The Band Is Not The Brand

This guest post is by Scott Perry. With his free email newsletter and web site, the New Music Tipsheet,keeps the industry informed of new releases as well as commenting on trends and sharing industry news. Scott

Band as brand. Band as brand. Band as brand. Simply put, the most overused, misunderstood phrase by the entire music industry. Sure, having a recognizable audio & visual identity is important – it makes it easier for your fans to recognize you, makes it easier to sell that merch, makes it easier for Fortune 500 companies to pick YOU to be the face for  THEIR brands! 

image from www.sbarnabas.comimage from autoracingsport.comimage from Stop it. Please, never use that phrase ever again – it does nothing but focus on the end goal, without actually thinking through the means by which the artist becomes an everyday part of a fan's life.

Three articles all hit me at the same time last week : veteran marketer Al Ries's discussion of the overuse of Twitter / Google / Internet / Facebook (TGIF) as marketing tools without a defined strategy, 2) Ian Rogers' in-depth blog post about the tactics used to set up his first management client Get Busy Committee, and most importantly, 3) a WSJ article on the decline in charitable giving in 2009.

Did you know that out of the $300 BILLION in annual charitable contributions, 35% -- $107 billion – goes to one cause. Not literacy, not to the environment , not to the arts, not to health care, but to RELIGION. Now, I'll grant that a good portion of that $107 billion is doled out to the other causes listed above, but think about it –- that little church down the street represents over 1/3 of all charitable giving in the United States.

Why is that? Why does religion top ALL categories for charitable giving, at a healthy margin no less, above all other causes?

Well, besides the fact that religion is drilled into our skulls once we are old enough to walk, religion actually offers its followers 1) something in return 2) on a regularly recurring basis. Every week, your local church has a new message, a new reason for a community of followers to gather, a new opportunity to positively reinforce their values and pass around the collection plate.

(Religion is also something that is deeply internalized by followers, making religion tied strongly to one's everyday beliefs and behaviors – keep in mind, you will NEVER get ANY band to get THAT deep into a fan's life, unless you want to attract a posse of psychos. But I digress.)

Quit running your band like it's a Proctor & Gamble product, and start running your band more like a church. It's nice to believe that your band can be as big as one of those megabrands like Bon Jovi or Jay-Z, it's nice when your publicist calls to say you just got next Tuesday's spot on Letterman, but focus more on building long-term relationships with your followers, so that when you get those big events, it gives more meaning to your fanbase. Give your fans what they want – a message, a community, a reason to support you, believe in you, and come back to you over & over – and they will.

Empower your fans with the tools to spread the word for you, and learn to rely less and less on big media. Draw your own analogies to preachers, parishioners, missionaries, worship and all those other zingy religious references that make for cute copy – but the bottom line is, it is much more important moving forward to establish and maintain RELATIONSHIPS with your core fans than it is to try to mean everything to everybody.

I know it's easier to hope for the quick fix of a song placement, radio add, or sponsorship than it is to invest the time needed to build a strong foundation of fans on your own, but it's what you have to do these days to maintain a long-term career.

And if you happen to get picked for the next iTunes commercial, then goody for you! Consider it found money, but don't expect it to sustain your career -- can you say “Jerk It Out” by Caesars? Yep, I knew you could.

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