Words & Illustration: J. Scott Stratton
L ook, I’ll be the first to admit that “brand” isn’t the right term to speak about an artist’s work and identity. The idea of ‘building your brand as an artist’ can provoke some people.
A new vocabulary needs to be formed around the process of ‘artistic’ promotion. One that is not derived from commercial or capitalist ideologies. However, until that vocabulary exists, “brand” is the term I will use.
Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on where you are coming from, there are commercial constructs that govern how we, as a global society, interact and engage with personalities, products, and information that we like. I am not advocating that all of those strategies and methodologies transfer to the artistic realm. However, there are some things to be learned from specific thought processes used in commercial communication and brand building.
That said, digesting these tips—and possibly digging into some organisational tools—could open a portal in the development of building your brand as an artist:
Tip 1: Why should anyone give a shit?
There are a lot of artists, which means a lot of competition for attention. You need to step outside of yourself and look back at your work objectively.
Roll play yourself as an audience and be harsh. Ask yourself:
- Why should I give a shit about this artist or work?
- Have they given a path for me to follow in their communication, in order to reach what they are trying to say?
- What do they want me to know or feel?
Try to answer these questions (it will also prepare you for critique) and make a person understand and believe why you and your work are relevant. It will give you a framework for Tip 2.
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Tip 2: Start short, but go long
In this, I am referring to how you communicate about your work. Clear communication is useful not only in defining yourself as an artist but also specific pieces or collection of work.
Long format communication can be useful for PR and marketing, but as begin to feed the hype beast, you also need to be able to define and describe yourself and your work in seconds. If you can make someone understand what you and your work represent in under a minute, then adding detail to that–as you would for more formalized copy–will come much more natural.
Tip 3: Start with Why
In the business world, Simon Sinek shook up the industry with his methodologies on how the best brands lead with their values and purposes before they talk about what they do. In other words, they start with Why. There is a TED talk with Sinek, where he describes this.
This methodology is relevant to artists as well, as understanding ‘why’ and artist does what they do will help inform the audience before you describe ‘how’ and ‘what’ you do.
Tip 4: Find your fans, and make a community
It’s not the late 2000’s anymore, folks. World domination, and millions of followers should not be your focus anymore. Numbers don’t matter; influence does. Which means that you should gather your niche fans and admirers of your work, and nurture them.
It’s better to have a few hundred dedicated people, who actively engage with your work, then a few extra zeros and a comments section full of trolls and spam.
Tip 5: Pay it forward
As your artistic brand and work begin to grow in influence, you will need to come to terms that you might be the influence and inspiration of artists coming after you. If you are doing things right, you will most definitely be either a member or the spearhead, of a community.
Use your platforms–social, blog, whatever–also to share the work, thoughts or research of others in your community. Pay it forward with a little love to others within your fanbase or community, and you remove any sense of selfishness or ego from your artistic brand.
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