The Top Five - What Designers Can Teach Musicians

How can you instantly attract attention with your music? Let's look to the design profession for some answers.

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As a musician, where do you seek inspiration? Do you find it in a train roaring by on your way to the store? A really epic movie you saw last weekend? The guy on the bus sitting near you tapping their foot? Inspiration occurs at any moment and gives you new insights into your own music. This inspiration, this creative perspective is not only important for making compelling music, but in getting that great music HEARD by others.

Within the creative industry, it is perhaps designers that can offer the best insight on how to make you and your music be seen as irresistible. Why look at design? Well, besides from also being artists, designers overall have honed the craft of immediately attracting attention with their projects.

So what can a designer tell you that will help you set your band and your music apart?

1. Understand Who You're Talking To

Designers for Coca-Cola know unquestionably who their target audience is when they are developing an ad campaign. They have completely defined who will 1) be interested in the ad and 2) buy what they're advertising - these designers know who they're trying to reach and the most effective style that will reach them. It is similar for you and your band - know specifically who you're trying to get in front of and make sure these are the individuals that would be attracted to your music to begin with. Your target audience and more specifically your ideal fan will be clearly different based on your genre, image, and message. So understand your ideal fan, then go all out to incorporate your style in all of your marketing. By keeping your target audience at the forefront of everything you do and create, it will be clear exactly who you are trying to reach. This alone will distinguish your band from all the generic promotions of bands that are striving to reach everyone.

2. You Only Have A Single Chance to Make a First Impression

You and your band members don't write your music just to be heard, you write it to be FELT. And that's how it should be with your brand identity and promotions. Whether you're creating an interesting album design, super slick download cards, or lust-worthy merch - the most memorable pieces will always go beyond just function and will evoke an emotional response. Make it so that when that industry rep or potential fan encounters your material, they don't just see it, they have an emotional connection to you. This is how you get through all of the noise; this is how you make a memorable first impression.

3. Less is More

"Simple is beautiful" is practically a mantra in the design industry. Let's think about it...the most intruiging ads, the most interesting designs, and even the most inviting furniture are all simple and distinct in their design. Beautiful and captivating designs avoid overwhelming the viewer with a hundred distractions and give room for the point to be absorbed. It is similar to how you treat your music as a work of art, and therefore stay away from overplaying in order to allow the music to come through. Similarly, create your merchandise, cd design, and all your marketing materials in a way that allows your viewer room to soak in your message and develop a connection. Keep in mind, both in music and your brand identity, less is more. just more.

4. If It Doesn't Sell It's Not Creative Enough

Do you have something unique to say? Are you consumed with making something new? If the answers to both of these questions is "yes", then make sure your promotion efforts are as creative as your music. Don't restrict yourself to the way things are normally done within the industry, but create impact by being creative and sharing things that have meaning both for you and your fans. If what you are doing is not having the intended result - reevaluate. How can you make your press kits more attractive? How can you make your recordings and merch more lust-worthy? What can you do to make your fliers more eye-catching? Look at it all as creating pieces of art.

5. Know When to Follow the Rules and When to Reinvent Them

Sometimes the rules help, many times they simply get in the way. Learn the best practices of designing your brand and promoting your music, then keep what works and toss the rest. Separate yourself from the many bands by doing something different.

In Summary

How powerful is your brand identity? What can you do now to start separating yourself from just another good band to a truly memorable one?

Author Bio:

Nadine Gressett specializes in graphic design for musicians with Indie Graphic Design, where we show you how to make a strong impact in the music industry. We combine marketing expertise, music industry knowledge, and graphic design skill to visually express your unique voice. Sign up now for free marketing and design tips at

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Good article with a lot of good points, but I don't like the idea of writing "simple" music. Simple music can be very boring. I like to think "concise". You can have a lot to say, just stay focused and to the point.
    Yeah you shouldn't dumb down your music because you are scared it will be too complected. Like your idea on being concise and staying on the point man.