A common concern amongst independent musicians is if, and to what extent looks matter in the music industry. Whilst looks may not directly impact the quality of music an artist creates, there’s no denying that many successful musicians are very good-looking.
So, do looks matter in the music industry? Yes, looks do matter in the music industry; this is because they represent the cultural and personable traits of an artist, whilst also serving as a lead magnet. However, looking appropriate is almost-always more important than simply looking attractive.
Keep reading to learn:
- Why looks matter
- If you have to be good-looking
- What you can do to look appropriate
- What you can do to look attractive
- If looks are the most important factor
- If looks are the most important aspect of visual identity
Why Do Looks Matter?
Looks matter for several reasons:
- They communicate your visual identity: Visual identity refers to the cultural and personable aspects of your band. Many independent bands make the mistake of thinking their sonic identity (the music itself) is the only thing that fans connect to. The truth is that fans connect to visual identity just as much as sonic identity. Visual identity includes (but is not limited to) member personalities & lifestyles, fashion sense, geographical location, artwork, branding and physical appearance.
- They serve as a lead magnet: If you look appropriate and/or attractive, potential fans are far more likely to stop and take notice of your project. This comes into significant play when marketing your music online as you’re often in competition with other good-looking celebrities and social media personalities. Often times, looking either appropriate or attractive can be enough to entice people to stop scrolling through their social media feeds in order to give your band a fair crack of the whip.
- They launch you to role model status: Much of the reason visual identity is so important in the music industry is because fans seek artists who they can admire and look up to. Whilst it might be a hard pill to swallow, looks are an important factor in launching you to role model status.
Do I Have To Be Good-Looking?
It largely depends on your target audience. With certain markets, being attractive is undoubtedly a contributing factor. However, looking appropriate is hugely important regardless of your target market. Being good-looking can provide an edge if your project:
- Targets a mainstream audience (such as pop or rock music)
- Participates in or embraces mainstream culture
Being good-looking is less important if your project:
- Targets a niche audience (such as industrial or comedy music)
- Actively opposes mainstream culture (ie. punk rock music)
When targeting a mainstream audience, looks can be so important that record labels place artists under a strict gym schedule and tell them what clothes to wear. It’s also worth noting that the pressure to be attractive is almost always weighted towards the frontperson.
What Can I Do To Look Appropriate?
There are two primary things you can do to ensure you look appropriate:
- Ensure your looks are aligned with the rest of your sonic and visual identity: If you’re a Californian skate punk band who writes about teenage angst, it makes sense for you to look like young Californian skaters. Think how your artwork, branding and promotional pictures can effectively represent the cultural values, personalities and interests that are showcased through the music you create.
- Ensure your looks are consistent amongst all members: It amazes me how many bands I see that look as if someone’s dragged four random people off of the street. If you truly want to sell audience & industry on your visual identity, it’s vital to ensure your looks are consistent amongst members. This can include your fashion sense, facial expressions and hairstyles. Additionally, looking consistent will significantly improve the professionalism and memorability of your live shows.
What Can I Do To Look Attractive?
If you’re trying to market yourself to a mainstream audience, it’s in your best interest to make yourself as attractive as possible. Whilst the emphasis on attractiveness in mainstream markets may seem unfair, it’s important to remember that you have a significant level of control over your own looks. The purpose of this section is not to demotivate you, but to encourage you to provide yourself with maximum chances for success in the industry. Here are a few pointers on ensuring you look as attractive as possible for marketing purposes:
- Go to the gym at least three times a week: If I don’t tell you this now, you might find a record label’s A&R Rep telling you the exact same thing several years down the line. Whilst you certainly don’t have to be in impeccable shape, it’s worth losing any excess weight and ensuring your body is toned. Once again, there’s no need to go overboard.
- Dress appropriately for your body type: Wearing clothes that fit you is an easy way to quickly take your looks up a level. In addition, it’s important to ensure that your fashion sense is aligned with the rest of your sonic and visual identity.
- Choose a hairstyle that suits you: The main factor in choosing a hairstyle should be that it suits your facial features.
- Look youthful: Looking youthful can and will increase your chances of appealing to a mainstream audience.
It’s worth mentioning once again that whilst attractiveness is not the be-all and end-all of your music career, it does play a significant role in appealing to a mainstream audience.
Are Looks The Most Important Factor?
The answer to this question is a resounding no. Looks and talent are simply two key pieces of a much larger puzzle. As a guide, record labels often look for the following when signing a band or artist:
- Incredible music
- Star quality
- A distinct brand
- An established fanbase
- An established income
- A strong web presence
- A strong work ethic
If you’d like to learn about each of the above points in detail, check out our article ‘What Do Record Labels Look For When Signing A Band Or Artist?‘
Are Looks The Most Important Aspect Of Visual Identity?
Once again, the answer to this question is a resounding no. There are several other aspects of visual identity that are just as important as looks:
- Charisma & personality: People buy people, not products. Fans are much more likely to form a personal connection with charismatic and engaging band members.
- Artwork & branding: It’s key to ensure that your artwork and branding effectively showcases a set of cultural and personable traits.
- Social media content: Leveraging your geographical location, fashion sense and personable traits through your social media content maximizes your chances of attracting an engaged and well-targeted audience.
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