What is branding?


    Branding is what happens when you are clear about what your band is about - what you stand for, what your music is about - and when you create a visual representation of that for your band. A visual representation might mean using specific fonts, creating a logo, using a signature colour or design. Then you use any or all of these things in everything you do in relation to your band - your website, on images for downloads, on posters and flyers, in media and social media – on everything.


    So just like your sound and your name is linked to your band, so is your visual branding.

    You may not want to bother focusing on any of this, but think about it: The visuals associated with your band are going to put an impression across anyway, so might as well take the time to make sure that in an impression you want.


    Think of your favorite bands and how they have a logo or a color scheme or a font they use. Can you see that this branding is used on everything related to the band? This is deliberate on their part. Notice how some keep this branding for every album release they do and others will re-brand for each new release.


    Branding isn’t unique to music, obviously. It’s everywhere – from fast food chains to airlines to movie franchises to banks and on and on and on… The more you see a brand the more familiar you get with it and you feel like you “know” it. You see the branding (a logo or whatever) and you instantly have the brand name in your head and the association of what they do.


    It takes time to listen to a song or to read a bio. Strong branding takes a single second or less to grab attention and draw people into your world. So let’s talk more about how to create your own brand for your band. When it's created, you'll want to use it consistently and across all platforms for everything related to your music and your brand.



    These pictures below are me at the first photo shoot I ever did for my band, Moth Complex.

    What are the most important things to keep in mind as far as branding is concerned?


    Obviously, you want your brand to be one you can love and feel proud of and have it be something that matches and underlines your music and what you stand for.


    Something helpful to do is to choose 1 - 3 words that sum up your music and what you stand for and that should apply equally to all your visual branding too. Often companies have a "Mission Statement" that defines all they stand for in the world. Finding those 1 - 3 words is kind of similar to that, although, if you just instinctively know how you want everything to feel and look, even better!


    Most importantly, your band name should be clear and easy to read. I know that sounds like it’s so obvious I needn't even point it out, but seriously, some bands (especially metal bands) make this mistake and their band name is illegible.


    Your logo - if you're going to create one - should be unique to you and it should be identifiable as yours. It’s the same with any colors you use – best to keep to just one or two strong colors. Strong. Simple. Identifiable. That’s the key.


    Time to do some research! Notice the branding you like - the logos you like for bands, for instruments, for cars, for clothes shops, for anything. Big brands choose their logos and colour schemes very carefully and there’s a lot of psychology behind what they choose. I like to think that with music you can break some of these rules. Still, it’s a good idea to take note of what stands out to you and why it stands out to you.


    Ask yourself questions. What it is you like about any particular brand? What don't you like? Get a sense of what branding you feel is really strong and works really well – and how this might translate to your brand. You might like how the color red is used in one logo and like the font of another logo and something else about another brand. That's great, but you want to create something original for your band. So how could you create something that holds the essence of what you like but do it in your own unique way?


    Think also about what will suit your band name and the style of music you make. Bear in mind that your logo will be resized for various things so make sure it will still look good if it is made small to fit on plectrums, for example. Your logo may come to mean a lot to people who love your music and be used for their tattoos.


    When you have colors and visuals you like, do a search for them all online. Make sure what you are working on isn’t too similar to something already in use (so you can’t be confused with something else) or under copyright (which means you can’t use it) – another thing is to make sure what you’ve created doesn’t have associations with something you really don’t want to be associated with. Better to find all of this out early on. Just work away at it all until you are happy.


    It doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact simple can be really fun. You could write your band name on a lined piece of paper with a red marker and this could be the basis of your branding or you can do something more detailed. It’s up to you.


    There are lots of websites where you can play around with colors - two good ones are Paletton and Design-Seeds Great sites for playing around with branding and design are Canva and Picmonkey. All of these sites are (for the most part) free.


    If this is not fun for you – if you don’t feel good enough at creating this stuff or you just don’t want to do it, that’s cool. Just delegate it to someone who IS good at it and who it is enjoyable for. You don’t have to spend money to get something great. Go to Fiverr and hire someone to create a selection of logos for your band for anything from five dollars.

    Soon you will have awesome branding for your band!



    (* There's a downloadable, fillable PDF called "Create Your Brand" to help you with all of this at the end of this page. *)

    Here is how the cover for "Core", the latest album for my band, Moth Complex, emerged.


