Learn To Brand Like Taylor Swift

By Cliff Dumas
CMA, ACM & CCMA Winning Broadcaster

How do you become a brand?

The Rock Star, Memorable Actress, Great Dad, The Nutrition Guru, The Honest and Wise Friend- memorable and easily identifiable personalities like these have achieved a key piece of success; they’ve transformed their personalities into a brand. As an artist, you need to know what your unique brand is and be able to express it confidently, authentically and consistently to connect through your music, engage meaningfully with fans and have a successful, long-lasting career. Your music is only the first step. Your audience wants to get to know you. What you reveal and how you represent yourself across all of your social platforms and media opportunities will help you craft your story and create your brand.

Identify your key character building blocks and strategically use them them throughout your performance, social media and other media opportunities (interviews).

How do you identify your “character building blocks”?

Start by create a list of things you are passionate about, your quirks, your important life stories then you can integrate them into your show and interviews. Love to cook? Let your fans know. Like sports? Share it with your audience. Have a great story about your first date or most memorable Christmas? Share it. Being vulnerable and revealing personal things about yourself will help you connect with your audience. The more your audience gets to know you the more they will like you, the more they like you the more they’ll become loyal to your brand. That translates into more downloads and concert ticket purchases. No one does this better than Taylor Swift. Taylor consistently communicates and connects with her fans on social media. This creates a more engaged fan based which leads to more revenue.

Taylor Swift’s social media savvy paved the way for album “1989” to sell more copies in its opening week than any album in the previous 12 years making Taylor the first and only performer to have three albums sell more than 1 million copies in a week.

How did social media help Taylor Swift break album sales records?

Taylor SwiftBetween Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, Taylor Swift has more than 140 million followers or subscribers.

What’s the secret to “Branding” yourself?

Two things, a delicate balance of you and them. Too many brands and celebrities do nothing but talk about themselves on social (Kardashians), but Taylor Swift understands that her millennial audience grew up in the “sharing” culture.  Her Twitter feed is full of retweets of undiscovered artists covering her songs, of wedding videos using her songs and lots of fan collages sharing their love of her music and personal connection to who she is and what she stands for. On Instagram, she comments constantly on her fans’ posts, and during Christmas a few years ago  she chose a number of lucky fans and randomly sent gifts, which, of course, was documented on video and shared to the delight of fans which in turn create millions of extra views. The result is Taylor Swift’s effort and commitment to engaging her fans continues to deepening her connection to them further expanding her impressive fan base and strengthening her brand.

More recently Taylor showed up at the wedding of Max Singer (a longtime fan) and Kenya Smith. Taylor received a letter from Max’s sister Ali telling her how Max and Kenya got married in a hospital prior to their June 4 celebration — so their mother would’nt miss her son’s wedding before she passed away. Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” was mom and son’s first dance song.

 

Congratulations Max and Kenya!!

A photo posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

Winning branding begins with a clear message of who you are and what you stand for. The more concise your message, the more memorable it will be. Renowned companies utilize this formula. For example: Campbell’s Soup. Campbell’s is the brand and “Soup” is the category. Once a brand becomes a household name, the category designation can be dropped. There is no doubt about these brands: Taylor Swift, Disney, Google, Starbucks and Ryan Seacrest.

Just like everyday brands we’ve come to know and trust like Nike and Apple, your “personality brand” can represent you and earn audience loyalty. The more famous someone or something is, the fewer words are needed to identify them. Consider one-name celebrities like Oprah, Beyonce, Shaq, Sting and Madonna. They require no further introduction.

Brands deliver consistent experiences. This consistency earns the audience’s trust.

In order to set yourself apart from the rest, you must personalize your audience’s experience. Apple builds excitement every year in anticipation of its technological advances and every year its competitors rush to duplicate them. What’s distinctive about Apple? A consistent, quality user experience earns Apple supreme consumer loyalty.

Creating a great brand takes dedication:

The formula for success is quite simple: double your rate of failure.
–Thomas J. Watson, Sr. (founder of IBM)

Building brand recognition, trust and loyalty requires effort and once you’ve achieved it, the trick is to create momentum and consistency.
The average person will tell three people about a positive experience with a brand, but will share a negative experience with thirty three people!
Personality brands are powerful because your audience identifies with you on a personal level. Your fans have an emotional connection with you AND your music. Once you’ve earn that gift, you have to maintain integrity with the values that earned you their trust in the first place.

The three rules to becoming a personality brand:

ImportanceOfBranding_Banner from Music Clout1. Make sure your message is focused and easy to remember. Work on being engaging, don’t ramble. Craft interesting and relatable stories to describe your music, your life, your experiences, please don’t say, “Here’s a song I think you’ll like, it goes something like this”. Put some thought into what your are going to say regardless of whether it’s a 140 character tweet or song introduction during your performance.
2. Put in the time and commitment. Rehearse in front of friends, the mirror or record yourself on our iPhone/smart phone or iPad/tablet and critique yourself. How important is it to have compelling stories to tell about yourself and your music? It can be the difference between being memorable and forgettable. I recently worked with an artist for weeks to craft the moments between the songs to create a better overall performance experience for his fans and give him more confidence on stage. That artist was just signed by Sony Music!
3. Be authentic, honest and real and deliver a consistent quality experience to your fans.

