Personal Branding for Musicians: How To Discover and Communicate What Makes You Unique

A personal brand is a powerful marketing tool for creative artists that communicates your authentic unique gift to the people you want to attract. It is a message to your ideal audience members

•    that expresses what makes you unique and memorable

•    and distinguishes you from your competition

•    so that your target audience connects with you emotionally and wants to work with you.

You can create your brand by answering the following 4 questions:

1.    What makes me unique?
2.    How do I use my unique talents?
3.    For whom do I do it (i.e., who is my primary target audience)?
4.    What is the desired experience that I want my audience to have?

So how do you begin to describe what makes you unique and compelling to your target audience?

 An interesting way to create your brand is to find a tangible object that says something special about you.  Often, this object can provide fascinating insights into what makes you tick, as well as what makes you stand out.  I have done this exercise with my students at the Yale School of Music and the results have been fascinating!


One of my students is a clarinetist who is passionate about opera and new music.  The object that he brought into class was a concert video of Cecilia Bartoli singing Vivaldi.  He related that when he was 8 years old, he heard a recording of the Four Seasons and that is what inspired him to go into music. He also said that if he could be anyone else, it would be Cecilia Bartoli because she is “insanely gifted, has amazing technique and is generous as a performer”.  Combining his passion for the new with his admiration for Cecilia Bartoli, he describes himself in his brand statement as follows:

“I am a generous, charismatic and innovative musician who takes risks and stretches the boundaries of the art form whilst always striving for the highest possible level of technical accomplishment.”

Another student, a singer, selected a teal blue stuffed animal that he has had since he was a baby.  Ever since then, teal has been his favorite color and as a singer, it showcases him as  “vibrant”, “on point” and “energetic”.

Another student brought in her baby pictures to remind her of what she was like as a child when she was carefree and could be her authentic self.  In her brand statement, she described herself as follows:
“I am a dedicated, passionate, multi-dimensional and fun singer who performs with my whole authentic self.”

Along the same lines, many students have selected pictures and videos of their families.  This translates into brand statements that include words like “loving”, “generous” and “connected”. 

Sometimes you can discover your brand by turning to your hobbies for a clue as to who you are at your best. 

One student brought in a backpacking stove that he takes on camping trips since the stove reminds him of the good times he has shared with close friends and family and also demonstrates his self-reliance and ability to plan, his adventurous nature and his enjoyment of “getting away” from the quick pace of life.  He further observed that the process of having a safe and successful backpacking trip, like a musical performance, involves a lot of advance planning and preparation but that once you are engaged in the experience, things often do not go as planned and you must go with the flow. And the feeling of “flow” that he experiences in a performance is the same way that he feels on a camping trip when he is relaxed and separated from his other responsibilities.

Here is how that translates his camping stove into his brand statement:

“I am a relaxed, focused, mindful, and inspiring musician whose goal is to educate and excite curious and open-minded individuals by exposing them, through lessons and interactive performances, to the power, energy, and subtle nuances of classical music in the hope that they will appreciate and share an invigorated passion and fresh understanding of music with those around them.”

Finally, an object can help you to clarify your mission as a musician so that you can connect with your audiences on an emotional level.

One of my students whose family came from China brought in a picture of her father taken when he was 15 and still in China, dressed in traditional clothing and holding a Chinese flute.  This student’s father had to leave China because of the Cultural Revolution. Before he left for Canada, his parents burned his flute and all his music so as to prevent him from becoming a musician for fear that he would not be successful in his new country.   My student expressed her deep gratitude that her parents for encouraging her musical talents.  She also felt that her mission as a musician was to communicate the power of music as follows:

“I am an innovative, communicative and engaging musician who engages deeply and shares music, both old and new, with diverse, curious audiences because music connects people around the world and enables us all to feel compassion, hope and love.”

So look around your home for an object that says something special about you.  It may very well contain the clues of what it is that makes you unique and connected to your ideal target audience!