The music industry is a competitive and difficult game to get into. If you want to be successful you must have the right image. Marketing and PR teams take a long time to help sculpt the perfect image for artists. All to make them relatable to their target audience and attract the right market. ‘Image’ is how an artist is visually perceived and whether it’s a good or bad image, it needs to be long lasting and effective. Sarah Doherty looks into the world of image and PR.
Teen stars, for example, will attract a teen audience. However, they can’t always stay in that teen bubble. They have to grow up at some point and so does their image. Take a look at Justin Bieber and One Direction. The boys started out with squeaky-clean, cute looks and pop-cheese lyrics. Now, their love lives fill the tabloids. Sometimes it is difficult to cross over from ‘teen sensation’ to a mature artist. The past few weeks have seen Justin Bieber attack a photographer, turn up two hours late for a his own arena show, not to mention the paternity drama he was involved in a few years ago. Does Justin need to learn that there is a right way and a wrong way to change your image? Or has his antics been carefully planned by his PR team?
Taylor Swift is also going through an image change. As someone who has always sang about heartbreak, she is still doing it, but in a different way. She has gone from beautiful country girl, singing of teenage love to a more mature, edgy and scorned woman. As she developed, so did her image and lyrics. With the recent and very public break up between Taylor and ladies’ man Harry Styles, we witnessed Taylor and her management use this to their advantage. The country-pop singer hit back with the single ‘I knew you were trouble’ hinting towards concerns of family and friends about the “love rat” stories surrounding the One Direction singer.
Taylor performed the hit song at the Brit awards with her new rockier and sexier image. It was an eye opener for fans and viewers alike. In an interview after the performance she went on to comment “”Well, it’s not hard to access that emotion when the person the song is directed at is standing by the side of the stage watching,” This brought massive publicity to Taylor and boosted sales of the single itself and her album. There are those that say the timing of the song on the album and their relationship were at different times and the connection doesn’t make sense. Again, reason to believe it’s all a PR spin?
Whether contrived or not, there are times when image can most certainly have a negative effect. For example, Britney Spears first came onto to the scene as a not so innocent school girl, maintaining a Sweet southern girl look. This hooked in the younger fans, but gave her the potential to be more risky in future videos. This was a genius business move as it helped to take her from her sweet innocent image to a sexier one. The Pop Star went from “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman” to “I’m a Slave for you”. No longer was she the girl next door with pig tails and a school uniform. She was now an erotic Pop Princess that men wanted and women wanted to be.
Years down the line she started to make headlines for the wrong reason due to her break down and dramatic love life. During this phase, Britney began to lose fans. Her music flat lined and so did her personal life. Her image was completely broken after her very public breakdown. She was hounded night and day by the press which eventually almost killed her career.
Her music took a long needed break, but eventually thanks to a great publicity and management team, she returned with darker lyrics and sounds. Was this the right way to go? Yes, her management needed to work with the darker side of Britney captured by the press. Thankfully this image did pay off and she is still selling out world tours and working with the biggest names in the industry.
They say that all publicity is good publicity. Maybe this was true in the end for Britney Spears. One thing we can be certain of is that publicists carefully construct every move their artists make. If you’re an artist yourself, know that it might pay to work with experienced publicists. You might not want to “create” an image, but it seems the music industry is built on it whether we like it or not.
Yes talent is the core selling point for any artist, but before you go public, you need to ask yourself what kind of image do you want to create? What kind of impression do you want to leave behind? How do you want to be remembered by fans, the general public and listeners? Create an image that you too will be happy to uphold.