Photo credit: Almost Famous Friends by Meagan Bolds

This week it’s an oldie but a goodie, reposted from one I wrote for SoundFly a year or so ago. What would you add to the list?

When your whole world is centered around the art you create — in your case, music — it can feel like a lot of pressure to constantly be keeping up with everything. It can feel like all you’re spending your time on is how to stand out instead of, you know, the music. The reason you got into this.

But, as you know the business side of things really is an important part of your brand to know how to stand out and honestly, the more fun you have with it the more successful you’ll be. But, you have enough to do so let us help.

Create One-of-a-Kind Exclusive Experiences

The thing you want more than anything is for your fans to feel special. One way to do that is to give them exclusive experiences that they can’t get anywhere else and that they know are uniquely tailored to them. You don’t have to be a huge band to do this, in fact being on the smaller side is a huge advantage.

It means you have the flexibility to try different things and have fun with it — something a lot of bigger bands can’t do without tons of red tape. 

A couple ideas that won’t cost much time or money but will deliver an exclusive experience are things like: sending your fans holiday cards, creating opportunities for them to submit their fan artwork for use on merch, and throwing virtual free concerts once a month. 

A few others if you feel like going a bit bigger: Exclusive online content (like through Discord or Patreon), limited edition merch, or secret house concerts. Think about what your fans tend to respond best to and what kind of exclusive experience you would find most enjoyable, and then you’ll know you’re on to something.

Develop a Visually Stunning Brand

People are easily dazzled by the things in front of them — so give them something to marvel at. It doesn’t mean you have to have some wild and crazy brand full of bright colors and crazy designs(unless you want to), but it does mean putting some thought and effort into it.

This means being intentional about things like your brand colors (why you choose them, what feelings you want them to evoke) and the content you put out. It’s not enough to just make great music and then never post online or not give your fans a great live show every time. Everything should feel coordinated and aligned. 

Take a moment to look at yourself from an outsider’s perspective. What would I think if I came across my band for the first time, with no context? How can I make sure others get what I’m trying to convey?

Collaborate With Other Artists (Non-Musicians Included)

There’s so much power in collaboration, which if you’ve been following along for a while you already know, but what you may be overlooking is that it doesn’t have to just be other musicians you collaborate with.

While there’s a lot to do there like co-writes, joint shows, playlists featuring them, you can also collaborate with other artists like a local designer for your merch, dancers to perform at your shows (I had an artist named Jeff Michaels do this and it was AMAZING). Or try working with a local brewery to create a beer named after you for the month of your release show.

Think about what other brands your ideal fan would be following your local community and approach them about a collaboration. You may be surprised how many are down for it.

Create the Best Live Show They’ve Ever Seen

Live music is still one of the best ways to move an audience and create new fans, so when you perform, give them the best show they’ve ever seen. This means giving every performance your all, interacting with the audience both from the stage and after you’ve left it, it means having conversations with your fans and performing like you’re at Madison Square Garden even if there are only five people in the audience.

You never know who those five people are. Or who they know.

Not only that, go a little extra sometimes. Rent the fog machine, have free candy, decorate for the holidays, mix things up. Give them something to take photos of and tell their friends about.

Pay Attention to Trends

It’s dangerous to get too comfortable. To stand out you need to always be paying attention to what you can be doing differently and while this can feel overwhelming at first, if you focus only on looking at things from the perspective of how to put your fans first (rather than simply keeping up with everything) that can help

So, if you don’t feel like your audience is on Discord for instance, don’t have a second thought about it. But if on the other hand you love Discord and feel like your audience is there too, that might be a good time to start exploring it.

Be Authentic

Yes, it sounds like a cliché but it still applies. Being authentic is the #1 thing you can do to help yourself stand out. It seems simple and the truth is that it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It can be scary to put yourself out there and really be who you are, weird quirks and all, but it’s the thing that will make you stand out more than anything.

Trust me when I say, most artists struggle to do this but the ones who do it, always see more success. They’re also a lot happier.