This article has been contributed by Nick Voorhees.
It’s no secret that social media is over-saturated with competing interests ruthlessly seeking attention. An unfathomable amount of new posts are uploaded every second and most of us mindlessly scroll while our minds are elsewhere.
Like any other business owner, musicians, music producers, DJs and other music creators are forced to navigate these oversaturated waters that are essentially a popularity contest. The music industry has reached a point where branding can create a more successful career than the music itself.
Standing out in a unique way is more crucial now than ever, which has led many musicians down the path of working with visual artists.
The demand for talented graphic designers is at an all-time high because of the large range of services that are needed to create an unforgettable brand. However, it can be hard to know exactly what music creators need and how to connect with them.
There are many ways to find clients in the music industry, and some services are starting to gain more popularity, especially during the pandemic.
1. Cover Art
Unfortunately, people are judged by their covers
Image source: amazon.com
“Mood” by 24KGOLDN and Iann Dior has generated around 36 million streams on Spotify this year, which means listeners have seen this album cover 36 million times – much to the graphic designer’s advantage. It’s no surprise that many music producers take album art seriously because it will forever be associated with their brand.
Album covers are the most commonly used promotional tool in a music artist’s toolbox. For every song release, the album cover is a powerful resource that can be utilized to capture the attention of the public. A professionally made album cover increases the likelihood that fans and potential fans stop what they’re doing to press play.
The design needs to reinforce the music creator’s brand in an eye-catching, relevant and honest way. If music creators can find a graphic designer that can help them produce a cover that is both original and demands attention, they have won half the battle to create a successful career.
If you’re a graphic designer that wants to sell cover art, check out Melody Nest. You can sell pre-made album cover art as well as custom covers to music creators that have song releases coming up.
Pro tip: Motion cover art has become widely popular on Instagram and many artists post 5-10 second videos with visual effects layered on top of their previously-made cover art. Lots of musicians are willing to pay a small additional fee for this service, so be sure to upsell!
2. Logos & Branding
Musicians have a deep desire to be famous
Image source: edmtunes.com
If you’re a true music fan, it’s probably easy to conjure up images of the logos of your favorite musicians. Logo recognition is an integral part of being a true fan because it makes you proud that you even know what it looks like.
An easily recognizable logo is integral to the careers of many music creators’ careers. According to soundplate.com, having a unique and powerful brand image makes musicians “more desirable for bookings, help you shift merchandise and make your online music profiles look much more professional.”
Music logos appear across a range of mediums, including:
live event posters,
music streaming services and
In all honesty, musicians can at times be oblivious to what they want in the first place when they approach designers for a logo, so be prepared to be patient –– you’ll make a lot more sales if you remain calm and collected. If you’re able to create magic, musicians will love you for it and will want to share and post your work everywhere.
3. Photoshopped Images
Give their fans something to share
Artist credit: Downlink
Since the majority of musicians need content to post on their social media accounts every day, they need new and creative ways to do it. A great way to stand out from other artists is with images like the one pictured above. Obviously, not everything shared on an artist’s platform will be created by a graphic designer, but they will need more than just cover art and a logo to share with their fans.
Lots of music creators commission artists to edit photos to give their fans a taste of how they want to be portrayed. Artwork like this is very popular in the electronic dance music realm, and DJs love to share visually captivating posts of themselves –– their fans eat it up.
It’s important to remember that each genre in music has a unique aesthetic and visual appeal that’s original to the style of music. Even two styles of similarly aggressive music can have completely different looks. If you’re not sure how to figure this out, make sure to get your client to send you plenty of references.
If you’re willing to conduct business via social media, Instagram is a great way to get this done. Search for tags like #electronicmusic, #musicproducer or anything similar and find artists that post these kinds of edited photos. You may land clients just through a few cold messages.
4. Music Visualizers
Keep listeners entertained
Image source: ondesoft.com
For those that aren’t really sure what these are, music visualizers, or audio visualizers, are animated videos with visual effects that react and change to the sounds of a song, creating a pleasant experience for the listener. Visualizers are a great alternative to music videos because they are far less expensive.
On YouTube, visualizers have become extremely popular with channels in all types of genres, especially EDM. With the fast growth of electronic dance music, there are many high-profile channels on YouTube with millions of subscribers that use captivating visualizers to keep their fans listening to their channels for longer periods of time. Here are a few worth checking out:
If you’re a graphic designer that has any experience with Adobe After-Effects or other video editing software, then creating interesting visual effects to sync along to music is something that’s worth exploring. Music visualization is a lucrative market that has remained quiet in the mainstream for reasons that still seem unclear, so now is the time to jump right in.
