It is not just the songs of a music artist that makes them memorable. Don’t get us wrong, if an artist makes unenjoyable songs then it is hard for music-lovers to engage with what these artists stand for. However, in a world of massively successful and influential artists, it is often their branding which makes them stand out from the rest. Branding can be used to create a personal response with bands’ fanbases and as we travel deeper and deeper into the digital age, music artists rely heavily on innovative branding. Whether the branding comes from a branding agency or the artist is a pure visionary, there is no doubt that an immersive brand actively engages mass followings. Here we look at two modern artists that have used branding to propel themselves to stardom.
Stemming from Wilmslow, England, The 1975 are an indie-pop band that make music spanning across many genres. Their first eponymous album, ‘The 1975’ was a dark introduction into the limelight. Using a black and white album cover, the only recognisable object on the cover was a rectangle, (previously used in their EP covers) with their name inside. The dark, greyscale cover aligned with the troubled themes of the album. Sex, drugs, death and depression were common themes within this album and the dark cover immediately indicated what was to come. This put off young audiences that were not of an age to engage with these topics, whilst it lured in a mature audience. The fact that the band had no images of themselves on the cover, (only the rectangle) implies The 1975 recognised the importance of iconography as opposed to star-image. Also, the music videos to accompany this album were dark and greyscale, further adding to the brand already created. When the four-piece released their second album, many were surprised by the new artwork. The album cover was exactly the same as the previous album, but in a vibrant pink neon rather than black. The different colours foreshadowed what was to come: a vibrant album filled with positive, upbeat anthems. Again, the music videos paralleled the album’s themes via using bright neon lights. Although there was a complete change in mood in this album, one thing remained the same – the rectangle. Therefore, the rectangle was the only thing their ever-growing fanbase could identify with. Now, several years later and The 1975 are one of the biggest bands on the planet. After recently headlining Reading and Leeds festival, the rectangle has become the forefront of their now iconic live show.
Eminem is the biggest rap artist in the world and has become a leading voice in an ever-growing industry. As well as his genius lyrics and compelling narratives, Marshall Mathers has used branding impeccably to rise to the top. Well known for living in a trailer park and rap battling to fame, Eminem has always been loved as an underdog. He is also an underdog in the sense that he is a white artist in a predominantly black genre. Recognising this, Eminem knew branding himself as an underdog would allow millions to continue to root for him as an underdog. Over the years, Mathers has continuously appeared at big events in a cheap tracksuit to mirror his underdog status. Looking rough and wearing cheap attire, his branding matches the lyrics of his songs. Typically known for rapping about oppression and his struggles, the tracksuits make his story relatable to mass audience. His clothing, however, is not the only way Eminem has thrived through branding. On his albums, the letter E is always reversed. This is a simple but memorable usage of branding. At first, the backwards E was deemed merely as a creative use of typography. However, it has become iconic over the years. The backwards E is now used in promotional work for his upcoming music. For example, his manager posted a picture of a CD but in the background there was a brick wall. On the wall read “Seize the moment with Revival”. The E in ‘Revival’ was backwards and this sparked an online frenzy amongst Mathers’ fanbase. This led to millions of pre-orders of his upcoming album without anyone knowing the name or contents of said work. This highlights not only how Eminem uses branding to propel himself to stardom, but also how less is often more in regard to branding.
It is evident here that no matter where you come from and no matter what genre of music you make, branding can be the difference between becoming a well-known artist and becoming a global sensation. There are thousands of artists out there grafting hard and making music to as high of a standard as The 1975 and Eminem, but it is the branding that sets them out from the rest. Simple ides like a backwards E and a rectangle have resulted in worldwide identification. Branding has never been more important to a musician.