Taking control of your music career doesn’t just mean looking at how to get yourself out there.  There are other aspects to consider but one of the most important ones is YOU and your own personal BRAND

Who are you as a professional musician and artist?

Part of what people have to do in order to survive out in the big bad world of music is find something they do that no one else is doing, but being unique doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be completely different, just that you have to have “something” which doesn’t get lost through all the clutter.

There are examples of people who really are very different and “out there” like Gaga or Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie and the like, but these are really extremes in many ways. In South Africa we have characters like Jack Parow with his ridiculously long caps, these are traits which are either used to shock, add comedic effect or to distinguish themselves from the rest . If you feel like you have the right temperament, it suits your personality and attitude, then this might be the way for you. 

Most people, however, won’t want to go that far, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but what you do need is to find out what it is that you do differently. Is it the way you like to dress? How to speak to people? Maybe it’s just about the way you perform, what your ‘special thing’ is isn’t as important as allowing yourself the space to do that. In fact the most important way to distinguish yourself from other musicians and artists is through your music, which will be discussed later in this article

Remember that you’re still trying to appeal to a target demographic of the people who consume the kind of music you’re making, so try and keep to the stylistic and artistic traits that are common about the style. Hip-hop culture, pop culture, electronic music, all have certain traits which are characteristic of a ‘lifestyle and look’ which you need to look into. You can choose to be on the fringe of these or be 100% into that culture, either way, figure out what you do differently is and let that help define you.

What sets your music apart from other people in your genre?

Once you have an idea of what it is that makes you unique, you need to focus on the actual music you’re making.  The other aspects that help define you, such as personality, image and other things we have mentioned, are important but should compliment your brand of music.   Your music is ultimately what defines you and your brand, what you want to be known for.  For every song you make, there will be thousands of artists in the same place trying to make the same kind of music, so you have to, and we mean have to, be on the top of your game.

Consistency and relevancy are key components that cement an artist’s music in the mind of the consumer,  you need to be creating non stop. Whether it’s random 20 second piece that you think you’ll never use, or 10 minute long tracks that will never see radio play, as with anything, the more you create, the better you get at it. Many top performing people talk about the 10 000 hour rule, but those at the very top of their game are the ones who go far beyond that and keep at it. The hard part here is releasing music that consistently matches your brand and quality. Do not just create or release music for the sake of it.
Secondly, what sets you apart? Your voice (from an Artist’s point of view) is part of what draws every listener to you. It’s a very delicate balancing act which you have to follow. This  goes between what makes a style what it is and what sets you apart, so that’s something you have to consider very carefully.

About the balancing

For a moment we actually have to look at this balancing act too, because there’s a significant amount of importance here. Yes, your voice is important, and it’s absolutely paramount that you find and hone in on that voice. But you can also go too far, which can negatively affect your musical future.

Historically speaking there have been people who have pushed musical boundaries and made it work, and others that have failed dismally. Prince, ABBA, The Beatles, Elvis… These are names we all know, most of them long after the musicians have left the spotlight or are no longer with us.

Popular names like Drake, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Miley Cyrus and the like are who we look to in the modern era as people who are at a level that they can pretty much do what they feel like and get away with it.

But going too far can have negative consequences. Just look at what happened to Eminem’s release “Revival”. The album though groundbreaking on many levels, was seen as a non traditional breakaway that went too far from the accepted norms of making that particular brand of Hip Hop, and thus, the album didn’t do nearly as well as it could have. We are not here to discourage you from going outside of the box and trying something different. We are just trying to create awareness on  the issue that some artists seek to be different and unique over creating good music, which should never be the case. If you are confident and passionate about something that will subsequently make you extremely different and unique from the rest, then go for it, as long as it doesn’t negatively affect your music.

The Final word

In essence, what you need to be doing is looking at what you do and leaning in to what makes you different, and working with that so that you fit in a zone of being just different enough to be fresh and new, but just similar enough that people can recognise what you’re doing.