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How To: Create a Musical Persona

September 15, 2015

Most people who hear your music will never be in the same room as you, let alone meet you in person. Yet, once you put your music online, it’s out there for the entire world to hear. As people listen to your songs and interact with your online presence, what impression are they getting about you?

Listeners form impressions about you not only based on your music, but also from everything else associated with you: your look; how you interact with your fans; how you appear on stage; your logo fonts, images, and colors; your web, social, and mobile presences; the words you write and your tone; even the icon you use in the MP3 files that you distribute. All of these components come together to form your public image—your persona— and become your identity in their minds.

The band Friends W/O Benefits call themselves “skate punk disco.” A few words can say a lot.
That’s why it’s worth it for you to take control of your persona so you can shape their perception of you and your music, and give your fans an identity they can relate to. Otherwise, fans will decide for themselves who you are, based on whatever inconsistent or haphazard perceptions may be out there. It’s also worth the time because the elements that make up your persona form the ingredients of your merchandise, press materials, and social presences.

Your persona is made up of the following major elements:

1. YOUR MUSIC

Your music is at the heart of everything you do and as you release it, consider how it represents you and your persona. This will also help determine the rest of the elements that you put into your persona. For example, if your music is dark and moody, the logo and colors that you use should evoke the same vibe.

2. YOUR NAME

If you haven’t chosen a stage or band name yet, choose one that matches your music and find one that’s unique, has a domain name open, isn’t trademarked by anyone else, and can be understood if someone shouted it in a loud bar.

3. YOUR MUSIC DESCRIPTION

Find a way to describe your music clearly in a few words. For example, we recently met a band called Friends W/O Benefits (fwobband.com) who called their music “skate punk disco.” Those three words immediately give you an idea of what they sound like and make you want to find out more.

4. LOGO

Your logo will be used online and off, and is a key ingredient for your merch. Consider using vector line art because those images are resizable, as large or small as you want. That way the image looks perfect on large banners onstage, or within tiny avatars and MP3 images.

Your look should fit the message you want to convey about your music. In the case of Pretty Reckless frontwoman Taylor Momsen, her look, band name, and music all fit together perfectly.
5. FONTS

You should experiment with fonts; thousands are downloadable all over the Web. Some fonts will be better than others to use within your imagery in order to evoke the feel that you want to create for your persona. Don’t limit yourself to the fonts that are available on your computer; there are lots of options out there, to help express who you are.

6. COLOR PALETTE

Colors evoke moods and provide a way to create an emotional dimension to your persona. The colors you use should complement your music, but most importantly, all of the colors in your palette should work well together. If you can, chose Pantone colors because they will look the same on a computer screen as they do printed on merch.

7. IMAGE OR LOOK

Artists who have gained a significant following usually develop an image beyond their logo, colors and fonts to help their fans identify with them. That image includes how they dress, interact with fans, their attitude, and how they appear onstage. Some artists choose a style that’s gimmicky; some even wear costumes (Daft Punk, Insane Clown Posse). Some artists’ images are even entirely drawn or animated (Gorillaz). Other performers choose a look that is simply genuine and straightforward.

8. PHOTOS

The photos you choose to show form your persona as much as the rest of your graphical imagery. Be sure to pick the shots that complement your look.

9. YOUR WRITING VOICE

The way that you write forms your persona as much as your imagery. We’re not just talking about songwriting here; the way you express yourself on social media, or in any public forum, says a lot about who you are. In every situation, your writing should be influenced by your music, your personality, and the impression that you want to make on your fans.

Once you’ve established these elements and created your persona, test it out and talk with others you trust to find out what kind of impression you’re making. Once you’re satisfied, apply your persona consistently across everything you do, including your merchandise. Go back through all of your online presences, MP3 files, and places where people can find you and your music and update everything with the new elements.

However, keep in mind that your persona is never static; it will continue to grow and change over time. Establishing who you are and what people think of you is an ongoing process that requires constant refinement and adjustments. After all, we’re talking about your identity, which is as much of an aspect of your music as the songs themselves.

For more career tips, follow Chertkow and Feehan's DIY Advisor blog at emusician.com.

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