Branding Yourself Is Not Selling Into Some Gimmick

I remember the first time that a business coach-type told me that I needed to pay more attention to my branding…I had no idea what she was talking about.

I thought that brands were for companies, make sure that they (the companies) were defined and able to reach their target market…blah blah…I had no idea why it was important for me. But she persisted and continued to explain – that when people described my music, they were really describing me, and so I needed to give them something to hold on to.

Branding – the thing that songwriters think they’re too talented for…

I’m an optimistic, social justice-focused singer/songwriter, and people know this when they listen to my music. I also have my own (faux) political party called the Just Be Nice Party. I’m really all about the hope. And yet, while people will sometimes use these phrases or words to describe me, more often than not – I’m the singer/songwriter with dreadlocks.

At YOUR MUSIC, YOUR RIGHTS, YOUR CAREER seminar with and a bunch of other wonderful music business folks, she called me out in the auditorium because of my hair – mentioning that I could never cut my dreads.

A few years ago, this would have bothered me, but now – I know that she’s totally right…and I’m fine with it!

I decided on dreads a few years ago out of convenience, (it’s a story for another time that has to do with spending months in Mexico and bathing in a waterfall) have kept them out of love, and have benefitted from them out of branding.

Branding Yourself Is Not Selling Into Some Gimmick

I used to think of branding and marketing along the lines of a gimmick – thinking that it was for people who needed some kind of trick to get customers to buy their music. (I really wasn’t trying to judge, I was just deciding that my time was best spent on creating music.)

I now realize that while yes, my time is best spent creating music, branding is merely an extension of songwriting and being creative.

When I walk down the street, I get a lot of compliments on my hair (even on NYC’s sidewalks, where attention is hard-earned), and I get a lot of smiles.

I’m pretty sure this is simply because my outside looks like what and how I feel inside.

Meaning – I’m a carefree, optimistic and flexible person – people can tell this by the way I dress, walk, and wear my hair.

Ariel & Michael’s seminar retaught me that branding is simply letting people know what my music sounds like through other senses – and when I think of it that way, it’s actually fun and very cool.

Branding isn’t a cheap gimmick, it’s refusing to compromise on who I am. Making sure that everything I do looks, sounds, smells, tastes and feels like me.

Ariel, Michael and all – thank you for the amazingly helpful information, and thank you for reminding us to be fiercely true to ourselves.

About Kristen Graves:

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Kristen Graves is a singer/songwriter and humanitarian from Fairfield, Connecticut who was recently listed as part of the “new generation of folk music” in the New York Times and had a recent mention in Rolling Stone for her participation in the compilation album, ‘Buy This Fracking Album’, produced by Movement Music Records.

With catchy songs, a penchant for story telling, and inspiring lyrics, Kristen delights audiences across the country.

Constantly traveling and touring, Kristen plays nearly 200 shows per year having shared stages with Rusted Root, Dar Williams, David Amram, Noel (Paul) Stookey, Guy Davis, Peter Yarrow, Harry Belafonte and the late Pete Seeger.

Kristen has six albums and two EPs to her credit. Her newest release, Now Ain’t the Time for Tears, is available on iTunes.

In addition to her touring and recording schedule, Kristen makes sure that there is always time to be part of the humanitarian organizations whose work she admires and is inspired by. Spending months living and working with Simply Smiles in Mexico and on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota creates the signature chemistry of Kristen’s performances: a stirring combination of music and justice.

 

 

 

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