It wasn't long ago I realized how important core values are. After working with a multitude of clients, some in the music industry and others from a somewhat random list of niches, I realized how something so fundamental is so often overlooked. But the brands who focused on establishing these values were winning the hearts and minds of their audience.
If you’re an artist, the means of connecting with people isn’t really that different. In fact, you have a massive opportunity to create something that speaks directly to your core values. How much more personal can you get than writing music then releasing it online for the world to hear? I don’t know another creative outlet that’s more personal. It’s complete creative vulnerability.
So why are you struggling to progress if you're putting your heart and soul into your craft?
You haven’t taken the time to establish your core values yet, and let’s be honest, that’s like trying to write music with no sound – it just won’t work.
There’s a bar I absolutely love in ‘44 Bars’ by Logic where he says, “…people don’t buy music in this day and age they buy the brand.” This clearly resonates with me since I believe so much in creating a sustainable brand. It's not just the music anymore, there's so much more behind it.
When you think about marketing your music or yourself, you have to think in terms of values, not how fire your latest track is. There are millions of other artists spewing that same garbage and no one cares. It’s like great food, you have to taste it for yourself. Not everyone will love the flavour, but those who do will come back for more every time.
Food is actually a great analogy for your music. You can’t shove it down people’s throats. A great example of this; direct messaging people links to your tracks or asking people to share your music. You're forcing someone to eat when they don't have an appetite.
Your core values will lead you to your fans, but you need to figure them out first. More importantly, once you establish a list of core values, you need to figure out what you don’t do as well. It’s all good to say you’re standing up for women’s rights, but you might not want to be seen on the front-line of a protest. Not that protesting is bad, but it might not serve your career or your public image in a positive way. As an artist you rely heavily on your public image, so you might want to take some time to think about how you act.
Your core values will help you determine that. They are the guardrails that help you stay in your lane.
When you come up with your core values (you should have no more than 8) you can then be intentional about your messaging. If your values are within your music already, that’s a massive advantage. Stick to your guns and you’ll connect on a deeper level with fans who share those same values.
Here’s an example; I recently watched the Joe Budden interview with Russ. If you’re a friend of mine and work in music I’ve likely sent you a link to this. If you haven’t seen it yet, I hightly recommend it. It’s a great dynamic between two artists and a very authentic interview - despite Russ going off the rails toward the end, calling up-and-coming artists “idiots” about 30 times in a row.
Russ clearly has his a core set of values that he's willing to live and die by. He knows exactly what he wants, who he wants to do it with, and who will resonate with his creative production. What’s important is his ability overlook that there are people out there who clearly don’t agree. There will always be people who don't agree, and thats normal. It’s obvious he’s hyper self-aware, which I can appreciate, but it causes him to come off as arrogant (I feel you Russ). In my opinion this is the only reason he’s had the amount of success he’s seen in the past few years. That and his music really is good, whether you like his persona or not.
There are multiple instances throughout this interview that clearly illustrate Russ and his creative process. Because of that, he resonates with people who are out on the fringes, the ones who have the drive and determination to do shit their own way while being completely self-sufficient. A lot of people can relate to that. I know I do. The more I learn about him the more I’m a fan. I love his music even more because I understand the context of the lyrics.
When you love hip-hop, it’s refreshing to hear someone talk about something other than popping Xanax or sippin' lean. As a white guy from Toronto, I just don’t relate.
See where I’m going with this?
Now I also realize that not everyone reading this writes lyrics or even has lyrics in their music - you might not even be a musician - but I’m referring to an interview on a platform where a message was used to reinforce the product (music). Ultimately giving context to a piece of work. This method can be applied to literally anything if you establish your core values and stay true to them.
Your message will attract, connect, and provide opportunities with fans in the future.
Over time, that consistent message will spread and gain momentum. If you think this is far-fetched, this can be seen with any great leader who’s had a significant cultural impact. It’s not just reserved for musicians.
Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t advocating for a million different causes, he had a clear focus based on his values and he made a significant impact doing so.
His values created a message, connected with like-minded people, started a movement, and built a narrative that’s still referenced today.
There are hundreds if not thousands of modern examples of this same thing, and they all stress the importance of core values.
They matter, so figure out what they are and build your house around them.
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Image provided by Unsplash - Fachry Zella Devandra