Personal Branding for Musicians: How What I Do Makes Me Unique and Memorable

I have been doing a lot of work with students these days around branding and the results have been fascinating! 

First, I worked with the Choral Conducting students at the Yale School of Music to teach them the basics of branding and how to use a brand statement to write a professional bio.  Then I was at Juilliard to help the students create a brand statement that we then converted into an elevator speech. 

A lot of the focus of these classes is to help students discover how they are unique so that they can best present themselves to the audiences that will hire them. One of the best ways to do this is by looking at what you do besides music and figuring out what that says about you.  But first, some basics.

What is a brand?  It is

•    a message
•    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.

Knowing your brand has many advantages.

Starting with the practical, it helps you to define your career objectives and target your marketing efforts so that you are working smarter, not harder.

It also reduces the feeling of competition since you know your value and why you are the best person for a particular segment.   This can go a long way to helping you to feel motivated as well as to project confidence and a positive attitude.

Thus, having a brand that shows how you are unique to your target audience is a powerful career-building tool. 

Musicians often have trouble figuring out how they are unique.  It’s hard to come up with these words!  I like to do an exercise in which you think about something you do besides music and what that says about you.    The advantage to this approach is that it takes you outside yourself and can liberate you to think creatively about who you really are.  Let’s take a look at some of my favorite examples of how what you do speaks volumes about who you are as a musician.

One of my pianist friends is a conservatory faculty member, festival organizer and Liszt specialist.  He also happens to be a competitive triathlete.  As a triathlete, he is fast, competitive, razor-sharp and passionate.  That pretty much sums up his teaching style, his piano playing and his leadership skills.

Another entrepreneurial pianist friend specializes in the Romantic era and has set up a business where he does home concerts where he connects his audiences intimately through the music.  His favorite other activity is pasta.  Pasta? What does that say about him?  He loves to cook for his friends, he makes up new pasta recipes and finds that he nurtures his friends through his cooking.  His words? Innovative,  emotional connected, nurturing.

Here are some other examples of musicians with a variety of outside activities whose words describing those activities also describe their approach to music:

The violinist who was a competitive swimmer in high school: 
Competitive, accurate, rhythmic

The composer who loves to cook refined meals and try new things:
Novel, spare, precise

The conductor who likes to cook by using whatever ingredients he has on hand:
Resourceful, innovative, creative

The bassoonist who makes jewelry: 
Classic, fun, full of color

The musician who is also a Beekeeper:

Connected and at one with the earth, finds beauty in the small things, enjoys the exchange between giving and receiving

The conductor who is also a visual artist and paints, does photography and weaves:

finds color in sound, does creative problem-solving, thinks of notes while painting and loves working with her hands.

So if you are trying to figure out what makes you unique, answer these questions:

1.    What besides music or art do I do that I love? 
2.    What does that say about me?
3.    What do I stand for?

Once you have these answers, you can use them to create your own brand statement.

Enjoy the experience of knowing your special place in this world.  It will help you practically, spritually and emotionally!