Band Image Consulting

21 Apr

Somewhere, some how, this opportunity keeps falling in my lap.  I guess it makes sense… I’ve been an avid music fan my whole life and dress people, lots of people, but to be quite honest, being an “image consultant” for a band initially felt a bit strange to me.  This opinion changes depending on what kind of music you listen to, but for me, I’d be a bit disappointed if I found out, for example, that TV on the Radio had an image consultant who told them that the kids out there will just love them if they grew Afros and wore quirky glasses.  I’d feel like someone fooled me because in music, aren’t we all looking for sincerity?  Isn’t that what creates the package that you can’t help but gravitate towards?  I may even get more excited when I see a front man look and act something similar to a unibomber, but creates the most catchy, dance-y tunes you can’t get out of your head.  Again, this is just my opinion and I’m quite aware that I too fall within a particular demographic, and can easily be manipulated.  Thanks unibomber.   Anyways, my head has been spinning with researching and harping on this idea of “image consulting” for musicians.

I know the last thing I want to ever do is trick the audience.  I’m incredibly sensitive to this, but there is a time and a place where a band’s presence heightens the music experience.  What you don’t want is for the band’s get-up to take away from their sound and confuse the listener.  You also don’t want the band to look like they had an idea, not a great idea, but we’re just going to go with this because we need to do something.  That’s where I come in, honing in on that idea and steering clear from making them look like their stylish mom picked up some fun clothes for them at the mall.

I’m going to give a couple of examples where this works.  I was just at SXSW in Austin and saw a band called, Black Veil Brides.  Granted, their look is an extreme, but their audience eats it up.  It totally plays up their mediocre music and brands them into something that their demographic, angst-y young music goers, didn’t even know they wanted.  Our generation has seen it before thanks to Marilyn Manson and Kiss, but there’s always going to be a new wave of music fans who want to shave their eyebrows, go on a liquid diet, and paint a skeleton on their bare chest.  I might be giving their band more credit than they deserve, maybe it wasn’t painfully premeditated and this is just them.  Regardless, it’s working.  Their impressionable fans love it.  I’m even still thinking about their performance.  It was hilarious.

Then you have a band like Interpol who has a completely different audience.  Those who love Interpol and would put their nose up in the air to the jokesters listed above should could come to terms with the fact they are also being played.  You could argue that they aren’t doing anything different from Black Veil Brides.  They too are playing into their sound and giving their audience something to grab onto.  I’ve seen them a couple of times now in very dank, 95 degree venues where they refuse to remove any layers from their three piece suit.  The shirt and vest to them clearly doesn’t pack the punch they’re looking for.  Determined, yes.  Silly, no.  You could argue that their success is solely based on their music, but I beg to differ.  It at least one over some of us.

This would be a good time to dive into analyzing Insane Clown Posse, the band that is better at branding and building an empire than even Lady Gaga, but as it is, the post is becoming too long.  I had to at least mention them.  F-ing Faygo.  Who has their own generic soda?  Don’t get me started.  Blog post on ICP breakdown coming soon.  Nothing may be more fascinating, I’m serious.

Back on track, the thing is, just like your mom told you in the 2nd grade, you don’t want to be something you’re not.  If a band can’t back their look with a sound to support it, then you’ve failed, and vice versa.  The band also has to believe in whatever image they’ve cultivated or lack there of.  The thing is, the audience is smarter than you think and hates to be duped.  Well, some audiences…  It’s a fine line of working for the audience and working for yourself.  The goal is for them to work harmoniously.  It’s a lot of research, possible trial and error, but in the end you want it to feel effortless and/or not heavy handed.  Again, depending on the act.  Deliberate can also work in your favor.  Meat suit?  Egg throne?  Anyone?  Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating to study why particular people gravitate towards particular sounds and looks.

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