Related: 40 to70% off Adobe Creative Cloud
Oddly enough, Fiverr generates a lot of business for music visualizers. Obviously, they are known for offering “cheaper” work, but there are a good amount of graphic designers charging fair prices and landing a lot of sales. They seem to be the only marketplace online currently selling music visualizers.
5. Lyric Videos
Make lyrics look good
Many artists reach for lyric videos instead of visualizers or music videos for some music releases, like Katy Perry’s Firework . Lyric videos are a bit like a music visualizer but the designer will add in the artist’s lyrics in clever and eye-catching ways.
If you haven’t made a lyric video, below are some helpful tips:
Listen to the song a few times to understand the mood
Google the type of music to learn more about the aesthetic of the genre
Have your artist gather images they want to use
Use the artist’s lyrics as inspiration for fonts, colors, etc
Constantly send updated versions to musicians (a lot of them are extreme perfectionists)
Fiverr is a good choice for lyric videos, but there are plenty of options that you can find in Facebook groups where artists will post queries looking to create these animated videos. If you search for groups like “music producers”, you can find people asking and inquiring for design services.
6. Merchandise Design
Sell out of merch at every show
Artist credit: Illenium Clothing
All great artists have merchandise – whether it’s hats, shirts, jerseys, socks, sweatshirts ot stickers. Many musicians make a substantial amount of their total income selling merchandise at shows and online, so it’s critical to have great design work. This is especially important for larger acts.
According to Tone Deaf, “nowadays, touring artists earn between 10-35% of their revenue through merch sales… the very biggest names bring in $300,000 to $400,000 USD per year.” Merchandise sales fall right under touring as the most lucrative aspect of being a professional musician.
Musicians want to create imagery that not only represents their brand, but something that will sell. So, if you’re talented in both design and marketing, you can really hit a home run by approaching artists both large and small with a few mock-ups (even if they didn’t ask for it) and see if they bite. If what you have is amazing, they may just buy it from you.
Design Hill makes it easy to pitch your work to musicians to help them create their merchandise. Otherwise, create original work and start sending emails!
7. Video Editing (YouTube)
Bring originality to their subscribers
Many music artists release videos on various social media channels to increase their brand exposure and generate engagement. As well as the expected music-related videos, some artists have branched out into content like tutorials, tips and tricks, journaling and funny clips.
If they have a lot of subscribers on their channel, they’ll be open to inquiries from good designers to help them broaden their content. If video editing is your wheelhouse, use YouTube and Instagram to find music creators who could use the help of an editor, and reach out to them directly.
Keep an eye out for musicians creating tutorial or educational videos that are of a lower editing quality and send a message to them asking if they’d like help. Music creators will most likely be receptive at some point, so getting yourself known to them at the beginning is a good choice.
Pro tip: Try to find musicians gaining traction as they will generally be the most excited to get some extra help.
8. Social Media and Music Streaming Banners
Consistency is key
Artist credit: Cloudsz
For platforms like SoundCloud, Mixcloud and Facebook, instant visual appeal is mandatory for serious music artists. Great banners are sought after on these platforms because that’s where a musician’s music lives. They want their music’s home to be not only auditorily amazing, but visually stunning as well.
As you can see from the photo above, the circle with the usual Soundcloud profile picture on the left blends into the banner. This is the standard layout for any successful artist or upcoming artist on Soundcloud, so many hire a professional for this job. Usually, musicians hire the designers that made their cover art, so to get your foot in the door, start selling album covers! Offering bundle packages is a good way to upsell.
To really stand out and find clients on any of these platforms, it’s all about having something special to offer. There are countless sellers that all have the same goal in mind… and that is to sell. In order to separate yourself in these competitive landscapes, you have to offer more value than the rest.
One way you can set yourself apart is to provide free samples to potential buyers. To be clear, I am not advocating for accepting jobs for free. But if you’re contacted on freelance platforms and a musician is describing something they need, surprising them with a mock-up without them even asking will immediately pull your potential buyer in.
You can also choose to be receptive and engage with potential buyers for an extended period of time. Ask a potential buyer a lot of questions and get them to talk about their project – musicians often love to discuss their visions anyway. The more a musician speaks with you, the better chance you have at working together.
If you’re looking to sell on social media, rather than reaching out to prospective clients with your pre-made portfolio work, reach out with a design specifically tailored for them. You don’t need to spend hours creating it, but something that showcases that it was made specifically for the target buyer, and only them, will open the door to meaningful dialogue and lead to a mutually beneficial experience.
Provide true value and you’ll do great things.
About the author: Nick Voorhees is a drum and bass music producer and the owner of the musician freelance platform Melody Nest. He is a graduate of University of California, Santa Cruz, Icon Collective College of Music, and has been working in the music industry for almost a decade.
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