Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Artist Branding - Hear the Sonic Youth

Hey all, welcome to the greatest storm... 

In this post I'm going to be looking at the way in which artists present their brand image through various promotional materials. Here, I'm going to analyse the best band ever of all time, Crush 40. This is not just my opinion, this is fact.

Album Covers

This is the part which needs to stand out either in a shop, or more commonly in recent times, a digital download service like iTunes. Many artists choose to use recurring imagery/themes on their album covers; this will make the presentation feel familiar to existing fans, so they are more likely to pick up the album on the basis that it appears to be similar to something they know they enjoy.

This is the first full album the band released; a self-titled album. The band's logo is featured prominently in the upper-region of the cover, with the "40" repeated on the front of the car.

As this is the first album the band has put out, it's in their interest for the individuals in the band to be acknowledged; in this case their names are printed in the red banner at the top of the cover. At this point, Johnny Gioeli had already become reasonably well known for his work in the band Hardline, and Jun Senoue had done some compositions for various SEGA videogames, such as Daytona USA and Sonic Adventure. Because of this, publishing their names on the front cover will attract existing fans of both of them to the album.

This is amplified on the back cover and the included booklet of the physical CD release, as they feature photographs of Jun and Johnny: (meh webcam quality because no-one on the internet seems to have uploaded photos of those...)

The photograph shows cars, which seems logical as some of the songs on the album are either about racing or reference it (e.g. all of Revvin' Up; the "turn the car into the wind" lines of Into the Wind etc.). But I digress.

This is the cover from the Super Sonic Songs compilation, released in 2009. By this point, the band's logo had been revised slightly to include the distorted circle around the 40 part of the logo. The font used is the same, however, so it is still recognisable.

The cover is quite simplistic, which is quite common in the rock genre:

This could be seen as representing the way in which rock music focuses more on the music and its meanings as opposed to being focused on image.

This is the cover for the 2012 EP Rise Again, for which they have again used a simple cover; from this we can see that part of Crush 40's brand is the use of very simplistic imagery, with some kind of relation to the music's lyrics (in this case, the title track Rise Again features lyrics about being optimistic about the future when going through a tough period in life; shown in the bright colour on the cover). 

This is the artwork for their most recent release, a live album titled "Live!". The cover uses quite a radically different style from the other covers, which is likely to be to create an intentional distinction - highlighting that it is a different kind of album (a live album as opposed to a studio one - this is further emphasised by the photograph on the front showing them in a concert environment). They have, however, maintained the band's logo so it is still instantly recognisable to existing fans. It's also worth noting that this logo shows up again in a preview video Jun uploaded to YouTube to show off the live versions of songs.

Band's Image

The next thing to look at is how the band members present themselves in the public eye.

Jun is known for using ESP guitars with Sonic the Hedgehog's face on them. He uses a close-up of one of these guitars as his Twitter photo, so it becomes more a part of his image.

Online Presence

On the topic of Twitter, Jun routinely answers questions his fans ask him about his various works; which shows him connecting to fans - thus allowing them to feel closer to him and feel more likely to buy the music he puts out.

As I mentioned earlier, Jun manages a YouTube channel on behalf of the band. Earlier this featured some camera footage of concerts which they'd had some friends film, however as they've obviously had a bit more funding available to them recently they've now uploaded some higher quality concert footage. It's also used to tease new releases, to create hype amongst the fanbase. An example of one such video is this, which contains samples of the songs from Rise Again:


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