We got some sound advice, wit and wisdom from some of the world’s top DJs. Today’s question:
How is an artist’s image important in determining their success?
I think everything is a factor. It should just be the music, but unfortunately, that’s not the way it is. It’s the music plus the social media. How do you perform? Do you have a great attitude when you show up to gigs? Do you keep your word? Do you have cool artwork? Do you have great social media campaigns? Do you have good marketing ideas? Do you have cool ideas for merchandise that nobody else is thinking of? These are all things that will help you, but really they won’t help you if you don’t have good music. They will help you a lot if you have good music. There are people who have really good tracks that are going nowhere because they only have one piece of the puzzle.
I see all sides of the picture as a record label owner, a DJ and producer, and also working with other artists in pop music. The image and hype make up 60 percent of the equation, which is really sad, but that is the case. Actual content always comes secondary. If it were purely based on musical ability, then jazz would be enormous because technically it’s a fantastic ball of music. But alas, it’s not; it’s about marketing that image, and that same mantra applies to all genres of music. It’s very important how you position yourself, how you look, how you act on every level. It is massively, massively important that you get that right, actually. It’s a shame it’s not based on sheer talent alone. Image and positioning and plotting and strategizing—it’s all number one.
It’s important, but it also has to be real. People aren’t stupid, and most of the time they can tell when an artist is trying to fake it. So you’ll get some artists who have clearly been “styled” into wearing all the latest hipsterware, and it just looks staged. Then you have a dude like deadmau5 who’ll just wear a Moog T-shirt or whatever, and he pulls it off because it’s him. I don’t really consider myself as having an “image.” I just wear the stuff I like, whether it’s onstage or off.
Above & Beyond
An artist’s image is not a photo shoot or a logo. If it is, it’s pretty thin. It’s how people see you and think about you and it’s based on every single thing you do in the public domain: tweets, photos, live shows and, above all else, the music you put out, where it comes from, what it stands for, and what it says about you. As such, it has everything to do with your success.
It is very important, though I still believe the most important thing for an artist is to work hard and create good content. But being cool, looking good, being a fashion trendsetter and all that can also give you some advantage, as people and the media notice that kind of stuff. There are DJs who are conquering masses by being cool and setting trends, not necessarily with music. That can be of good help, especially if you are a good and dedicated artist.
I think it’s very important that people connect with you through your image and how you interact with your crowd, but I see an image as a reflection of being yourself. In my career, I just want to be myself, and I feel that people like it when artists are just being themselves and having fun, while making a few mistakes along the way and enjoying life.
Not as important as talent. If an image is not coupled with talent, I’m afraid it will dissolve quickly. The opposite doesn’t apply though. Talent lasts forever, even without an image. Nowadays, image and branding is important, but the performance is more. People coming to see/hear the artist need to be entertained with the best music and be left with a memorable feeling at the end of the show. That counts more than image.
Art Department (Jonny White)
I don’t think it can determine your success. Well, I guess it can, if you’re talking about some talentless fucktard like a Paris Hilton, whose image clearly determines their success. But if you’re talking about an artist, I don’t think it’s too important. An iconic artist’s image will tend to start a trend; fashion follows artists, especially in music, so there is a lot of freedom for the artist there. Mind you, we’ve only put out a handful of records since our album… it’s possible we’ve been getting by on looking cool for a little while. (laughs)
Krewella (Jahan Yousaf)
An artist’s success won’t be sustainable long-term merely based on image. Maybe it will be attention-grabbing at debut, but a solid image can’t pick up the slack for nonexistent follow-up records and lack of artistic authenticity. We found that when we started focusing on writing/production and live performance, the style and branding followed organically without feeling like we were wasting our efforts on how we look. Hence, why we are disgusting, wet messes onstage.
An artist’s image is absolutely vital in determining their success. It’s no secret that the internet and social media play massive roles in the dance music world. I think this is both a good and bad thing, as an artist’s success can almost be completely based on their personality, rather than the quality of their music. But on the other hand, because of the internet, a lot of amazing artists who may not have the means to properly promote their music are now able to showcase their talents on a bigger scale. The music business is just like any other creative business, in that it’s about developing a brand. Each year, the world has more and more access to an artist (versus let’s say, 30 years ago, when there was radio and magazines, and that’s about it), and so it gets harder and harder to control an image or a perception. But that’s kind of the interesting challenge of the digital age.
Cassettes Won’t Listen
As much as it sucks from the creative standpoint, branding is real, and it affects the decisions people make. In order to build the fan base, you need to be aware of what you put out in the world and how the world perceives you. So in that sense, it’s very important. If Thom Yorke started a rap career, there would be riots.