For an independent artist looking to build a sustainable following, having the right members on your team is vital to your success. For many, the key players on that team are a Manager, a Publicist and a Booking Agent. But let’s face it — you’re not ready to hire so many people just yet. Most artists are lucky if they can break even after paying back recording and production costs. In the transition from hobbyist to fledgling artist, there are 2 people who can help get you over the hump — your Photographer and a Graphic Designer.
The people in charge of your visual branding are the most important people in your corner. Don’t believe me? Look up your favorite artists online. Assuming your music is great, the only difference between you and them is appearance. Their Instagram is a collection of perfectly curated shots, and you’ve just got a bunch of selfies with your guitarist’s Golden Retriever. It helps that they have money to pay the best photographers and the free time to spend going over those cool graphics. Most indie artists are still working a day job and just don’t have the time to think about those details; but here’s why it’s important.
When you’re working to get out of the garage and see what real success feels like, the biggest struggle is getting people outside of your immediate circle to see your value. Your mom thinks you’re great, but she’s not really the best person to rally around your cause. Your friends love you, but they’ve seen your act plenty of times and are starting to lose interest. When your friends’ friends start hearing about you, they will look online to see who you are. If your image isn’t up to par, many will assume you’re just another local act with no talent and no compelling reason to listen. For those people, image is everything. That’s good news though, because they’re easy to please.
Before you spend money on anything else, go ahead and hire a photographer. Maybe you have a buddy that will take pictures at your shows in exchange for drink tickets. That’s fine with me. What’s important is that you start building brand consistency ASAP. Use a few of the photos for your website, and post a few on Instagram (not all at once, though). Got a show coming up? Use one of the images for your poster. Some people still won’t know who you are, but at least you’ll look the part.