Jake Posner is a music manager with a background in advertising. He has been the manager for American rock and electropop band (from New Jersey) A R I Z O N A after discovering them on Reddit almost five years ago. The band has since charted on Billboard 200, accumulated over 1 billion streams, graced the main stage of Coachella and supported Panic! At The Disco on their worldwide arena tour in 2018 and 2019.
We connected with Jake to continue our conversation about artist brand and help you figure out what are the things to look out for and work on in order to build an artist brand that’s beneficial to your music career and helps you both get your music out there and connect with fans more authentically.
Thanks for agreeing to talk to us about the complex phenomenon of artist branding, Jake! You are currently managing American rock and electropop band from New Jersey A R I Z O N A. Seeing how the band’s name is literally the name of a state, branding your clients must be a fun ride. Let’s start with that – is it difficult to brand a music act whose name already has such strong ties to a completely different (and very well known) brand?
Very good question – and to admit, at the start, we didn’t anticipate it being as much of a challenge as it’s proven to be over the years, but when you share a name with a state that has constant press and daily news pouring out of it (and a famous Iced Tea company that we all happen to love dearly), you’re naturally going to encounter your challenges, especially when you try to google us… That said, we’ve definitely made some very positive strides in the past few years as the band has continued to grow.
You were the one to discover A R I Z O N A, besides liking their music, how did you know they were going to make a good band?
For me, it really just came down to a gut feeling. Back in June of 2015, I was burnt out working a job in advertising and on the hunt for that next ‘thing’ that I could get really excited about and throw myself into, and funny enough artist management wasn’t even on my list… I was definitely looking at other types of music industry positions (mainly marketing), but with the job market in New York City, let alone the incredibly competitive music industry market, it was naturally a very hard process.
So, one night, instead of diving straight back into LinkedIn and job hunting, I decided to give myself a break – and for me, that meant jumping on Reddit for a few hours. It was there that very fortunately and coincidentally [I] found the first-ever video the band uploaded only a few hours earlier (a cover of Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood) with a caption something along the lines of "Hey Guys! this is my first time singing on camera, and we shot/edited/directed this entire thing ourselves and covered a Taylor Swift song - hope you enjoy", so in the spirit of aimlessness of course I clicked in… and from the very first few seconds, I knew this was something special.
After I saw the video, I asked on the thread if they had more music, and they responded with a Soundcloud link that had 5 tracks up at the time – a quick listen-through later I genuinely felt like I just found my new favorite band. Now where this got especially crazy for me was the point where I realized that these 5 tracks (some originals, some covers) had less than 1K plays each, and the band had no social media, no email to reach them and only 70 followers…
This was the gut moment when I realized that this was the opportunity I hadn’t even realized I was looking for. At the end of the day, any good artist/band is defined by the music they make, and these guys made something truly prolific – and that was enough for me to take the leap… The rest is history!
How was A R I Z O N A’s brand decided upon and brought to life? How would you define it as it is now?
Zach, Nate & David (the band) never tried to take themselves too seriously when it came to making music as a group – this project started as a retreat from them being writers/producers for other artist projects, so when it came time to name their own, Nate was literally wearing an AriZona Iced Tea hat and the boys liked the ring of the word ‘Arizona’. From there, David added his stylistic touch (caps, spaces and eventually the logo) and that was it.
Even as it stands now, I think that a big part of the brand is a reminder that this is always about having a great time with your friends and not taking yourself too seriously. It’s certainly evolved in a multitude of ways, but that will definitely always stick with us.
How has A R I Z O N A’s brand font been developed? Is there a message behind it? Does the non-linear spelling hold a special brand meaning?
David from the band has always been a huge driver of our creative decision making. So when it came to choosing a font, we worked together to build a full brand brief (both of us came from different sides of creative advertising, so this came pretty naturally) and opted for Helvetica as it’s common enough to be relatable, and easily digestible; with the ability to be elegant, bold, and unique dependant on how it is laid out.
Moving to brand-building advice for emerging artists, what would your top three tips for building a musician’s or a band’s brand be?
1. Be yourself.
2. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.
3. Don’t be afraid to try things!
Do you find it detrimental to either business or art when a musician’s brand is very different from their actual persona?
I think everyone is different. For some, personas allow for healthy mental separation, but other times people live their art. There’s truly no wrong answer. It’s about what feels best to you.
Online marketing is often the best place to invest one’s effort when it comes to smaller-budget projects, like emerging musicians or bands or self-managed artists. Which channels do you find work best for building an artist brand online? How to keep an online presence coherent and in line with the determined artist brand?
Tough question as this changes constantly. My best advice is to stay on top of social media and see what platforms everyone is currently engaging with and keep your eye on the emerging TikToks of the world… Sometimes the early bird really does get the worm when you can establish yourself early!
Jake Posner with A R I Z O N A and Brandon Urie of Panic! at the Disco
Another challenge of the online branding is the opportunity to share just about everything – from every last shred of music you produce, regardless of what style it is in, to spilling way too much about the artist’s everyday life. How would you advise emerging musicians prioritize what they put out online in order to build and maintain their artist brand?
Share what feels true and authentic to you – don’t worry about the rest.
Can a musician or a band succeed without a defined brand?
In the short-term, for sure. But when it comes to longevity and finding fans that will stick with you for years (even without music), that’s when it’s so important to think about your message and connection (or lack of connection) to the people who listen to your music…
There are so many new artists and new songs uploaded every single day to streaming services and the internet in general, so to succeed in the long term and solidify yourself as a long-standing successful artist you need to make sure you can really build that bridge between yourself and your fans!
What would you say constitutes an artist’s brand and what doesn’t?
In my opinion, your brand is how the public can define you through your own actions and how you present yourself – from that very first impression to your personality, values, style, music, and anything else you do with your platform.
How important an artist’s brand is in communication with fans and building a fanbase?
Critical. Plants without water don’t grow!
As we know, people change with time, and even if a musician or a band start out with a brand that’s authentic to their personality and values, what happens after a while when a person and especially people on a team grow and change and move in different directions? Can a brand adopt or…? How would you handle a situation like that?
Evolution is natural. Nobody is born the final version of themselves – we learn, we adapt and grow throughout our lives. A brand can certainly do the same, and as a manager, I’d never stand in the way of people being who they are. Of course, should these new values/personality types become toxic/carry bad intent that’s, of course, a different story.
We sometimes encounter artists who have had a career start on a show or with a team who directed them in a certain direction, not authentic to them, meaning that a fanbase they got comes from prior publicity and is comprised of the fans who got interested by their previous image. Does an attempt to build a brand new, well, brand have to be a completely from-scratch effort or are there ways to speak to both the old and the new audience at the same time?
I think that starting with a platform is a beautiful thing that anyone would be fortunate to have, but what’s most important from there is that you make your decisions based on what is truest to you and not based on what you expect people to expect of you. Sure you may lose some fans that liked your ‘old’ direction better, but starting with more than 0 is as good a start as any.
How important is it to strike the balance between having a clear brand, distinguishing yourself from other artists and avoiding trying to be different just for the sake of it?
Be yourself. Don’t worry about anyone else.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these, Jake! We really appreciate your insights that will be extremely valuable for our readers as they are building their music brands on Show4me and beyond!
Excited to start developing your artist brand? Register with Show4me now and start building your music portfolio and artist brand today!