Welcome to another episode of the music creators. I’m your host Gary Stripling and I’m really excited about where we’re going today. We’re going to talk about a topic that is pertinent both to performance faith-based artists and bands as well as, to some degree, the worship leader you see in a church service.
So let’s get started.
For indie artists and bands I see as a common misstep they frequently take when they’re just getting started developing their brand in the marketplace. That disconnect is what we as audience members expect to see and hear from the stage, whether it’s a festival platform, a church platform or an outdoor pavilion. We’ve heard the music, we’ve checked them out on social media, but when we show up to experience them in a live concert setting it’s really not what we expected.
For instance, you hear the band or the artist on Spotify and your perception is that it’s a Christian country band okay. We know what country music sounds like and pretty much what they look like, you know, you’ve got Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line and others in that genre that are at the pinnacle of success in their careers as touring artists and bands. But then you add the component of Christianity to the music and think you’re going to get a Christian version of country music where you get sober, get your car back, and your dog comes back to life – yes I’m being funny. But then we show up to the concert expecting to see jeans and pointy cowboy boots and cowboy hats. Instead you’re seeing ripped jeans, Nikes, and backward ball caps. Yes, I’m exaggerating this, but you see the point.
We get what we came to HEAR but there’s a disconnect between what we’re hearing and what we’re seeing on the stage. Even if you’d never seen a pic of the band but only heard their music, there’s an expectation of what you’ll SEE when you arrive at their show based on their genre.
So I want us to take a few minutes to explore how to alleviate that disconnect so that the brand you think you’re creating is consistent. The brand of course needs to be consistent across every representation of you or your band on the Internet, all your social media, on your website – everything about you needs to be branded consistently and that means the colors, the logo, your tag line, including the photos that you share online in your headers. I’m talking about Twitter headers, Facebook headers, your Spotify canvas.
That brand needs to consistently be applied but it also needs to accurately reflect the style of music you’re sharing. Here’s an example I experienced about 10 years ago: a great group of very talented older African-American men graduated out of a rehab facility the church owns. They’re great singers and in fact back in the day they were backup singers in Mowtown. Upon hearing that they want to start a group, the church’s minister of music starts working with them, puts them in choir robes and stands them in the middle of the choir loft in the church sanctuary and that becomes their cover photo for their album. I was brought in to consult with them on their branding and to create a development & management plan going forward, with the upcoming release of their first album.
So it’s funny because at the conclusion of spending a day and a half with these fellas we are completing the consultation in the church conference room. It’s a huge conference room with a big long 20 foot conference table whatever and sitting all around are the guys, the senior pastor, a couple of associate pastors, the Minister of Music and his assistant, and the church’s attorney. And so we’re all sitting there and they’re waiting for my feedback and what I think about the group going forward that should be done differently, what should they change completely or scrap They’ve shown me their cover art for their upcoming release and they want to know my my opinion. So I hold up a hard copy of the proposed cover art for their album and tell them they need to get rid of this and start over. That was one of those “pin-dropped” moments of awkward silence. So I explained.
The music that I’m hearing from these guys is nothing like Church choir music or classical chorales – it is nothing like that. What I’m hearing is a Mowtown meets Jesus album. In fact it has almost a grungy, hard sound to it. I mean it’s talking about how they overcame hard times and addictions and different things that had taken them on a different path than they had expected. So the music is really different than what you would expect to hear if you bought that CD based on the cover art. Their brand hasn’t been fully developed to reflect their genre and style and the photo shoot betrays the very music inside. I would take them to you know an old factory setting a burned out factory or a different leather jackets maybe T-shirts to make them look casual but also like serious musicians. Definitely want to stay away from those brick walls because that is very cliché.
So we talked about bit about that and I shared with them my thoughts on the branding of the group and what direction they should be going in. After I explained why they got it and were actually very happy and decided to start from scratch and re-create the brand from the mission statement, from the guys hearts, and have a brand-new photo shoot.
