Every guitarist needs a brand.
But strategies are not one-size-fits-all. It truly depends on what you’re trying to accomplish as a guitarist.
Some are solo artists. Some play in bands. Others are session musicians. Still others are accompanists. And, so on – there are plenty of career options.
So, you’re going to be marketing yourself differently depending on what niche you’ve chosen for yourself.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at how solo guitarists can brand themselves.
What Is A Solo Guitarist?
For the intents and purposes of this guide, we’ll define a solo guitarist as someone who plays guitar but is also interested in branding and marketing themselves to build a profitable and sustainable career.
Most guitarists signed to CandyRat Records would certainly fall under this category – Ewan Dobson, Andy McKee, Don Ross, Calum Graham and others.
YouTubers like Jared Dines, Stevie T and Davie504 could also be considered solo guitarists, and we refer to them often throughout this guide. Technically, Davie504 is a bass player, however, and he would probably be quick to point this out too.
That’s okay. Even if you’re a “solo bassist” you can probably apply what we share in this guide.
Aside from that, you could also be an instrumental guitarist making beats and playing over them, a session player for hire, guitar teacher or anything in between.
Basically, if you’re a solo guitarist looking to build a career in any capacity, and you’re not planning to join a band (or only plan to keep it as a side project), this guide is for you.
Do I Need Branding?
Absolutely. Check out Ewan Dobson, for instance.
His branding is a little all over the map – camo shirt with wristband and a kasa (traditional Japanese hat)? Weird.
Yet, it says more about who he is as a guitarist than you might think. For example, the kasa alludes to his Japanese musical influences, namely video game music.
Basically, everything he’s wearing is signaling specific things about himself to his audience. Hear him play and you’ll see what I mean.
Because he plays instrumental music, it’s more important that he brand himself. Per ex-Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman, instrumental music is much harder to promote than music with lyrics and vocals.
Anyway, what you wear is just one aspect of branding and it’s more micro than macro. We need to get the macro details sorted out before we can drill down into micro branding.
Okay, So How Do I Set Myself Up For Success?
There are basically three key things you need to begin building your career as a solo guitarist.
Let’s look at each in detail:
Your website can be your personal portfolio or Wiki of sorts. To that extent, you should keep it updated with relevant information ongoingly.
Some of the most important items to share on your website is media – pictures, audio and video. If you’re a YouTuber, then video matters most, and it’s likely you’ll be sharing one new video per week.
Other items you can develop and flesh out include a store/product page, bio/about page, past collaborations, testimonials, contact page, email list signup, links to your music, social networks and the like.
These elements will be of varying importance to you depending on your goals. A YouTuber may not care too much about past collaborations, testimonials or a contact page (your audience will interact with you in the comments), for instance.
So, build your site based on your goals.
Remember that content always comes first. You want to be able to show off your skills, and the easiest way to do that is with video.
It’s critical that you don’t treat YouTube, Facebook or other platforms as your own website, as you never know when your account might get deleted.
How To Get Your Website Set Up
Secure your domain name with a registrar and buy web hosting. Oftentimes, you can purchase both from the same company.
Ensure that the plan you’re thinking about purchasing allows you to install WordPress with one click. WordPress is the most popular content management system for websites available, so there’s also plenty of support for it.
Find an easily customizable theme that allows you to set up your website exactly how you want it to look.
For additional help, search for online tutorials. Or, hire a freelancer on Upwork to get your website set up for you.
Every solo guitarist should have a logo that accurately reflects their brand.
I talked about “signaling” a little earlier, but this is exactly what your logo should do. It should give your audience a clear idea of who you are and what you’re about.
A metal guitarist should make an “edgy” logo like Jared Dines or Stevie T. A country guitarist could have a Playbill vibe.
Have a look around and see what types of fonts, colors and styles are popular in your niche. You don’t need to copy anyone’s logo. All you need to do is give it a hint of familiarity. This can go a long way towards setting you up with the right brand.
This is also an important lesson in that initially, trying to appeal to a broader audience is usually much harder than drawing in a niche audience.
As your popularity grows, you can begin to play outside of your established style. Until then, you must stick to your guns.
This can be challenging as a guitarist, because many of us (though not all) have a variety of interests. You might be a fan of Pat Metheny, Eddie Van Halen and Tonino Baliardo, for instance. These are all radically different guitarists!
You’re going to have more luck building your audience, securing collaborations or getting clients by being the go-to guy in a specific style than trying to be everything to everyone. To that extent, you might want to see what’s out there in terms of competition too.
Once you’ve got your logo, use it in everything – your website, your videos, your cover art, your business cards and so on. Build recognition for your brand.
How To Get Your Logo Designed
Begin by collecting various logos, images and design styles that you like across the web. Save them all in an “Inspiration” folder.
Once you have a decent idea of what you’d like, draw a mockup. It’s okay if the mockup is terrible – just get it down on paper so you have something to show your designer.
Finally, hire a designer on Upwork. It’s okay to hire an overseas designer, and that’s generally to your advantage since they aren’t as expensive.
Give them all the images you’ve collected along with your mockup drawing. Send them any additional instructions they may need to nail your design.
Go back and forth on the design until you’ve got something you like. Pay your fee and start putting your logo on everything.
A YouTube Channel (Is A Good Idea)
Video content is all the rage right now, and regardless of what type of solo guitarist you are, you should probably set up a YouTube channel and start publishing content.
Audio samples are good to have and may even be necessary if you’re hoping to land some guesting or session playing opportunities.
But video adds a dimension to your content, namely the visual component. This can make a big difference for your audience or prospects.
You’ll see that they have eye-catching channel art along with links to their social networks. They both link out to their Patreon pages so they can solicit tips from their audience too. You may want to do the same.
Watching their videos could also help you come up with content ideas. If you’re going to be publishing something new every week, the more ideas, the merrier.
How To Get Your YouTube Channel Set Up
This is straightforward. Go to YouTube and create a user account if you don’t already have one. Then, follow the required steps to set up your channel.
YouTube doesn’t instantly grant you with all the functionality of a more established channel. Be sure to follow through on whatever requirements they may have, including verification.
Generally, publishing more content will help you unlock additional functionality faster.
Branding For Guitarists, Final Thoughts
Even as a solo guitarist, there are plenty of opportunities for you to build a career. That, perhaps, is the coolest thing about the age we live in.
Remember that there are plenty of great guitarists out there. To find your audience, you may need to niche down and home in on what makes you unique.
Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time standing out from the crowd and may not be able to add anything to your audience.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun. It can take a while to get established, so enjoy every step of the process and keep at it. If you’re doing something unique and interesting, you will find your audience. But it will take time!