    We already had the photo of me on the left and when I was in my Doctor's surgery I tore this page on the right out of a magazine that was there. For some reason, I liked the image and the colors.


    I sent them both to my friend and epic designer, Aaron Geis and he merged the two concepts to create the cover for the album, "Core".



    (* There's a link at the bottom of this page to Moth Complex Visual Branding, where you can see how I changed/developed the Moth Complex branding over time. *)

    What about setting up a website - what are the most important things to keep in mind?


    You may be thinking: "why bother with a website when we have social media?" Well, you are in control of your website and its a base for your band. It’s fine if it’s simple, but like your branding, your website represents your band, so why not make it strong and engaging?


    The main thing is to have a place where your growing fanbase can find out about your band and – most importantly – where you can collect their email addresses.


    On your website, you’ll most likely want to have:

    * a place to collect emails
    * a news stream (or even just an announcement section for latest news)
    * an about section
    * some music
    * videos/photos
    * updates about live shows
    * a store (if you have stuff to sell)
    * a way for people to contact you.


    People are really attracted to visuals instead of lots of writing. Can you put up strong photos or videos instead of lots of text? Think about what draws you in when you are visiting a website – what keeps you interested and what makes you feel bored and jump off?


    What do you want most when you are visiting a band website? To hear the music? What’s the most impressive song you have to share on your site? How can you bring that front and centre? To put faces to the music you have heard that has made you check out the site? Do you have an amazing photo you can use?


    You can create simple and free websites with platforms like Wix and Weebly, inexpensive ones at Strikingly (this Music Rocks My World Website you're reading right now is on Strikingly) or you could also look into Squarespace or WordPress. For Wordpress, you can use free Wordpress templates or use a Premium theme if you want to be able to customize your site.


    It’s a good idea to track the traffic to your website. This is so that you can see how the number of visits to your site corresponds with whatever promotion you are doing. For example, you see when the number of hits to your site spikes and you will know that on that date you released a new song, or were featured on a radio station for example. You can measure the response your promotions are getting on your site and you can do more of what works.


    Also, you can see what pages of your site your visitors spend the most/least time on, and rearrange your site based on that. Some website providers offer built-in analytics, but for other sites, check out Google Analytics – it’s free and it will give you tracking information about the people who are visiting your site, what pages they are spending the most time on and where they are linking from. You get a code and have that input on your site and you’re ready to go.

    (* There's a downloadable, fillable PDF called "Website Essentials" to help you with all of this at the end of this page. *)




    What if we are just beginning and don’t have much to put up on our website?


    That’s ok. If you do intend to create a website for your band, definitely get the URL/domain name straight away – even if you’re not going to set up a website for a while. If possible, get the URL for your band name exactly (for example, the URL for my band is www.mothcomplex.com and for my solo music is www.aoifeoleary.com and I had them bought and kept aside even when I didn't have the websites properly set up yet. If you can’t get your band name like that, just get something close to it – you could add “music” to the end of your band name or something similar. Keep it as simple as possible, though – you want people to be easily able to find your band online.


    When you own your domain you can create your website whenever you want to and in the meantime, you could set up a holding page or a “Coming Soon” page with an email collection option for anyone who may be interested in your band. Ideally, this is where you integrate some of your branding and just include the best you have of what you have - music if you have it recorded, a video if you have that... whatever is strong and will draw people in.




    Why should we collect email addresses?


    When you get an email address that gives you direct access to the people who have signed up, right into their inbox. These people want to stay updated about your band and are really your core audience. These are the people who will want to turn up at your shows or buy your music and who are actively looking to be kept informed by submitting their email.


    These are the people you may want to take special care of – by gifting them with additional free gifts or giving them first access to new music or behind the scenes video footage or something similar. They will also be the ones you can most likely sell to or who may form part of your street team or become your "brand ambassadors" or "superfans".


    (* There's a downloadable, fillable PDF called "Your Email List" to help you with all of this at the end of this page. *)




    Do we need to give stuff away free (mp3 etc.)?


    Only if you want to, but really – yes! We all love free stuff, right?

    Giving away free stuff is a great way to introduce people to your music and your band, it works as an incentive for your fans and followers to provide their email address to you (which puts you in a position to email them directly) and also, it’s common practice, which is not necessarily a reason to do it, but it does mean that it is what people are expecting.

