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Build a Stronger Artist Brand With These 4 Skills

December 27, 2020
by
Charles Hoffman
Develop your photography, videography, graphic design, and web design skills to create a more powerful artist brand.
A producer surrounded by different gadgets.

Beyond creating music, music producers who identify as artists are responsible for cultivating a brand; this involves visual branding, along with marketing. By picking up a few additional skills and downloading the right software, you’ll be able to stretch your visual branding and marketing budget quite far.

1. Photography

A producer’s music should speak for itself, but supplemental content like photos of art being created, time spent collaborating with others, along with additional exciting behind-the-scenes moments can help you form a personal connection with fans and bolster your brand.

Cell phones are now capable of taking extremely high-quality photos so you don’t necessarily need to spend money on a fancy DSLR camera. There are plenty of cell phone apps, like VSCO, that give you added control over your phone’s camera, providing you with many of the settings that a DSLR delivers; you’re able to manipulate critical settings like ISO, shutter speed, and aperture size.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of using a DSLR, as opposed to the camera built into your phone, is that it allows you to switch between lenses with different focal lengths. Focal length refers to the distance, in millimeters, between the optical center of a lens and the camera’s sensor.

An image of the optical center of a lens.
Figure 1: The optical center of a lens. Image source - photographylife.com.

A lens with a small focal length (18mm) will provide you with a wide field of view and appear zoomed out, while a lens with a large focal length (300mm) will provide you with a narrow field of view and appear zoomed in.

Figure 2: Various focal lengths. Image source - nikonusa.com.

Camera lenses are labelled with their focal length. Some lenses used a fixed focal length, while others allow you  to adjust their focal length.

Figure 3: The focal length of a lens, marked on the front (50mm). Image source - photographylife.com.

Small and large focal lengths will also warp your subject in different ways. Camber Motion demonstrates how to capture more emotionally effective images by choosing an appropriate focal length in the following video.

Lighting is another essential component of the photography puzzle. Learning how to make use of natural light, soft light, and hard light can drastically change the vibe of a photo.

To give your photos a polished touch, many people turn to photo editing software like Adobe’s Lightroom. Lightroom allows you to edit, organize, store, and share photos from anywhere. Whether you want to touch up facial blemishes or fully color grade images, Lightroom will let you do that.

With a tripod and a remote camera trigger, you can shoot your own press photos, put together marketing materials, and much more. Hiring a professional photographer for a photoshoot can cost upwards of $500 so it’s possible to save quite a bit of money by learning how to take quality photos yourself.

If you decide that you want to dive headfirst into photography, don’t worry too much about the camera you’re using. Entry-level cameras are capable of taking great photos, in the same way that entry-level audio interfaces and microphones are capable of capturing exceptional audio. A photographer's skill is more important than the features built into their camera.

The following Teachable video course by Phil Ebiner is a great place to start if you want to develop your photography skills, and take control of a large chunk of your brand’s visual identity. You can check out the photography masterclass here.

2. Videography

Video content adds additional depth to the artist-fan connection. You don’t need to be the next Steven Spielberg to hack together video content that people enjoy, but just like with photography, gaining a grasp on the basics can help you put together a high-quality product with just a little effort. If you’re familiar with using a camera to take photos, shooting video isn’t much of a stretch. Concepts like the rule of thirds and framing subjects appropriately still apply.

Shooting and directing music videos is probably the most practical way in which you can put your videography skills to use. There are three main types of music videos, which include performance, storyline, and experimental music videos.

In storyline and experimental videos, you don’t necessarily need to appear in the video, which means that you’re able to work the video camera yourself. For performance videos, in which you appear in the video, it’s not practical to record yourself if camera movements are required, but you can still direct the video and shoot B-roll footage.

The software that many people use to edit videos is Adobe's Premiere Pro. If you make use of other Adobe products, you should be able to pick up this program rather quickly. A strong alternative for Mac users is Final Cut Pro; the nice thing about this program is that you pay upfront for it and there's no recurring monthly subscription fee.

IGTV, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube are just some of the various platforms you can use to upload videos. Although, the type of content you choose to share and the way in which you choose to present it may vary from platform to platform. For example, “official” content like music videos and interviews tend to do well on YouTube, while short and personal selfie-style content is gobbled up by fans on the other platforms like Snapchat and TikTok.

The following course by Video School on Udemy is my top recommendation if you want to learn how to create professional videos. You can check out the video course here.

3. Graphic Design

Learning how to put together simple graphics using Adobe’s Photoshop, or a free alternative like GIMP, doesn’t take much work; you just layer text and images together, similar to the way in which you layer audio within a DAW.

Layering text over a royalty-free image results in simple cover art that you can use to promote your music. The following cover art for "Take My Hand" by AkaHendy and PRZM is a good example of this.

If you need to market an event that you’re playing at or you're planning to go on tour, you can create promotional images that include artist lineups, set times, and tour dates with just a few fundamental Photoshop skills. The following image contains the artist lineup for the sixth annual EverAfter music festival; it's informative, aesthetically pleasing, and made up of a simple text layer and background layer.

It doesn’t make sense to hire a graphic designer to put together simple graphics for you—especially if your artist project isn’t profitable yet. DIY cover art is easy to create, you can revise the artwork as many times as you like, and it's free.

The following video will hook you up with a fair number of Photoshop basics and should be enough to get you started using this powerful software.

4. Web Design

Creating a dedicated artist website allows fans to find all of your music, videos, blog posts, and merch in one centralized location. You don’t need any coding experience to create a website because there are website templates that you can either get for free or purchase online. The following video demonstrates how to make a website using Wordpress—no previous experience required.

If you’re not scared off by a challenge, and significant customization options are important to you, I recommend creating your website using Webflow, as opposed to Wordpress. It requires a deeper understanding of web design to use, but the customization options it provides are endless. The user interface also allows you to design websites visually, rather than writing endless lines of code.

Learning a little bit about HTML and CSS—the two primary coding languages used to build websites—will provide some insight into how websites function.

If you decide to go down the Webflow rabbit hole, I recommend reading HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites before getting started. This is the book I read to get my foot in the web design door; it covers all the essential concepts you need to know.

Make sure to follow Black Ghost Audio on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up to date on the latest music production tips and tricks. There’s new content every week.