Planting your image into the media

Whats your story

By Marlyn Ntsele

Based on The Muzikanten GIds by Jan van der Plas & Tijs Vastesaeger

When selling your music, you cannot avoid the media, in fact you ‘’kind of’’ need them. And media might need you to fill up their pages and broadcasting time because that’s how they make their money, and that’s how you get yours. Media relations’ is a collaborative game, one that you need to play together (with the journo). And both parties need to know the rules. In this article we explain how it works….sit tight.

Just over a few hundred new albums get released every month in South Africa. And they are of both, local and international recordings. You would not even notice most of them: we never hear them and they are not being sold. Most attention goes to names of acts we already know. To get noticed as a new act, you have an enormous competition pool hence the need to create a strong image, something that people will instantly recognize you and your music by. Consider this, is there an instant image that comes to mind when I say Hugh Masekela or Nicky Minaj?

What makes you different? ‘’The look’’
You have to looking for something that makes you immediately different and you will have to perfect, nail it!
Often this is something about your looks. Eg. The Beatles hairstyle, Bob Marley’s dreadlocks and Kiss’ make-up. Or more modern: Eminem’s bleached hair or the red/black outfits of The White Stripes.

Although the music industry has a reputation of being highly influenced by looks, it does not really matter if it is beautiful or ugly. Of course it might help if you are gorgeous, but most musicians are not gorgeous, they just have something different about them. There’s just that something that you are recognized by and “stand out” is much more important than age. 50+ musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins, The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney still hit the charts and how about Buena Vista Social Club? Only the singlecharts are being dominated by teen starts, simply because singles are only bought by children and teens – even though this is shifting slowly.

In the search for a good image also behavioral characteristics are important, think of Kurt Cobains drug addiction. Also the addictions of Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse kept the media busy. Rumors about a very active sex life never hurt the careers of Prince, Madonna or Robbie Williams. What also can give a lot of publicity is the fighting withanother celebrity through the media – even more if you “kiss and make up” publicly – like 50 Cents and The Game did. It sounds insane, but also dying is a great way to boost sales. Bob Marley, Freddie Mercury and Ray Charles sold more records after their death than ever before! That’s showbiz for you.

Close to the Truth
A good image is something that suits the concept and is very close to the truth – to make it believable. The records of ex-surfer Jack Johnson really sound like he recorded them after surfing on the beach by an open fire. Shakira’s music is perfect for a exciting belly dances. The “beef” amongst rappers also fits perfectly with the angry tone of their raps. Growing a reputation is something that you take initiative for yourself and something you carefully plant. You start mentioning subtle hints in your biography. In 1 or 2 interviews you give some background, but after this you deny everything and refuse to talk about it. We can assure you that the story is getting bigger and bigger. From that moment, all you have to do is find new variations to your story and theme. The many gossipy papers, magazines and tv shows that this country has are always willing to report.



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