    Lastly, free MP3s or other freebies can serve as a nice thank you gift to your fans/friends in general for their support of what you are doing.



    Can we link to our favorite bands?


    You can if you want to, but probably don't! Remember that you want people on your website to discover your band and music. Linking to other sites will make it easy for your site visitors to hop off your site early. It’s no harm to give a recommendation to music or other things you like or shout-out to your favorite bands. You might want to do think about doing this on social media more than your website, though. Generally, keep your website for your band.




    What about social media sites?


    Definitely (obviously) use social media to spread the word about your brand and keep your branding basically consistent across all your social media pages.


    This image below is of some of the Moth Complex sites I was using when we released, "Core".


    You get the idea... I wanted people to know that they were in the right place - for Moth Complex and the new album - when they landed on the page. So all the images, graphics and colors are uniform.


    The biggest social media sites right now are Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Absolutely use these. Also, specifically for music, use YouTube, Spotify if you have releases and if not, and possibly use Soundcloud .


    Google owns YouTube (see how YouTube videos come up in Google when you search anything?) so you can use this to your advantage when you’re building your band/brand by “backlinking” (inserting clickable links for viewers to click that bring them back to your website). This can greatly help to influence how Google rates the popularity of your website and where it shows it in searches. If there are other sites you prefer and where your fans and followers definitely are, use them too. Snapchat, maybe. Bandcamp and Tumblr, maybe.

    Managing a load of social media sites can quickly get out of hand and be more time consuming than it is worth, so just make the best choices for you. Being on a multitude of sites and maintaining all of them, even with pre-scheduling tools, can be a full-time job. I use Later as a scheduling tool and that's the one that works best for me. Choose to use the ones you feel most drawn to and that make most sense to you and your audience and focus on them.


    Outside of that – make sure to use band pages (as opposed to personal pages) where you’re given the option – so that different members of your band can all post - if works for your band, of course!.

    (* There's a downloadable, fillable PDF called "Your Social Media" to help you with all of this at the end of this page. *)




    How do we draw people to our website?


    Basically, all of your promotional spread-the-word work will draw people to your website if you give people a reason to visit your website – for example, if you are giving away free MP3s on your website and nowhere else.


    Make sure you put your website address on everything you are doing – posters, CDs, social media sites, videos and YouTube. Mention your website URL on radio interviews, at shows you play, whenever you can. All of this will build the traffic to your site (and the likelihood that you can gather emails). This is why you want your site to look good - because it’s one thing to get people to your site and it’s another to get them to sign up and return site.




    Do we need a bio?


    Sure. It doesn’t have to be novel length, in fact, it’s much better if it’s not, but a bio is pretty essential as you build your band and you are featured in press or radio or elsewhere.


    The more interesting you can make your bio, the more likely people are to read and print it as it is - and further promote you. Is there something unique about your band or a cool story about how you got together or something similar that which would be a good “hook” in your bio? (A hook is something interesting to hook your readers’ interest.) It’s ok if you’re just starting out and don’t have much to write, a bio is something you can add to as you build your band. In general, keep it short and sweet and to the point.




    What should we put in a bio?


    Some options of things to include: describe your music and say where you are from, how you came to get together if that’s an interesting story. Include any other story that is relevant and will make you guys stand out or provide a talking point for DJs or interviewers or reviewers or people like that.


    Do you have a particular message in what you are doing? Something that is particularly important to you? Or a mission statement, even. Any of this can help you stand out…


    Write about upcoming releases, write about any notable achievements. You can include details like your names too, of course.


    It can be hard to write a bio about yourself, so you can try writing it as if you were writing about someone else. Or you can delegate it, of course. Remember to keep in mind: “Will this be interesting to other people?” Especially people who see a hundred bios or more in a week!


    (* There's a downloadable, fillable PDF called "Create Your Bio" to help you with all of this at the end of this page. *)




    What about photographs?


    When a new fan checks out your social media or your website, the very first thing their eye is going to be drawn to is a photo. People look at people. When you have a great photo you have an opportunity to quickly make a super-strong impression and to draw people into checking out your music more and to checking out your band too.


    I kinda think of photos in 2 ways when it comes to bands:


    1. your brand photo or signature photo - This is the photo shoot type stuff, official photos that will be used across multiple platforms on every touchpoint for your band - album thumbnails, website headers, show posters and whatever else you create.


