About 11 months ago, I was invited to Atlanta to advise a few recording artists on brand building and multiple streams of income.
One of the many things we discussed was how to secure one’s financial future as an entertainer.
Unlike the wealth that’s often displayed on television and online, the truth is, most recording artists, like professional athletes, end up broke. Part of my mission as an advisor is to change this fact.
Nevertheless, I explained that although there are many paths to prosperity, the surest is building a following of true fans. Once you’ve done that, your financial opportunities explode. Just think of how Oprah Winfrey built an empire by attracting a huge following. (Note the word, attract. More on that later).
However, a really good question was posed by one of the artists.
“How do you build a following when it’s so hard to even get noticed?” he asked. “Everybody is doing the same damn thing on Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat and YouTube. How do you stand out?” he continued.
Awesome questions. And he’s right. The market is flooded with “me-too” recording artists. That’s a good thing, by the way. I’ll explain that in another post.
Anyway, my response was swift and to the point: the best way to stand out, is to stand for something.
Let me repeat that: the best way to stand out, is to stand for something.
Well, the way that Lady Gaga does.
Let me address an important issue first and then I will tie it back to this topic.
One of the biggest misconceptions about recording artists is that they are driven by money.
Uh, nothing can be further from the truth. Yes, some managers are definitely driven by money. But, I can assure you that the musicians aren’t.
I’ve had the good fortune of calling a large number of Grammy Award winning artists friends. These are people whose children I know and those I speak with daily. Being so close, I’ve seen the struggles and the passion. And, I can assure you that not a single one was driven by money. Sure, their success would make you think that they are. Nope. As Biggie once said, “Mo Money, Mo Problems”.
Real artists want to change the world. They want to make meaning. Their music is simply the vehicle for doing so.
Lady Gaga, with guidance from her former manager Troy Carter, pictured below, wanted to make meaning as well. She saw and sees her mission as being bigger than music.
Now, spend about an hour studying her music, dress and personal statements and it will become clear that she stands for tolerance, acceptance, and creative expression.
When Lady Gaga records a song like “Born this way“, she is making clear who she is standing up for. And, because she stands for something, by living her personal values of tolerance, acceptance, and creative expression, millions are automatically attracted to her. (There goes that word attract again. Did you catch it?)
Please don’t miss the importance of this move.
What Gaga did was draw a line in the sand and say, “If you are considered weird because you are heavy, skinny, or just plain different, I will stand up for you. Like me, you are a little monster and I will use my art to fight for you.”
Remember, Steve Jobs drew a line in the sand as well. He said, through his actions, “We, Apple, will be different from IBM, Microsoft, and others. We stand for simplicity and innovation. Yeah, we know some of this new stuff will fail, but we will stand by what we believe. In the end, it makes your life better.”
Then Jobs took it one step further: “Hey, if you are a creative, you know, the crazy ones, we stand with you. We will make stuff that celebrates who you are.”
Great personal brands always draw a line in the sand. Richard Branson said, “I will take on the big guys and have lots of fun doing it.” Ervin “Magic” Johnson said, “I will create opportunities for the disenfranchised.”
And, that’s the biggest point of all: by standing for something – living your core values – you automatically stand out and…attract the right people.