‘How do I make my band stand out from the crowd?’ is one of the biggest requests Indie Panda receives. In short, standing out from the crowd requires you to adopt a distinct approach to the logistical and promotional aspects of your band.
Here are eight essential attributes that’ll make your band stand out from the crowd:
1. A Resilient, Innovative Approach
Believe it or not, one of the main reasons many bands fail to stand out is because they’re too afraid to do so. The music you make is likely a part of your core identity, meaning rejection or a lack of interest can understandably be taken personally. For this reason, many bands prefer to play things safe by blending into a scrapheap of other bands and artists who are in exactly the same position. Unsurprisingly, this approach often yields incredibly limited results.
The first step to making your band stand out from the crowd is to take a resilient and innovative approach to the project. In other words, do things that other bands aren’t prepared to do or willing to try. When you do this, you’re almost guaranteed to fail more times than you’ll succeed and you’ll often be pushing your comfort zone. However, this should be seen as a necessary step to standing out and attracting an engaged fanbase. Don’t be afraid to take failures and shortcomings on the chin, seeing them as a chance to improve for next time.
2. A Fully-Realized Sonic Identity
Sonic identity can also be referred to as a ‘signature sound’. If you’ve ever heard a song that you didn’t know, but knew which artist was performing it, this would’ve been because the artist had achieved a fully-realized sonic identity. A fully-realized sonic identity consists of the following two standout factors:
- A consistent, identifiable genre
- A set of signature traits (such as a distinct vocal or guitar style)
Many bands make the mistake of wildly jumping from genre to genre over the course of an EP or album, which severely limits it’s memorability. Whilst it’s normal for your sonic identity to evolve over time, it’s well-worth sticking to a consistent genre for each release. In addition, your signature traits are what will continue to set you apart after you’ve reinvented your genre. It often takes time to achieve a fully-realized sonic identity, but it’s a vital component of making yourself stand out.
3. A Fully-Realized Visual Identity
A fully-realized visual identity is one of the strongest assets an independent band can posess. However, it’s often hugely underestimated. Visual identity refers to the cultural and personable aspects of your project, including:
- Member personalities & interests
- Social media content
- Geographical location
- Fashion sense
A major reason that many bands fail to stand out from the crowd is because they’re relying soley on the music itself. Whilst the music will certainly be the cornerstone of the project, it’s important to understand that fans connect to visual identity just as much as sonic identity. Fanbases are not simply a group of people who happen to like a certain band’s music, but a community of like-minded people with a distinct set of cultural values, interests and personality types that the band effectively represent. Here are a couple of pointers on crafting a fully-realized visual identity:
- Make sure your marketing efforts exude a personality: Audience & industry want to know that they’re connecting with a group of human beings instead of a robotic, soulless marketing machine. Inject a sense of charisma and personality into your social media content in order to best-connect with your target audience. If you’re at a show or a networking event, talk to as many people as you can and simply be yourself. Taking a sincere and authentic approach to marketing your band significantly increases the chances of your target audience finding you.
- Ensure your logos & artwork effectively represent who you are: Whilst it sounds obvious, I’m continuously amazed at how many bands get this wrong. If you’re a folk band from Iowa, it might not be the best idea to have urban-looking artwork and a metal-esque logo.
4. Star Quality
This attribute goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Whilst many bands might find it a hard pill to swallow, I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention it. The fact is that people are drawn to other people far more than they’re drawn to products. As a result, audience & industry are primarily interested in good-looking, charismatic and entertaining band members. Whilst is certainly isn’t the be-all and end-all of your musical career, you’ll be putting yourself at a significant advantage if you have it. Here are a couple of pointers on honing and leveraging star quality:
- Understand that it primarily falls on the frontperson: This can be both a blessing and a curse. Whilst the other members have slightly more leeway, the emphasis on the frontperson is significantly more so.
- Leverage your visual identity: You don’t necessarily have to be an all-encompassing star, but simply a star for your target audience. Leveraging your visual identity allows your audience to connect with you on a personal level in a matter of seconds.
- Ensure your look is appropriate: Looks do matter, but it can often be a case of being appropriate rather than simply being attractive. If you’re a pop band, then being stylish and generally good-looking will certainly give you an edge. However, if you’re in a DIY punk band, looking rebellious and snarky is much more important than simply being good-looking.