Now the converse of a situation like that in a real life situation is where you go overboard. You’re a heavy Christian rock band and so you think everything you put out there needs to look like Metallica or KISS. You need to have your own brand, your own look to appeal to your audiences. You need to be sure that that’s consistently applied and you don’t want to exaggerate your “look” and create disconnections from what was expected based on the music with what you see in a live setting. Why? Because it won’t play well First Baptist Church Gooseberry, South Carolina – it’s not going to go well. In fact, once they’ve seen your press kit, your EPK or whatever media you presented them to review as buyers, they may not like what they see having never heard what your music and then they never give you an opportunity.
If it’s for a Friday night concert and they’re going to kick off a young adult conference and they really want Elevation Worship type music to speak to the hearts of the attendees through deep worship, but you show up and start playing your best interpretation of your favorite Stryper song, then there’s definitely a disconnect.
So the bottom line is that you need to make sure your brand matches the style and genre of music that you’re wanting to your audience to get. Yes, you may appeal to only a certain demographic of listeners. But at the end of the day you don’t want to limit your opportunities if you are very stringent in the demographic you want to reach. At this point for most indie artists and bands I tell them if you’re just getting started make sure your brand is solid, make sure it’s professional in every way including your photos. When creating your logo there are plenty of tremendous artists out there who are really good at developing logos and color schemes for artists and bands and you need to find one. But what I’m saying is indie artists need to be sure that their appeal is broad enough to reach your intended audience but not knock out others who might venture into your lane of music.
So let’s get rid of that disconnect. When you begin the process of branding yourself and your band you need to make sure that it reflection your mission statement, it reflects why you do what you do and it matches the genre of music that you’re wanting to play or produce. So if you’re not heavy rockers Christian rockers or even metal rockers in don’t brand yourself like that when you’re actually more CCM or crossover pop. And not everybody needs to go out into the middle of a wheat field and take their photos. You shouldn’t be standing in front of the ubiquitous (and cliched) brick walls. Likewise, if you’re southern gospel you don’t always need to be standing in an the middle of an old, empty church. Once you’ve established your brand in the marketplace and people identify your brand with your sound then you can start even using vector or illustrations for artwork that’s professionally prepared for your cover art instead of using your photo on everything. I do like to use the bands photo on the cover at the beginning of an indie artist’s career because it’s super important that you visually connect with your audience, and it is very very important that you have a professional photo shoot and you always need a stylist.
Now a wedding photographer may not always be able to shoot indie artists or bands. You may know someone who does a great photo shoot for a bride and groom but when it comes to shooting an artist or a band that’s an entirely different type of a job. So you need to look around for different photographers and look at their portfolio online and see if they’ve shot any bands or artists. If they haven’t then you need to have a direct conversation with them and ask if they have any experience in doing so. You can even show them some shots of some bands you really want to emulate (NOT copy) but whose style really appeals to you. Show them some photos & some cover art and say hey this is the direction we want to go and can you do this? As far as the stylist is concerned, everyone whether you’re a male or a female – you need a stylist on set with your shoot. That stylist is going to make sure that your collars are right, make sure that the shadows aren’t across your face, make sure that everyone’s hair looks correct, make sure the females in the group are presented in the shoot modestly, that the guys’ zippers are up (yes, I’ve seen this, sadly). Stylist is really really important to work with the photographer in many cases the photographer will have their own stylist.
You just want to make sure that everything is consistent and that your brand is applied to your music as well as your visual representation in the marketplace (social media, website, album art, etc.)
So I hope these tips will help you if you’re just getting started as an indie artist or band, or if you’ve been in the business for a while and you’re not real sure why you’re not getting any calls to come out and perform or share your music with anyone. Don’t let your brand make you look unprofessional. So we always start with branding and developing the mission statement. We discuss the photo shoot & what they really expect to portray visually and how that will or will not match the music they’re putting out there.
Whether you’re a faith-based performing artist or band, or a worship leader with a worship team, it’s so important that there is not a disconnect between your brand and who you actually are in a live setting. I welcome your input on this topic, so feel free to drop me a line in the comment section of this podcast at www.tmamediapodcast.com.
Again go to tmamediapodcast.com and find episode number two and click in the comment section and leave your your thoughts on this topic. So until next week I pray you have a great weekend and outstanding week coming up. Don’t forget to subscribe so you be notified whenever these new podcasts are released on Fridays, as well as share these podcasts with your bandmates or other artists and groups that might need similar help. Take care everybody and I’ll talk to you next week.