By Cari Cole
In Part 1 of this series, I talked about the evolution of meeting and working with Sarra, from inception to release. If you missed it, you can catch up with Part 1 here.
Today, I’m talking about SARRA’s revamped brand + image as part of her artist development process. Then I’ll give a quick update on Kerosene out in the world 1 week, where the single has been so far, how it’s doing out in the world.
Branding is as much a part of your music career as the music itself is. Your image is your music at first glance. It’s what makes people click play or click away. It creates curiosity or disinterest. Done well it is capable of creating mystique, persona, fascination and depicts the sound of an artist just from images alone.
I find a lot of the industry tends towards branding like this. They meet with the artist. They come up with a bunch of ideas and directions they think are good to go in. They go for what is cool or trending in fashion to slap on the artist. To apply it like a costume to the artist from the outside.
At CCVM, our process of branding is from the inside out. Just like our record making. As we are developing the brand it’s important that we listen to the music, listen to the artist, talk a bunch, find out what they like, look at images of other artists, of fashion, visual things they like. We also like to expand their aesthetic taste in some cases by exposing them to new images as well. Just like working collaboratively with our artists on their music, we work collaboratively with them in building and designing the brand. When the branding ideas comes from their music itself and catches the complexities of their artist nature you tend to find what is more visually interesting and less “trendy”. There is nothing wrong with being on trend, but artists have to be ahead of the trend, or set the trend. And that’s wayyyyy easier said than done. A great music brand reflects the artist’s inner nature but not in an obvious way. You don’t want to slap on a brand, for branding’s sake, you want to pull the brand out of the authenticity (and complex nature) of the artist. It requires a lot of thought, experimentation and reflection.
We usually start the process with a Pinterest board or a collection of images.
From there we get consulting on art direction. Art direction is the process of working with someone who is really good at developing a “look” for an artist. In our process building from the artist’ inner nature – often the one they hide away. We take those images, listen to the music and build an image that fits the artist and the music. Something that is compelling, interesting and visually pleasing. But more than anything, visual that evoke the music just by looking at the image.
“Working with CCVM’s Branding Expert, Delaney, really helped bring my vision to life. I’m not a designer, so working with one helped take my ideas to the next level. I always say that you should hire and work with people better than you. A straight DIY approach can save you money but it won’t up-level your brand. I’ve always tried to make sure my images were top quality,” says Sarra
The next step is styling. Finding the right clothes and accessories lined up in the art direction. This is the tricky part, how to bring that “look” to life. And it takes a little time to find stuff. Some people miss the details and believe you me, this is all details. Working with a stylist that is used to working with musicians can make a big difference. Since they have the art direction, they have a clearly defined look to achieve. In Sarra’s case, she’s got a great eye (and lots of experience), and was able to put it together herself. She did art direction with our team, and then went to work with a local photographer in Dallas, Paxton Maroney.
Sarra remarked on working with Paxton: “For the album I worked with a photographer who is also a visual artist, so she came to the table with a lot of really cool ideas. We worked together in a really open, collaborative space to make sure that everything flowed together – from the singles to the album cover. We focused more on creating a look and feel for the entire project instead of just taking each photoshoot and single as a singular project. Most importantly I think it’s important to find someone whose work you love. Just like Cari advises with finding the right producer or creative — if you can’t hear your vibe in the music or see something in their art then you shouldn’t work with them. Research and find things that represent your style first, then seek out the appropriate photographer/designer/creative director to help see your vision through. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a photographer, but don’t sacrifice quality either. “
In Sarra’s case, her rebranding was definitely visual – however not only her image. There was one other element that was important here ~~ her name.
As the image and music started coming together, I had a thought fly into my mind one day about her name. I thought, that’s not the right name anymore. At the time her name was Sarah Sellers. She had been on American Idol with that name, had built all of her social platforms on that name. But something in me was telling me that it might be time to let it go. Painful as it was to start building socials from scratch, I didn’t think that name was compelling enough and it belonged to the old Sarah. I reached out knowing full well the ramifications, but I also thought, hey — there’s no better time to do this than NOW. It would be harder to do later, because I knew this album would gain traction for her. Besides, this SARRA was a fresh start, and a different person than when we started out on this new journey. So we went back and forth a bunch, I suggested maybe just ONE name instead of two. You know, like Madonna or Adele or Grimes. And so Sarah Sellers, shaped itself into SARRA. And once the name changed, it was like a breath of fresh air for her. She said she felt a big release and relief. Sometimes it gives an artist the freedom to let go of the past, to step more fully into who they now are. In this case, this was true for her.
Stay tuned for Part 3, where I’ll reveal more about the process and catch up on Week 3 in the release of “Kerosene”.
Want to share anything you’ve learned in your process of evolving your artistry? What has worked for you? Has your image helped you find yourself? What are your thoughts?
Week 1 Report: How’s “Kerosene” doing in the world? Here’s our one week update:
So far Kerosene landed 3 Spotify Playlists, Yip Yip Yooray!!!
Here’s a list of all the PR coverage over the last week. Kerosene was also played on a Dallas based station Sunday night:
Revolution 360: http://www.revolutionthreesixty.com/2018/08/sarra.html
Indie Pulse Music: https://indiepulsemusic.com/2018/08/04/sarra-lights-it-up-with-new-single/
Music OT Future Spotify playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/musicotfuture/playlist/32Da5ENoM5zu4VERdTeZU0?si=Ubj9RXBDR8yg1sBpNzVgaQ
Color Me Music Spotify Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/6ss60wv8pwiv25onvyt9rlyy7/playlist/07EYXVjni78tCpjril0bg8
CCVM Official Spotify Playlist:
Wonky Sensitive: http://wonkysensitive.blogspot.com/2018/08/new-music-friday-69.html
Stay tuned for New Music Release: Sarra “Kerosene” CCVM Case Study, Part 3 next week!