5. An Outstanding Work Ethic
This is one of my favorite ways to make a serious impression on both audience & industry. Try and go above and beyond in everything you do and for everyone whom you meet through the band. By being significantly more helpful and engaging than any other band, you stand a much better chance of setting yourself apart from the crowd. Here are a couple of situations in which you could go above and beyond:
- Web presence: Plan a diverse, unique and engaging range of content across your entire online presence. Upload daily and respond to every message or comment you receive. Promote on platforms that other bands or artists aren’t leveraging and take maximum advantage of each platform’s unique features.
- Networking with industry: Form alliances with other bands by sharing their social media content, buying their merch and going to their shows. If you attend one of their shows, show up early and help them load their gear into the venue. If you’re at an industry conference, learn people’s names and research their careers beforehand.
- Content: Release new music, artwork, live recordings and social media content on a regular basis. Additionally, try to offer unique content that no other band, brand or organization is offering.
- Shows: Become a slick, charismatic and convincing live act through serial gigging and effective rehearsal techniques.
Far too many bands express both an ego and a sense of entitlement that repels audience & industry. If you’re looking to truly set yourself apart from the scrapheap, it’s key to take a totally selfless attitude towards your marketing. Here are a couple of pointers on using selflessness to stand out:
- Understand that you are owed nothing: Many bands make the mistake of begging other people to listen to their music by expressing how hard they’ve worked on it. Writing and performing music or establishing a brand does not entitle you to other people’s time. Furthermore, begging others to listen to it essentially translates to ‘I think you should spend three minutes of your time fueling my ego’. Find a way to ensure your audience that engaging with your content will actively better their lives.
- Put the interests of audience & industry before your personal interests: Many band members have an array of other commitments outside of the band, such as work, school, family and social events. If you’re looking to make headway in your music career, it might mean foregoing your Saturday night out in order to work on new music. It might also mean booking a show at a less-than-ideal time or location for the band members if it means more people will be able to attend.
7. An Unmissable Live Show
Becoming an unmissable live act is one of the strongest attributes an independent band could wish to have in their arsenal. Here are a few pointers on becoming an unmissable live act:
- Gain as much live experience as possible: Performing live really requires hands-on experience to master. By playing live on a regular basis, you’ll expose yourself to a wide range of different conditions and scenarios which can be used to better future live performances. Additionally, prepares you for playing in front of a crowd better than actually playing in front of a crowd does.
- Rehearse effectively: Whilst band practice is a great opportunity to make headway as a band, it all-too-often ends up being a huge waste of time. Show up prepared, record your rehearsals, rehearse sections in breakout groups and adopt a take-no-prisoners approach to mistakes. If you’d like a few more tips on effective rehearsal, check out our article on 20 band practice tips that actually work.
- Leverage your visual identity: Remember what I said about audience & industry seeking out charismatic and entertaining band members? A live show is the perfect opportunity to win over potential fans through your charisma, stage presence and dress code.
8. A Strong Web Presence
The music industry, like most other industries, has been completely transformed by the rise of social media. Having a strong and unique web presence is absolutely necessary if you’re looking to set yourself apart from the crowd. Here are a few pointers on cultivating a strong web presence:
- Have your own website: Whilst social media is a necessary medium on which to market yourself in today’s industry, you’re essentially relying on a platform that you have no control over. A social media platform can (and will) publish an update that could severely hinder your reach and/or strategy literally overnight. Having your own dedicated platform allows you to control what content people see, when they see it and how long they see it for. If you’re looking to get started with your own website, you’ll need to go through a hosting service. The best-value and most reliable host I’ve found is Bluehost. They offer hosting options from under $4 a month and include a free domain and SSL certificate (which you’d likely have to pay extra for from another provider). If you’d like to learn more about building an effective band website, check out our article ‘Do Bands Need Websites Anymore?’.
- Allocate a unique role for each social media channel: Copying-and-pasting the exact same piece of content across each of your social media channels comes off as spammy, which will cause your audience to automatically ‘tune out’ your content. In addition, it hinders your ability to take advantage of each platform’s unique features. Tailoring your content to each social media channel allows you to leverage each platform’s unique features. Additionally, it’s a fantastic way to keep your audience on their toes.
- Leverage your visual identity: A culturally-appropriate, personable or funny social media post can spark a sense of relatability with your target audience in a matter of seconds. If they start to see such content on a regular basis, they’ll be much more likely to form an active and engaged relationship with everything your band has to offer.