How many times have you seen an artist’s photo and thought: “I wonder what they sound like?” Think about Prince and purple. H.E.R., never without her trademark shades. Everyone from The Shirelles to Slipknot, Lady Gaga to Janelle Monáe is recognizable for their music, certainly, but their aesthetic is just as important and instantly identifiable.
Your visual identity is not only an extension of your art—it’s also an aspect of you that fans can buy into, through merch, or even brand collaborations, and that in turn can pay additional dividends. While style over substance will never win out, once you have the music sorted, there are countless paths to lead listeners in. A potential fan can get hooked through a video, or an Instagram feed, or an incredible, multi-sensory live performance.
For our Atlanta installment of Co.Lab—our nationwide event series, designed to connect you with industry experts, to help expand your network, and understand the nuts and bolts of the modern music industry—we brought together a selection of experts to speak to the power of visual identity. From the tech side, to a film perspective, a label viewpoint, a stylist, and creative director, our panel was stacked, and since we want as many artists as possible to benefit from their ideas, we filmed the whole thing.
We hope the videos from this series will provide a jumping off point, perhaps spark an idea, or even inspire a pivot. But the most important thing to remember is that creating your visual identity should be fun—and you don’t have to do it alone. Just like when it comes to making music: experimentation, collaboration, and evolution can be integral to the process.
Co.Lab is an event and video series for working artists to meet their peers, get advice, and workshop their careers with the best in the business. Hosted and presented by Spotify for Artists. To learn more, visit co.lab.events.
Mikael Moore on Using Your Identity to Stay Fresh
As Managing Director of Janelle Monáe’s imprint/production company Wondaland, Mikael Moore approaches the art of image-making as a science. Using the evolution of Monáe’s powerful, multilayered visual identity as a blueprint, he devised a comprehensive guide—complete with a style bible and inspiration references—for Wondaland’s new artists to follow. In this Co.Lab talk, Moore uses that guide to pull back the curtains on what it takes to stay fresh through album cycles.
Jasmine Benjamin on Creating and Evolving Your Style
How you look isn’t just about what you wear. Your style can cue fans into who you are and what you believe, helping you to establish a connection with your audience before you’ve ever even opened your mouth. Jasmine Benjamin, who’s worked as a stylist and creative director for artists like Miguel, Destiny Rogers, and Anderson.Paak, shares some of her trade secrets along with recommendations on how to create and evolve your on-stage style.
Preston Hershorn on Building a Meaningful Community
A strong Instagram presence is essential for any aspiring artist. From a constant source of inspiration to a way to promote projects and communicate with fans, the platform has come to redefine the intersection of visual identity and fan engagement. Preston Hershorn, Creator Marketing Lead at Instagram, explains the ins and outs of leveraging social tools to grow your audience, tell your story, and build a meaningful community of fans.
Carlon Ramong on Engaging Your Audience with a Visual World
Whether you’re just starting your career, transitioning from a breakout first project to that often-scary second attempt, or just trying to remind your fans who you really are, knowing how to connect with your audience at any stage is essential. Carlon Ramong, Creative Director at Atlanta-based label LVRN, walks through how to build a visual world your audience can connect with daily.
—Spotify For Artists