I’m currently back in my hometown, Istanbul. This month the cultural agenda of the city is fairly busy with contemporary art events like ‘15th Istanbul Biennial’ and ‘Contemporary Istanbul’ coincide within the same week. Istanbul Biennial is one of my favorite events in Istanbul, as it brings amazingly thought provoking modern work in display at ancient sites, such as churches, museums, historic imperial gardens and old buildings. You have to walk around with a map and it’s kind of like a scavenger hunt because it takes you around Istanbul while you’re looking for the next artwork to catch. You go up and down the hills, turn right and left on the streets. Sometimes you have to look for ‘imaginary’ exhibition spots or non-existing street numbers as addresses (done on purpose), where you really have to look around to find the artwork. You see ancient and modern, contemporary and archaic, order and chaos within the same experience. The event itself is pure branding (in a positive way), and nothing displays Istanbul’s brand like Istanbul Biennial for this reason.
At a time when we are exposed to marketing and advertising in all aspects of our lives, artists need to find new ways to stand out. As some of the oldest content creators and storytellers in history, as artists, we can utilize a combination of branding and storytelling to differentiate ourselves and to create compelling content. Going back to the case of Istanbul, this city is almost too lucky when it comes to stories. You can dig up literally every corner of the city and history will pop out. The stories are endless because the city is becoming more and more aware of its history every day. Remember the great touristic destinations of the world: Rome, Paris, Barcelona.. These cities are also very much aware of their history, so they have a great disposal of stories that they could position themselves.
Artists are no different than cities. We need to be curious if we want to come up with good stories and to create a great brand. In order to start, we should ask ourselves about our individual and communal backgrounds: Where are we from? Where is our family from? Who were our grandparents? What are some of the best food of our culture? How did they end up in our culture anyway? Did something happen good/bad happen to us in our lives that defined us as artists? Why are we doing the art form that we are in? Answering questions like these will surely lead to more and more questions, but it will give us our basic story.
Many artists build their images on their personal stories; such as Melody Gardot, who is a jazz singer that had a terrible accident where she had to stay in hospital for months. Suffering from severe head concussion, she was stuck in a hospital bed. Her neuropathways were damaged, and to speed up the reparation process, her doctor suggested that she play a musical instrument, such as guitar. So she started to play guitar and she sang. Turned out she was pretty good, because two years later she was recording with Herbie Hancock and winning Grammys. She typically performs with a cane, she can’t perform super loud because her ears can handle only a certain level of volume and she wears sunglasses because her eyes are sensitive to light.
All of these are the result of the accident she was in, but she turned it around and built a strong artistic image around it. Her music is gentle, calming and refined; which also reflects to her brand. Her website is subtle and not overwhelming. Her Instagram page is full of images of calming and refined images of nature and herself, accompanying her music. Her Youtube page has the some color palette and videos as her website. Her Facebook page communications are sincere and personable. There’s nothing that overwhelms the audience and everything feels consistent with the image of the artist, sonically, visually and conceptually.
The lesson from Melody Gardot’s brand is that the key to transform a good story into effective branding is consistency. If your content is visually and conceptually consistent with your story, it is much easier to develop compelling social media strategy, sponsorships and ultimately, new revenue streams for the artist.
Who are some of the artists that you can think of when thinking about visual, conceptual and story consistencies? Feel free to comment below!
Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. His debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists is available on Spotify, and you can follow him on Instagram or Twitter @alpertuzcu, or visit his website http://www.alpertuzcu.com