Should You Give Yourself an "Image"?

With so many artists vying for your ear, it’s tough to cut through the noise. Sometimes it helps to have a unique persona that is not separate from your music, but complements your artistic goals. In the metal world, bands like Slipknot, Gwar, and Mushroomhead use masks and over-the-top theatrics to enhance their live show. For Slipknot, wearing masks is a part of their message but it’s not a defining characteristic—from what I can tell, the music is the most important part to them and their fans. What they gain from the masks is immediate recall from the masses who automatically associate Slipknot with “masks”. When done right, this can be great for viral marketing purposes. Gwar, on the other hand, wears grotesque costumes and shoots random liquids into the crowd while in concert. Part of Gwar’s allure is the gimmick, though I’m sure many like their sludgy riffs and abrasive vocals too.

The question then becomes whether the persona or “image” you create for yourself will define you as an artist, will be a gimmick, or will be a logical extension of the music. When people think of Deadmau5 or Daft Punk they might think first of the onstage attire, but for the most part the two artists have risen to electronic music stardom with popular dance-ready tracks. The costumes merely put a visual stamp on the music. 

Then there’s the name to think about. Regardless of whether you’re going to don the strangest of attire or just put on a t-shirt and jeans for your live shows, a name goes a long way in establishing yourself as someone quirky, weird, funny, or just plain ordinary. When you hear the band name The Tony Tapdance Extravaganza, you can’t help but laugh a little. A play on words like Mord Fustang or Com Truise is a little more subtle, and equally hilarious, but doesn’t connote the same absurdity that a dance dedicated to former actor and “Who’s the Boss” TV star Tony Danza seems to contrive.

Be mindful early on about how someone interprets your name if you’re trying to make a statement or get attention. Ask some friends, some fans, and some random music enthusiasts what words come to mind when they hear your name. The worst thing you can do is attach a certain idea or image to yourself as an artist that is in direct conflict with your intentions. I can’t remember the last time I heard a jazz fusion artist with a band name like Hon Jamm or The Doogie Howser Merengue Party.