While a successful musician is most decidedly a business and there are many congruences with many commercial fields, there are monumental differences between the two and they should be taken into account when creating the path for a sustainable and efficient music career. The worst is when wannabe music gurus like a certain YouTuber from a certain music group falsely promote the idea that a music act has to be treated identically to a business and that you need a logo for example. No. Just no. So read below to educate yourself on the top 7 extreme differences between businesses and musicians and make sure to adjust your branding approach accordingly.
7. Your face and name are your logo.
Unless you’re a band, a record label, and have a container with merch coming from China on which you need to stamp your stuff, you DON’T require a logo. Don’t waste time, money, resources of any kind on a silly logo that most likely you won’t even like 3 years from now. You’re not a company rendering services or a business selling physical products. You’re a person who makes music and inspires people through the experience of it. A logo only makes sense if you’re a band as in that case the visual symbol would stand for multiple people. If you’re a solo artist, promote your name and image likeness. You want people to read your name and immediately think of a song of yours.
6. Your music narrative becomes your business statement.
What you talk about in your songs is directly the promise you make your fans. If you talk about feminism and belt your heart out about the sexism you’ve come across in your lifetime, that becomes your business essence. Your fans will know you as the singer who’s a convinced feminist. A business, on the other hand, has the luxury of separating completely the promise their products make to you from the owners’ own thoughts and opinions. Example: Elon Musk called one of the Thai cave rescuers a pedophile on Twitter back in 2018, but Tesla shares kept going up. As a musician, you don’t have the same luxury. What you talk about is what you’re about.
5. Your personal life is public domain.
Entrepreneurs barely ever are confronted with having their personal affairs displayed in public sources for everyone to judge. Unless of course, they get themselves associated with celebrities. As a music artist, just like your lyrics become your brand message, your personal life becomes continuous content for the fans to digest and judge you upon. Nobody sets out to actually put you on the stand but people judge automatically what you do and who you’re with whether they admit it or not. When Solange beat Jay Z in the elevator, the world went crazy with theories as to why Beyonce’ didn’t react in any way, shape, or form.
4. Your music can and will outlive you.
Unlike businesses, which always have to stay on top of the market to avoid complete irreversible failure, musicians create emotional products that will long outlive their physical state. Your music, if successful, will provide for your entire kin for decades. Look at the biggest in history whose songs still get performed today: Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, John Lennon. Do everything right or at least your best while you’re alive and you’ll have created market-proof products aka timeless music.
3. Your reputation will be based on your relationships (and NOT on your music alone).
Businesses’ branding and reputation are in direct proportion to the quality of services or products they sell. As a musician, being a person who needs others to succeed, your longevity and ease of access to the industry’s best will heavily depend on your one-on-one reputation. Treat a back vocalist poorly and his more famous cousin won’t allow you to record at the same reputable studio. Flip the wrong producer and you won’t be able to score any movies in the following years. Get in a public scandal with a record label and the other agents will steer clear from dealing with you. It is a highly dangerous path that of being a musician. One that requires a ton of diplomacy. If you don’t have it, start building it.
2. Your connection with fans is personal and long-term.
If the founder of Fitbit came up to you and shook your hands, you wouldn’t care. Like seriously, you wouldn’t care in the least. Unless we’re talking billionaire levels like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, no one cares about taking selfies with CEOs. A musician, by being open through his songs and performances to the public, creates a bond much deeper with his clients, aka his fans, than pretty much anyone in any industry on Earth. And guess what? People remember PEOPLE, not objects. You’ll last a lot longer as a singer than a new startup with a modern product.
1. Your product is allowed to age.
Let’s Get Loud was released in 1999. The performance above took place in 2017. 18 years later and people love that song as much as when it came out if not more due to nostalgia. Luckily for you, the music you put out when you’re at your peak in your artistic career will be the same music providing “dividends” for you when you’re older. Nostalgia hits everyone across the globe. And you’ll be in demand even as you age. We’ve had a major recent boom of groups and singers going back on tour with very old material. And as soon as the pandemic eases, the phenomenon will gain even greater momentum. Now, do you think the first iPhones from 2007 will have a comeback? No.
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