    2. Everything else - The live photos, backstage, off stage, daily life, casual photos that social media is made of.

    Choose and use one great photo to represent your band that is easy to link and associate with you. This is your signature photo or brand photo. You want people to see this same photo in different places and build an association in their minds to your music. Your photo can be really well thought out and styled from location to clothes to lighting – or you can just have a casual backstage band photo. Whatever you are using you want it to suit your music and your brand and your personality.


    Your other photos, as I said, include live photos, backstage photos, casual photos. They’re going to show more of your personality day-to-day.

    Really you want to have both of these – one signature brand photo that represents your music and what you’re doing and what you stand for and many other photos of a more relaxed and easy-going variety. They give people a chance to connect with you in a more personal feeling way.

    This was the signature photo for the first Moth Complex album, "Moth Complex" and everything to do with it

    This was the signature photo for the second Moth Complex album, "Core" and everything to do with it


    How do we decide on locations and approach for our photos?


    Back to that expression again, “a picture is worth a thousand words". Simple things in photographs can imply so much. Some bands, including big named bands, don’t care about photographs and they are a slight (or major) chore for them. Other bands might have pictures that seem like they are just taken casually in a moment, but are actually fully planned in advance and styled and set up.


    Photographs are a bit like the branding thing. They say a lot about who you are and what you are about, or what you are not about. Also, photos can really “place” your band in a certain genre and help or hinder you.


    Photographs are a great promotional tool. We all love great images. As a listener, if you like a band and you are going to their website, you will want to see photographs so you can put a face to a name or a sound. It’s human nature. People like to look at people.


    Like anything else, you can do simple and straightforward photos. You can get a friend to take high-quality images on their phone. You can use a plain background or a continuous background or a wall – and use that as a basis for your website. Doesn’t have to be an expensive setup, but it is important to have great quality photographs. People want to see you and you'll need great quality images!


    You can get together beforehand with your band to decide what you are going to wear, what colors you are going to wear, how you are going to match all of that to a location you are using or to your branding. Or you can not bother with all of that and just let it roll…


    You could get photos taken in a music venue or outside an interesting building or feature... it’s endless. The whole thing is up to you – so get creative and enjoy it.

    One thing it does help to be clear about in advance is what your photos are for – for example promo shots to use for sending out to media or for posters, or a main shot for your website or individual photos if you are going for endorsements. If you are using shots for a website and intend to overlay your band name or some text, you may want to use a background that is less complicated to allow for that.


    Like I said, this can all be as simple or as complex as you want. The main thing is to be confident, be yourself and enjoy it all. If you’re not happy, you can learn from the experience and just re-do them, so it’s all good! Lastly, be aware of lighting. That’s one thing that is crucially important for photographs and for how well they look online and in print.



    I want to show you something.

    This picture below you have seen already - the photo (taken by G. Owens) - that I used for the cover of the Moth Complex debut album. I used that as the signature photo for all promo to do with the band at the time and that release.

    Next I'm going to show you the location we did this shoot in: My Dad's kitchen in County Dublin. He trusted us to use it for the day with lighting and a backdrop hired from a local portrait studio for €60 (about $70) i.e not a lot! That's my brother, Ro, in the picture, who was in the band with me at the time.



    My point is that you don't have to spend a lot and you don't need a crazy big set up, just figure it out and work with people who are great at what they do.


    Do we need to hire a photographer?


    Not necessarily. I'd say it's important to get someone who has a flair for photography and an understanding of what you are about and what you want. Working with a photographer who is able to deliver what you want is what you need. If that is a friend who has a good eye for photography or a photography student or a professional photographer - what really matters is the end result. Often, there are talented photographic students looking to build up their portfolio and ready to work with bands or artists on their pictures - and they frequently have access to professional equipment through their college.



    I hope this was all helpful... There are links and PDFs below to help you with all of your branding.


    Good luck! And enjoy!!



    PDF: Create Your Brand

    This is a multi-page and fillable PDF. Click on the button or image below to download it and save it to your computer before you fill it out and definitely save as you go.


    PDF: Website Essentials

    PDF: Your Email List

    This is a multi-page and fillable PDF. Click on the button or image below to download it and save it to your computer before you fill it out and definitely save as you go.

    PDF: Your Social Media

    This is a multi-page and fillable PDF. Click on the button or image below to download it and save it to your computer before you fill it out and definitely save as you go.

    PDF: Create Your Bio