Storytelling is a vital part of building a brand, especially when it comes to bands and musicians. Sure, the product you’re selling - music, merch, tickets, etc. - are important, but you’re not going to build a loyal and dedicated fanbase with products alone. We crave stories - and neuroscience proves as much. People can remember stories up to 22 times more than facts alone. If you want to break through the noise and stick in someone’s mind, you need to have a great story to tell.
What is your story?
Your story is a combination of all the decisions and events that brought you to where you are now. It’s your origin story, but beyond that, it’s the reason and meaning behind what you do. Ask yourself a series of questions like...
- What compelled you to pick up that guitar and start writing songs?
- What artists inspired those songs you wrote?
- What challenges and hurdles did you have to overcome?
- How did those challenges shape you as a person? As an artist?
When piecing together your story, it’s important to focus on the truth. There have definitely been eras in music where having a larger-than-life story, or even a fully invented character (looking at you, 80s hair metal bands) made sense, but in today’s connected and noisy world, music fans tend to gravitate towards the authentic and relatable stories.
So how do you tell this story?
When it comes to marketing music, it can be difficult to build your story into a campaign. With limited advertising dollars, endless competition, and short attention spans online, it’s easy to lean towards simple and to-the-point strategies - you want people to listen to a new song, so you make posts or ads that simply say, “Listen to my new song.” While it wouldn’t make sense to include your full story, even an abridged version, into those posts, they won’t do you much good because they don’t tell anyone, especially your potential fans, who you are or what you’re about. All you are to them is a random person online with a new song.
Remember, your story is part of who you are; it’s the reasoning behind everything you do. So it should also be present in everything you do. Your story as an artist should be clear through everything you put out, from your tweets to your music videos, who you are should be undeniable. Once you know your story, telling it just requires you to be intentional. Before putting anything out into the world under your name, ask yourself if it fits into your story. Does that instagram post give fans more insight into who you are? Does that TikTok video align with your views and values?
That’s not to say that everything you put out needs to actively tell the next part of your story. It doesn’t need to be a linear or chronological rollout. But every post you make and piece of content you release is going to represent you to all those who see it, so make sure it’s showing the real you - telling the real story - that you want your fans to see and invest in.
And it’s never too early to start! Be intentional with your story from the early days of your career. Music fans love to find a new act before the masses. If you have a clear and captivating story early on, even without a large catalog of releases, you’ll be better set to start making those connections with new fans. And as those fans engage with your story, they start becoming part of it, incentivizing them even more to spread your music and advocate for you to other potential fans.
Use storytelling for more than just your overall brand
You’ve got your brand story now and you know how to effectively share it with your fans and potential fans. But storytelling can be put to use in more than just your macro strategies. Building clear stories into your individual campaigns is also a very effective way to build interest and engagement.
Often enough, albums will tend to have an overarching theme or concept, even if it’s subtle. If that’s the case for you, build that theme or concept into your marketing strategies around the album. Before you even lay out your release schedule, sit down and write out the story of your album - and like all your other content, make sure it fits into your overall brand story. Then as you work on all the pieces of your release, ask yourself again if and how each piece fits into the story of the album. You’ve worked hard on telling stories through your songs, make sure your campaign tells an intriguing enough story to get people interested and listening.
If you don’t necessarily have a clear story or theme behind your album or release, there are still more ways to build your story. Go back to our initial questions: What led you to record these songs? What inspired them? What challenges did you face in the creation of the project? Dig into those answers and you’ll have your story.
Tell your stories and build your fanbase
Approaching the ways you market your brand and your releases with intention can make a huge difference. Tell a compelling, honest, and relatable story to your audience through everything you do and instead of sending out posts asking people to listen to your music, you’ll have an active and engaged fanbase doing that work for you, converting their friends and followers into even more listeners and fans.