When trying to promote yourself as an artist, it can be easy to fall into the trap of focusing exclusively on social media and the promotion of your latest release, for while this is certainly important, too many artists neglect the development of their personal narrative, and the crafting of an image that's compelling to fans.
When it comes to promoting your music, it’s easy to focus on social media, writing emails to your fans, and exciting album launches. But often, the more subtle elements – like crafting an incredible bio or developing your image – are overlooked or put on the back burner.
But in the long run, the subtle ways you develop your brand, your image, and your story have a huge effect on the success you can achieve in your career.
The way you tell your story as an artist will allow you to relate to fans on a deeper level. And on top of that, it serves as a differentiator. Undoubtedly there are a lot of musicians and bands out there who create music similar to yours, but a story or narrative allows you to go beyond the music and stand out.
So today, let’s go step-by-step through creating a narrative for yourself and your music.
WHAT IS A NARRATIVE?
Let’s start out with what a narrative is NOT.
Your narrative is not necessarily the same thing as your biography. It is not a list of facts about your music education, when your band formed, and what awards you’ve received. And it’s not something that just lives on the bio page of your website.
A narrative takes it further, beyond the facts into something that pulls fans on a more emotional level. It’s how you got to where you are, the struggles you’ve faced, how you’ve overcome those struggles, and where you’re going.
Think of a narrative like a story you might read in a book. It should let people into your world and show your vulnerable and emotional side.
People have been telling stories since the beginning of civilization. It’s how we learned to communicate and create culture, and being able to describe your story in a relatable way that fans can really latch onto is almost as important as being able to describe your music.
Your narrative could be a very big-picture look at your career as a whole, or you can create mini narratives around much smaller events like a particular album.
And finally a narrative should be a part of how you communicate with your fans every single day. It’s not always about sharing your whole story in one breath. Instead think about how the content you’re creating every day relates to your story as an artist.
WHY YOU NEED TO DEVELOP A NARRATIVE
In the long run, a properly constructed narrative will make your fans feel like they’re part of a bigger picture or bigger story. By supporting you they’re not just buying your album, they’re actually contributing to your story and your narrative and helping you move toward your goals.
A narrative also plays a huge factor in the press you get as a musician. Blogs, magazines, and freelance writers/interviewers are all in the business of sharing stories. Sure, they’ll review your music, but what they really need for a successful article is some kind of hook. And if you can approach them with a well-crafted and interesting story all ready to go, you’re going to stand out from all the other artists who approach them with pleas to cover their new music.
HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR OWN NARRATIVE
Now that we know what a narrative is and why it’s important, I’m sure you’re wondering, “How do I actually create my narrative?”
Your narrative probably won’t come together in one sitting. So as a first step, get out a piece of paper and do some brainstorming on the following questions.
A good narrative, like any great story, has a beginning, middle and end. To get ideas, think about where you started and where you want to end up. What goals can you share with your fans and get them involved with? What made you want to pursue music or pursue your particular career path? Are there any obstacles you’ve had to overcome from where you started?
It’s also important to show vulnerability. We all have things we’re dealing with. And if you can open up to your fans about something and show a little genuine vulnerability, you’ll find yourself building a much deeper connection with them. What struggles have you gone through? What obstacles are you still facing? How can you be real with your fans?
Maybe you’re living with an illness but you still want to get out and tour so you can meet your fans. Maybe you gave up music for years and are now finally following your passion instead of working a dead-end 9 to 5. Or perhaps you came to music late and want to prove that you can still create just as well as people who have been playing for years. Whatever your struggle is, make it a part of your story and draw your fans into your world.
Another idea when crafting your narrative is to tie in your interests and passions. How do your interests shape who you are as an artist and the decisions you make?
SHARING YOUR NARRATIVE
Now let’s look at how you can share your narrative and weave your story into the way you communicate with your fans. Let’s look at an example.
New Artist Model member Saskia used a music video to share a bit of her narrative. She started with nothing but a dream – a desire to sing and create music – and was busking on the streets to make money after quitting her job cold turkey.
Now that she’s realized her dream and is supporting herself fully with music, she revisited her old busking spots in London in her music video “Joy of Defeat.” And seeing that contrast between where she started to where she is now is just so incredible from a fan’s perspective because they know they’ve helped her make that journey.
Hopefully you have some ideas for crafting your own narrative now. Remember, your narrative doesn’t need to be groundbreaking, and even if you think you have nothing to say, you can find a story to share. If you want more help and more tips on developing a story around your music, I’ll be covering a lot more examples in an upcoming webinar: 5 Fail-Proof Ways to Activate Your Fanbase. Click here to register.
Chelsea G. Ira is the Director of Marketing for The New Artist Model.