The Indie Image (Part 1)
The music industry can seem like a massive competition for people’s attention. Image is probably the single most important tool an independent level artist can use to grab a passer-by’s attention. I think we can all agree that image nowadays plays a major role in any artist’s career.
With things like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the like, people expect to “see” something, and see something good. As an indie artist without financial backing for photo shoots, video shoots, and website design, image can be the single largest disparity between an indie and a bigger name artist.
Even I, an indie music enthusiast, still find myself most attracted to indie artists that put forth a polished image. After looking through thousands of band profiles (professional and indie), on many different websites, I have begun to notice a distinct recipe for a polished image. So here begins a two-part series that takes a look at that recipe for success that will improve your image, your appeal, and ultimately your fan base without dropping thousands upon thousands of dollars for an overhaul!
The first thing a potential new fan will see, and will be judging you on, is your profile/website picture. Your artist picture should be something that not only grabs attention and is interesting in and of itself, but also says something about yourself and your music. Standing in the trees, or leaning up against a brick wall with your acoustic guitar, however, does not say anything to anyone… and trust me, it’s been done before.
Put yourself in the mindset of a casual internet browser searching for new music…are you more likely to click on artist’s profile with a cool, interesting photograph, or on an artist’s profile with a picture obviously taken with a point-and-shoot that could easily be a profile picture on facebook? Your picture should be professional...period.
I rarely will urge artists to spend money they don’t have, but it's different this time. Your picture is your pick-up line in the dating world of music, so it has to be as close to perfect as possible. If it's not on a high level of excellence, you may never see that person again. So, hire someone with a portfolio that you love that can take high quality photos. Maybe you have to spend $200-300, but more people will visit your artist page, and ultimately more people will listen to your music.
And, just some friendly advice after seeing profile after profile...avoid band “logos”, and/or "cool" graphics, and/or words in general unless it is an official album cover of yours. Just a simple polished picture of you, or the band, is all you need.
The second item someone will look at on your page will be your music. Your music will be what people are most interested in. A new visitor especially will spend the most time investigating your songs while they briefly visit your page. Demos, scratch songs, and/or rough mixes should never appear anywhere on a profile/website. Why? They are unprofessional and unpolished. I see all too often artists pushing songs, especially "new songs", that are not enjoyable because of the lack of production.
I get an update..."hey, we have a new song posted, come check it out"...I click through. I arrive at the page to find out that the new songs are just demos/scratch. Not only does that disappoint me as a band/artist follower, but a “new song” isn’t any more new than your “old songs” to a first time visitor. Leave your new songs off your page until they are professionally produced.
Remember you, as the artist, are up against the entire industry of great sounding music. A casual passer-by won’t make an exception for your sound quality, because they have “standards” that they enjoy. Think about going to see a movie…when you go see a summer blockbuster, you have an expectation of the quality of the special effects and acting. The same applies here. People have expectations.
Use restraint and save your new stuff for when it is properly produced. You don’t hear the voice memos of Jesus Culture’s new song on their website. They wait to release the song, because they know the power of the first impression. You only get to impress someone with your song once! Don’t use that first impression up with a home demo. Put your best sounding songs up for listening, and leave off all the “demos”, “scratch tracks”, or anything that doesn’t sound polished, even if it is new. I personally would rather listen to something old and good sounding than something new and rough. People like to see positive progress.
In my personal opinion, as an artist, your image will make or break you. Cleaning up your image is the first step to putting yourself a step above the countless profiles out there. The time for sub-par pictures and bad sounding music is over! You don’t gain a following by being okay with mediocre. Hear me when I say, there is a big difference between vanities and being into image in a bad way, and a healthy clean up of your image. We can all take good steps in a healthy direction to better represent ourselves.
Sean is a full-time producer and songwriter in Lawrenceville, GA.
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