Branding for Independent Musician’s

One of the smartest things a musician can do for themselves is realize that the moment they start a band, they start a brand.  From the moment of conception, your band’s name and image are synonymous with any songs you record. If you are savvy enough to claim your brand right away (before you even copyright, and license your future hits), you can turn every aspect of that brand into a viable revenue stream of its own. Superstars know this, which is why so many of them have created various brands. Celebs like P. Diddy (Sean John clothing), Beyoncé (House of Dereon-clothing), Justin Bieber (makeup/perfume) and The Weekend (XO label) know how lucrative merchandising can be and have put their image/name on clothing, colognes, and even makeup. But did you know that in creating your own brand merchandise, you can promote yourself as a newer artist?

It isn’t just celebrities that can make money off their brand, local musicians can create merchandise in their image/name to help promote themselves. You don’t have to have a famous name to sell a brand, you just need an interesting or different idea that fits your own personal budget, and you can be off and running.

samurai beer
1 Black Samurai (Image Source/Photographer Eric Molina under Creative Commons license

One awesome local Canadian artist that realized the potential in branding, is Al ‘Yeti’ Bones, frontman, and singer of Gypsy Chief Goliath.

Yeti saw the marketability in creating and promoting a custom product for his band’s brand. He chose to have a special beer brewed, which he named Black Samurai (IPA), after one of his song titles of the same name. In an interview with Glacially Musical last year, Yeti stated that the name was the result of a play on words initiated by the brewer, (Craft Heads Brewing Company).

“He is a fan of our band, and a good friend of mine,” Yeti explains to GM. “When we got talking he told me his plans. He said,” ‘you guys are heavy, and got that Black Sabbath thing going on, so I’m really thinking to do a batch of Black IPA’s for you guys!’”

“I told him, that is even better because we have a song that did fairly well called Black Samurai.“And me being the wordsmith I am lol, I said, ‘it could be a Black Samurai(PA). ha-ha get it? So, it worked.”

What the article didn’t explain, was what a great idea it was for the band to capitalize off of its brand. Using their own song title in conjunction with a similar themed black IPA brew offered a perfect sense of irony for fans of the group to savour, and offered a perfect product to draw in new fans to give the group a test run.

                                             GYPSY CHIEF GOLIATH:                                                 
AL Yeti Bones – Vocals/Guitar
Adam Saitti – Drums
Dustin Black – Guitar
John Serio – Guitar
Darren Brush – Bass
Rev. Brodie Stevenson – Harmonica

Creative Branding

Turning your band into a brand is as easy as coming up with a creative idea to associate with your music. When you are considering a brand to market, you have to consider what type of merchandise makes the most sense to your fanbase. Justin Bieber knows that his fanbase is made up of mostly teenage girls and tweeners. This is why he markets products designed specifically for them (nail polish and perfume).  The primary point is to market to your current fanbase before you climb too far out of the box and budget trying to bring in new ones.

If you have a particularly large budget, the sky is the limit when it comes to branding products. As a local musician, you can start off with a few of the staples, like stickers, hats, keychains, T-shirts and buttons. Eventually, you can branch out and get truly creative. Below is a list of products that others have marketed along with their CDs.

Shot glass                                        Necklace                                      Earrings

Water bottle                                   Lighter                                         Condoms (Bloc Party)

Sunglasses (Dr. Dog)                   Ceramic Mug (Coldplay)            Gas Mask (KYPCK)

Stationary w/Band’s logo          Autographed anything!              Weed Grinder (Waves)

Colouring book                          Cum Cloth (Tenacious D)            Craft Beer (Gypsy Chief Goliath)

Custom Drumsticks                    Guitar picks                                   Magnets

Light switch covers (Metallica)                                          Trading Cards (Weird Al Yankovic)

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If you are really looking to step out of the mainstream, you can always choose to go the same route as Rammstein, who chose to sell ‘authentic’ band dildos. The release of the dildos coincided with the German band’s release of their album Liebe ist für Alle da. The kit contained the dildos, handcuffs, lubricant and the CD. I can only assume that in calling it ‘authentic’ they were referring to each band member’s actual length, and girth being represented accurately. Was it crazy? Yes! Did it get people talking? Yes!

From a marketing perspective, selling the kit with the CD was a fantastic way to boost the brand’s broader appeal. Since the band is notorious for its sexually charged lyrics and performances, dildos proved to be a perfect fit. Those that didn’t know who Rammstein was before, certainly found out because the kits got immense global media attention.

For a German band that didn’t even perform most of its songs in English, the group saw its fanbase grow in North America substantially. The Liebe sex kits are now being sold as collector’s items on Ebay. Not bad for a band that that many North Americans never heard of.

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Another fine idea came in the form of a Graphic Novel that was sold for Cannibal Corpse. The novels sold at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival in 2009. The kit was titled, “A History of Violence” and included each of the band’s album covers.  Next, the “Evisceration Plague” comic graphically offered up a story for every song on the band’s album with the same name. The idea here is that every song that was written has a story of its own. This was a fantastic idea and would be great to offer as a premium item. The graphic novel came with the CD inside.

The marketing tactic worked perfectly, and evisceration Plague sold 9,600 copies in the US in its first week of release. The album debuted at #66 on the Billboard charts. To put it into perspective, that is 50 percent higher than the opening of their previous CD “Kill”.

The point of all of this is to get local musicians to think creatively about branding and designing your own merchandise. You don’t have to go huge in your releases like Rammstein did, but the overall success that artists achieve in merchandising sales is hard to ignore. A local musician can brand a deluxe item to pair with an album release, and see their sales go through the roof. So, take some time, think about who you are and what your fans want, and then sell it to them with your very own stamp on it. Even if the merchandise doesn’t get you nominated for awards, it can still help you make a pretty penny in revenue. In the end, proper merchandising = Winning!



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