paid they deliver a list of qualities that companies ‘core customer’ has. This is what marketing departments use to created everything surrounding a product, a show or an artist. But you can design your target fan FREE. Create this imaginary person by thinking about the who your music and your personality would most appeal to.
What gender is your core fan?
What age range? (10-15, 16-21, 20-30, etc.)
Where do they hang out?
What kinds of things are they into?
What kind of lifestyle would they have?
Can you see why this information might be helpful? Having a target fan in mind helps you maximize where and how you’ll market your music and where you’ll want to look for gigs. It will also help you determine if audience complaints are worth making changes for. If it comes from a target fan you should take it more seriously. If not, you can just appreciate a different the difference of opinion.
Now that you’ve got a good idea of your Indie identity, it’s time to let everyone know what makes you unique!