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So you wanna be in a rock band?: Image is everything

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Lifestyles | February 23rd, 2009

To create a successful marketing campaign, like Sprite's, which could have as easily been applied to the record biz as it was to soft drinks, “Image is Everything”, and if you want your label taken seriously, you need to create an identity for it that speaks to your mission, audience and potential roster list.

Last week, we went over the importance of establishing one's label infrastructure and maintaining business savvy communications from hereon out. Following along the same lines, this week, we'll be discussing how to create the “right” image for your business.

For example, while both labels were born of the 1980s' D.I.Y. grassroots mentality in order to support independent alternative, rock and punk bands, Sympathy for the Record Industry and Epitaph Records present vastly different images to the public and to their potential clientele — a quick look at both of their websites is demonstrative. While Sympathy for the Record Industry's online presence appears amateur, is difficult to navigate, and their official site's front page sarcastically insults the label itself, its founder, as well as any supporters of its artists, Epitaph Records, maintains a sleek, and flashy appearance comparable to that of any major label.

In fact, without knowledge of Epitaph's founding history (it is the brainchild of Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz), one could easily mistake it for just that. Though Epitaph, undoubtedly, has the upper hand in terms of creating a professional look that would be well-respected in the business side of the music world, Sympathy's home-grown anti-corporate ethos, evident in its self-presentation, is arguably responsible for attracting and subsequently launching the careers of many notable artists including Hole, The White Stripes, and The New York Dolls.

So which label has it “right”?

Well, there really is no single answer. Both Epitaph and Sympathy have been extremely successful, as indies, carving out reputations for discovering hit acts, while maintaining artistic integrity, for all of the bands they sign, at the forefront of their operations. The choices you make in regards to the marketing of your label are ultimately a personal choice, but regardless of whether you decide to paint yourself as pro or foe, an arsenal of the following tools will assist you on your road to success.

Number One: A Slogan

Why did you form your label? What's its purpose? What makes your label different from the thousands of others already in existence? - are all questions that you'll need answers to. The easiest way to synopsise exactly what your company is about is by creating a memorable one-liner in the same fashion as those of the following labels: Sonic Unyon Records claims to “transcend mainstream mediocrity”, while G7 Welcoming Committee Records states proudly that they've been, “uncooperative since ‘97”.

In order to expand on your label's history, and mandate, devoting a page on your website detailing a mission statement and/or an about us section is also something worth considering as many bands, when debating to whom they will solicit their material, make their decisions purely on the nature of said things.

Number Two: A Logo

Sometimes as simple as just finding the right combination of font, and colour your logo doesn't have to induce psychedelic mind-trips, or have satanic affiliations, but it should be an artistic representation of your company that again, speaks to what you're about and has memorable qualities. If you're not skilled in the graphical arts, I highly recommend finding someone who is — even if only a student — to come up with an aesthetically pleasing design for you, as there is nothing worse than a makeshift cut and paste job if you're trying to market yourself as a professional. Once designed, all promotional materials issued, including press releases, business cards, cds, websites, posters etc. should bear an invariable version of your logo (ie: don't constantly change its colours) like a badge of honour to demonstrate to your affiliates and fans that your company is consistent in its image, as well as what it offers.

Continued next week
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