*Photos from Elle.com & Musicclout.com

5 Not-So-Obvious Revenue Streams for Musicians

By Cliff Dumas
CMA, ACM & CCMA Winning Broadcaster

Making a career out of your music ability is the dream of virtually every musician. But how do you do that? Who do you trust? How do you create sustainable revenue? Here are some excellent not so obvious revenue stream suggestions from Michael St. James founder and creative director of St. James Media.

-Cliff

A version of this article originally appeared on Performer Magazine.

You’ve probably seen many lists outlining revenue opportunities. Here’s a little twist on not just learning what they are, but also how to utilize them. In fact, some of these may never have even occurred to you. Here are five ways you start making money from your music right now!

1. Master/sync licenses

Photo from mollaeilaw.com

By far, this should be the most important part of your music business plan now. In other words, this is where the real money is. Without boring you with music publishing and rights laws, here’s a basic breakdown.
If you wrote and paid to record your own music, you are the songwriter, publisher, and label. This gives you an advantage over most majors, as they have separate labels and publishers to grant licenses for the master and sync rights respectfully. You can negotiate a deal granting the master (recording) and the sync (underlying song) rights all by yourself. This is called a “one-stop” or “pre-cleared” deal.

Every entertainment medium needs music: commercials, TV shows, movies, local news, web campaigns, and games. Try to start local first; find a local restaurant, car dealership, even a local filmmaker. Understand their messaging, then pair a track with it for your pitch.

2. YouTube monetization

youtubeSet up your YouTube channel to allow monetization, and choose ads that are less than 30 seconds (unless they’re trailers). Fifteen-second entertainment ads pay best but can’t be skipped. Every song you’ve ever recorded should have at least an album cover video and a lyric video. Uploading these gets your music into the YouTube content ID system, and you’ll earn a percentage of the revenue share with Google on the ads.

But the key here is to have your music available for other content creators (like your brother’s sister-in-law in her basement making fashion videos) to use simply and in a way it makes you money.

That’s right. If complete strangers need to use music for their videos on YouTube, and your music is available, it’s free for them to use, but you get paid. You must administer those rights on the platform and be a partner. This is a little-known secret: you cannot do this on your own, and you will not get paid if your music isn’t administered properly. So use a service like Audiam or Rumblefish, which charge a 25 percent admin rate off of the top.

Think outside the box here. You could use your own songs to do a tutorial lesson on bass, guitar, or vocals. You could break down one of your song’s structures and boom – another video. Add an audio track to one of your songs, explaining the life moment behind its writing.

3. Instrumentals

Photo from Rappingmanual.com
Photo from Rappingmanual.com

Probably the most important facet of lost musician revenue is the lack of a clean instrumental track. To effectively license music and make sure you have as many chances as possible for uses, make sure that you have an instrumental version (no vocals) and a “TV-up version” (just background vocals – “oohs” and “ahhs”), as well as a separate vocals-only track in addition to the final master mix of the song.
So, you have four “songs” now:
• full mix (regular song)
• instrumental (no vocals)
• TV-up (just background vocals)
• separated vocals (acappella)
There are countless times when a song cannot be used because of a lyric here or there, or the vocal just doesn’t hit the right emotion. Sometimes you can get the same money for 30 seconds of the bridge without vocals as you could for the whole song. This is imperative.

4. Shazam

shazam logoShazam might be one of the most important drivers of the future of music. Industry insiders are watching these charts very closely – trust me.
To get your music onto the platform, first make sure you have a distribution service (like CD Baby, The Orchard, TuneCore, etc.) in place, then ask them to submit your music to the Shazam database. Once you’re in Shazam’s ecosystem, tag your own song and save it. Then, plan a “Shazam Party” by asking all of your fans to download Shazam (free), then play that song on their computer or stereo at a time (like Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. EST), and all Shazam it at once.You’ll hit the top of local charts and possibly larger ones. It will get you noticed and might lead to a larger licensing deal.

5. SoundExchange

sound exchangeYou know of PROs that collect for performance royalties, but they only do that for songwriting, publishing, and composition. SoundExchange administers the statutory license for satellite radio and web-casters. They collect for the recording owner and featured artist. Think about this way: Aretha Franklin didn’t write “Respect,” nor did she own the publishing or the master recording. But she is that song, plain and simple. So why shouldn’t she be paid every time that song is played? Well, that’s what SoundExchange does – only for satellite and web radio (non-interactive, like Pandora). No terrestrial radio (yet).

Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specialising in music licensing, publishing, production, and artist development.