By Cari Cole

One of the key things I spoke about at the CD Baby Conference a few weeks ago in Nashville, is a subject that is seriously overlooked in today’s indie artist world. Everyone is shouting out about marketing and social media but no one is talking about the most important thing of all – your music and the importance of knowing your message and brand before you release your record. Matter of fact there is a formula to follow during the inception of your record and brand that will quadruple your results (see below).

Now, whether you have found your sound and are climbing the charts, are just now finding your sound, or you want to grow your fan base, you may have skipped a few steps that with your attention will skyrocket your brand and have followers tripping over each other. Who doesn’t want that – right?

Use these 10 steps to turn your music into a brand worth following.

Leave out one ingredient, and you’ll miss the magic formula.


1.  Your Why.

Why do you make music? What’s at the heart of it? To help you find your “why” think about what got you into music in the first place?


2. Your Passion.

What is your passion in life? What floats your boat? Your passion. Now, how can you work that into the message of your songs? I help artists bring their core passion, message, and their music together – learning how to brand to match your true calling.


3. Your Mission.

If you could change one person’s life, what message would you hope to inspire in them? Are you saying that in your songs (in the backdrop and/or foreground). How can you bring your mission more powerfully into your songs and brand without preaching?


4. Your Story.

When I am branding an artist the first thing I do is to get the overview and then the details of their life. In order to make the brand fit right, we have to pull out the themes and viewpoint that life has inspired for good or bad. This is a big piece of the branding later on, but we want to weave threads of your experiences into your songs. What’s your story?


5. Your Muse.

There are two pieces to this. One: What’s happening in your life right now? This is key to making great music. It’s not about putting on an act or slipping into a character, it’s about making who you are a character. And Two: Where are you headed business-wise? In order to brand effectively, I want to know the next steps business-wise for where you should go. Then aim to hit that target with the song material and theme. Sometimes an artist needs a muse, a period of intense reflection or a book or movie that inspires them to write. These are all the threads of great branding.


6. Your Message.

What is the Message of Your Music? Most music has a message. Think about it. Heartbreak, “New Rules” (Dua Lipa), “Too Good at Goodbyes” (Sam Smith), Social Justice (Jay Z), “Love Gone Wrong” or Relationship issue songs (Rihanna), Empowerment (Sara Bareilles, Beyonce) etc. What is your core message? Don’t rush to answer this. It’s a process of discovery because it should match who you are over the long term, not just the phase you’re going through. This will create a stronger foundation for your brand.


7. Your Songs.

Now that you have identified your core message, do your songs reflect that? If not, get to work. If so, keep refining until it communicates it even better (that’s great marketing btw).


8. Your Music.

Your music itself (the instruments, melodies, drums, production) needs to be relevant to what kind of music you are aiming to create. It’s important that you aim your arrow early on once the path becomes clear. A producer can help with this, but it’s best to do your own research to know where you are headed, or work with someone like myself who can help you figure this out. You also want your music to be relevant to now and not stuck in some time warp no matter how tempting it may be. If it’s vintage, then do it deliberately, but be sure that the drums and production modernize it.


9. Your Image.

This is an area we all need help with. No matter how creative and clever you are with your image and fashion, do your research. Just like your music has to have a relevancy, so does your look. Research and work with a top team. It doesn’t have to be megabucks – it’s about finding the right talent. Start with a stylist or fashion-forward friend and then look for your photographer, hair and makeup artist – and look for the best you can find who regularly shoot musicians. Remember, you are in charge of the overall project – don’t leave the big decisions up to anyone else no matter how much they insist, but listen to everything everyone says – then filter it to form your visual brand.


10. Your Presence.

If you are successful at branding, your image speaks for your music. Just one glance and we know exactly what we’re going to hear. It’s as critical as each prior step. Most people work with professionals who help them do this – but if you’re super visual and computer savvy you might be able to pull it off. In most cases I would say, work with professionals – a year from now you’ll be glad you did. Of course, executing this is deeper than just this list. Come work with me in my programs or in my individual coaching programs where I’ll kick your boot-ay and insist on your own excellence (We’re about to start our last run of the Your Breakthrough Record in 2018)!


In the meantime, get started with the formula above and get ready to grow!  I hope this helps you gain 10,000 new fans, and make $100,000 and play for 1,000,000 people this year!

Share your brand ideas in the comments below. You KNOW I love to hear from you!

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