To have a music career means more than just making good music. Fans want more than just songs. They want a figure that is the human representation of the songs that mean so much to them. You need to be the whole package to attract listeners, who want to undergo a genuine, authentic, and all-encompassing music experience.
An artist’s image is comprised of their public behavior, performance style, musical style, social media activity, dressing style, public statements, etc. As an entertainer, you are living under constant inspection from fans and potential fans. Thus, in the public sphere, it is important that you live under the guidelines you dictate as integral parts of your image. That’s why it’s necessary for your image to accurately represent yourself, or at least a prominent facet of yourself. To be genuine and comfortable in your artist persona, you must walk the fine line of being yourself and being a consistent and accurate representation of the music you create.
Your image should have roots in your personality and character. You must be authentic. Fans will be able to tell fake from genuine. If you have the choice between being yourself and assuming a larger-than-life persona that does not accurately represent you, always choose to be yourself. Defining your image does not mean deviating from who you are. It means identifying powerful aspects of your music and self and portraying these aspects to fans who want to see your music brought to life. Your look, style, and mannerisms will be associated with your music–this is inevitable. The image that you develop will reflect how you want your music to be portrayed.
Your image should reflect your sound. You should be the living, breathing, walking representation of your music, the complete encapsulation of your lyrics. What you show to the world should be indicative of your music. Your image and behavior should parallel your target market and your vision as an artist.
Your image should reflect where you are in your career and in your life.
Your image as an artist will define people’s perception of you. If you think about the world’s most beloved and popular artists, you’ll realize that you can easily identify their image, which evolves with their careers. Taylor Swift is America’s sweetheart, who is associated with relationships and breakups, but who has also evolved into a feminist icon. With time, as her music evolved with her own personality, her image also evolved to reflect that.
Your image is your brand. Your brand must be properly marketed to the right audience. Having an organized, well thought out image makes it easier to market your brand which means it makes it easier to market your music to potential fans. Understanding and performing in accordance with your image is the key to approaching marketing with intentionality and purpose.
Certain names will always come to mind when we say teenage superstar, hippie peace-loving crew, diva queen, or rebellious, controversial rocker. Every region and musical era are known for producing artists of certain images, as well. However, If we look carefully at the people we associate with these labels, we’ll notice that their images are not set in stone. They can identify with the labels, but the intricacies of their character and personality are what draw fans to their personas and their music.
There is a misconception that having an image is putting up a front or being unauthentic, but the truth is that fans need to see a consistent picture that parallels the music that they so admire. When deciding on your image, remember not to think in terms of block characters, but to think in terms of yourself, your music, your passion, and your vision. What person do you want your fans to associate your music with? Be that person while still being yourself. This is one of the most challenging and important aspects of creating your music career and presence, but once you figure it out, it will be the key to whether or not you experience industry success.