10. Brand: The singer has to be as cool as the song
I mentioned in rule #9 that these days it is almost as fun to track an artist as it is to track his or her art. But social media beside, the story of the artist very often gives the art more value because art with an interesting character and story can get us more interested and intrigued.
You know when some famous singer covers an obscure song, somehow it changes everything? That’s the power of brand.
Think of your favorite art. Do you know the artist’s story? And what does their story do to your impression of their art?
For example what do we think of when we say Van Gogh? Post-impressionism and cutting his ear off. We’re at least a little bit curious about someone who struggled internally deeply enough to cut off his ear.
Prince? Effeminate eclectic with radical creative explorations. It is probably worth seeing what someone who is so creative and bold makes as art. Also, I think people with fearless self-expression are intriguing because we get to live vicariously through them.
Lady Gaga? Even if we don’t love her music we’re curious what she’s wearing. I think, in her case, her personality may precede her music. Not that that has to be the nature of our brand. But being bold and intriguing can work in our favor.
Stories of the artist deepen our interest and I think when we find out about them, it flavors how we see the art they make. And think about when we are telling someone about certain art we like. Don’t we often talk about the artist and his or her story? It can totally help the word spread.
One of my favorite bands is called Seryn (@), and when I watched this video of them singing, the passion, personality and synergy I saw in them made the music more than just music. The dark and tall front man sings with his head back and eyes closed, mouth wide with passion shining from his face. All this while the serene latin beauty deftly harmonizes, the denim-clad asian man slices in with mysteriously erie violin strokes, and a band of real good bluesy guitar spindlers pull it all together. The music is heavenly, and after seeing these folks, deeper meaning and humanity built itself into their music for me.
If you’re worried that you’re not that cool, or you don’t have a story, you still might be in business, because you can “art” that too. We get to spin our story. We get to develop our brand. That becomes an art in itself that we can work on. Not that we manipulate, we just find the parts of us worth featuring. That’s what any artist does. Picks out and pulls together the parts of life others hadn’t yet recognized as beautiful.
Think about what is the main thing you want people to know your work by? Or ask what is your message and how does your platform back that up. If you’re not photogenic, then get creative like the Gorrillaz, who marketed themselves by cartoon characters and that became their thing. That gives one more thing about them worth talking about.
My real name is Ross Boone, but I went with the pen name Raw Spoon, because when you say it fast it sounds like my name, and it added story. People might tell their friend about me, leading with the reason for the pen name. Then I started wearing the same fedora-style hat and similar gingham shirts to all my public engagements and photoshoots. I printed my little monster on my cards, which were actually stickers. I titled my blog, “Monster in Theology” and emblazoned across my site: “Imagination rescuing my faith.” That’s the singular brand I have tried to focus my work around. Imagination and Faith, the monster and the Fedora. I think it’s important for every artist to be aware of the world’s impression of them. We don’t want them to think of us as different than we are (we want to be honest) but instead to focus their impression of us into a memorable one that gives them a reason to listen to us.
That’s the power of brand.
But there is another reason I think this is so important. In a lot of crafts, “finding your voice” is of great importance because if your speaker has a strong sense of personality that people like, they will listen to what she says. And if your narrator is other than yourself this is best accomplished in subtle ways. If you’re trying too hard people will sense that but if in your novel, your character says “trousers,” then he’s cooler than if he says pants, because in our mind he has suddenly become old and british. And to us Americans, that’s almost always cooler.
That’s the power of voice, which is just another way to say what I mean by ‘brand.’
(Someone else who understands ‘brand’ deeply is Donald Miller. Subscribe to his brand emails to get his free tips, or take his courses.)