Your Brand and The Perfect World: Branding as a Vehicle for Audience Development

This week, my class took on the subject of branding. I love teaching musicians about how to create and use their brand because the right brand is a self-empowering message about the best of you and your promise of quality to your Ideal Audience–the people whom you are eager to attract. 

A brand is not about you-it is about communicating your promise to your Ideal Audience.  By helping to forge a powerful emotional connection with that audience, a brand becomes a tool that not only inspires you to be your best but also boosts your confidence and projects positive energy to those around you: a true win/win

Audience development is one of the major challenges facing classical musicians today and we are living in a world where the relationship between musicians and their audiences presents a tremendous opportunity to advance the field. That was certainly an important theme in the recent seminar at Yale on the Role of Technology in the future of music where the experts advised today’s musicians to find their fans and leverage technology in order to forge a meaningful connection with that audience.

While musicians sometimes resist the idea of “pitching” to a target audience on the theory that it is antithetical to their authenticity and personal growth and is too limiting (until they realize how connected a brand is to one’s artistic purpose), I firmly believe that identifying and connecting with the right audiences is critical no only for one’s professional development but also to solidify our field.  Thus, I include the target audience into my branding discussions so that my students begin to carve out the part of the audience with which they resonate. 

That brings us to artistic mission: 

Why do you care about this particular audience?  And if that audience is important to you, how are you impacting them?  And how does that relate to your artistic mission?

We do this through an exercise called “The Perfect World”.  It goes like this.

  • If the world were a perfect place, what would you be doing as a musician?
  • In this perfect world, what are you achieving through your work?
  • In this perfect world, whom are you impacting and what is your role in making the world a perfect place?

Here is what my students came up with:

  • Mission:  to keep creativity flowing and have younger generations create modern and original music, art and poetry.  Strategy: commissioning new music thanks to a free flow of donors, teaching at the university level to pass along the learning and performing in educational concerts to introduce new music, as well as bringing new music to audiences who are unfamiliar with the new.
  • Mission: Performing for excited packed audiences who understand and hear nuances in the music and love the music being made so that they are transported to another plane in order to forget about the stress of everyday life, as well as giving students a foundational life-long love and respect for music so that they are excited to be part of the musical world, whether as performers or as listeners.
  • Mission: getting the younger generation into classical music, whether educating them about it, getting them to play an instrument or pursuing music as a career. Strategy:   involve the university community in classical music through community engagement and concerts, including those in non-traditional venues.
  • Mission:  to bring happiness and peace to the less privileged and those in need.

And then one student remarked:

In a perfect world, I would not be a musician.

Why? Because for him, the purpose of music and art is to overcome the pain and suffering in the world and in a perfect world, there is no pain and suffering.  Therefore, there is no need for art and he would not be a musician.

That got the discussion going!  And it affirmed the belief of the other students of the importance of music and art to our culture.  I even chimed in by saying that my personal mission is to help musicians thrive at their art because the world is a better place with music and art and by helping all of them to succeed as musicians and artists, I feel that I am making the world a better place.

All this from a marketing tool that helps to distinguish Coke from Pepsi and when taken to a deeper level, can help idealistic young musicians to tap into the best of themselves and connect with the audiences of the future.  In my book, this is an important factor relating to the future health of music in our culture.