Published on December 22nd, 2013 | by Dylan Lott0
What You Can Learn from One Direction
Everyone wants to be “real” these days, so let’s do that. Let’s talk about “image”. It’s one of those catchy buzzwords I hear all the time, so we’re gonna chat about that.
First off: Sex sells, bottom line. There is no if’s, and’s, or but’s around it. Look presentable in your promo pictures, interviews, music videos etc. When I say presentable, I don’t mean a nice pair of jeans and your favorite band t-shirt. I mean actually take the time to dress like you give two shits about yourself. Image is everything in music these days, it is even more important than the songs you play. No one who is anybody important is going to take you seriously if you band’s cover photo is 5 of you all dressed in flannels and khakis with 2 of you wearing snapbacks. There is no individualism and let’s face it, you don’t have any sex appeal doing that.
An image is worth 1,000 words; make sure people remember yours.
You are in a band, you are a salesman/woman, no matter how you look at it. You are representing your brand at all times, it’s time to make it appealing to potential new fans. Let’s face it, if you are not racking in new fans, you aren’t selling, and if you aren’t selling, then no one is going to give you the time of day and that’s just the honest truth.
Why is One Direction the biggest musical act on the planet right now? Because they appeal to several demographics, yet hit each one precisely. One Direction is made up of 5 individual people all hailing from various cities in the UK. The 5 of them have different backgrounds, they look different, have different personalities, etc. They each appeal to a certain demographic, which is why a lot of fans have their “favorite” member. They are 5 individually good looking guys, who sing fun, upbeat, energetic and positive songs. When you are 5 guys using your sex appeal and singing songs like “What Makes You Beautiful”, “Kiss You” and “Live While We’re Young’, you are going to be the biggest name in music, no questions asked.
These songs let the listener (mostly females) feel like they are singing directly to them. The listener is able to think that these songs are directly about them and let’s face it…what 18 year old girl wouldn’t want Harry Style or Louis Tomlinson telling them they are beautiful? What 18 year old girl wouldn’t want Liam Payne or Nail Horan telling them all of their imperfections are still beautiful? You can call them “gay”, “stupid” or “fake” all you want, but let’s face it, they are selling out stadium tours over a year in advance all over the world while you are playing your local VFW to your friends, not even to fans. Yes, your friends can be fans of your music, but they are fans because they were your friends first, and that will only take you so far.
How many times have you heard someone say “I’m not listening to that song by Bieber/One Direction/Taylor Swift/Katy Perry, etc”? This is just another case and point that image is critical. There are thousands upon thousands of people who refuse to listen to an artist because of who they are and what they represent. This is a lot more prominent in the Top 40 world, but you could also fall victim to this. Imagine someone stumbles upon a social media site and sees you looking like a homeless man/woman and they just pass you over. That person could have fell in love with your music, came out to see you, bought merch and told their friends about you, but because of poor image you are looked over.
Interaction and Presence
This also goes for a live show. If you are hanging outside the entire time and not interacting with everyone then you do not deserve a crowd. This is super important for a touring band because if we’re being honest with ourselves, there are AT THE VERY MOST 5 people who know who you are if you are lucky. I am not talking a show 6 hours from your house, I’m talking a show 3 days from your house.
I have toured for the last 2 years straight and if I have learned anything it is to carry myself in a professional but very personable manner. There have been many shows where because we interacted with the crowd before we played, watched the other bands, and weren’t hanging outside the entire time we had people stay and watch us. After the set they come over and buy merch and want to know more about you, all because you carried on a conversation with them and interacted with them, and that’s the only reason anyone is at a show to begin with.
That Thing Called the Internet
Social media is key. Every band member should have every one of their profiles linking back to the band Facebook and YouTube channels. Have everyone regularly promote band news and updates. Have everyone’s profile pictures be band-related.
You’re a salesperson, and first impressions are everything.
Say you follow someone on Twitter, they check out your profile, and then your band, but they don’t listen to you because you’ve got a shitty profile picture. It’s a tiny thing, but since the average teenager takes less than 3 seconds to judge if they like a website or profile, then that tiny thing counts.
Same thing applies if someone might stumble across your Facebook page and you still have the stock tab pictures, or if they find your videos on YouTube but it’s a shitty iPhone video, they’ll click away in 3 seconds and never think of you again.
This is 2013, and this is the reality of the world you live in. Your image as a band goes further than your promo photos, it stretches all the way down to you as individuals, because your band is made up of individuals.
Invest In Your Image
At the very least, make the effort look legit. I can’t tell you how many times we have played with bands who have some weren’t necessarily very good, but they had nice gear and presented themselves as best they could. And that, in itself, was enough for me to pay attention to them more than the rest of the acts that played.
Get yourself some real gear. Go spend some money and move away from the beginner 2×12 rig.
“But I can’t afford a brand new drum set!” Don’t tell me that. I’ve personally bought fully custom drum sets with new cymbals while working a minimum wage job. There is no excuse. Instead of going out and drinking every night, learn to save that money and put it towards some decent gear. A budget is your friend, so be smart with your money and you’ll get places faster.
Think that being money smart isn’t very important? Just wait until you go on your first real tour. You’ll quickly learn the truth.
It is time to grow up and look at this as your job. If you want to do this seriously, you need to treat it like that and not something you only do on two weekends out of the year. Your image as a band will be the very basis of your growth. Have a great image and likeable personalities, and you will grow at a rapid pace. If you have a mediocre image and live a close minded/lazy lifestyle, you won’t ever leave a three hour radius from your home.
– Steve York, drummer for First Things First.
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