Musician’s Etiquette Pt.1 – Style and the Artist

Most artists develop a personal style.  Whether that means the same thing everyday or constantly changing to keep people on their toes, style plays a huge role with how artists want the public to perceive them.

For me, what I wear is an extension of my music, I like to keep it clean and simplified.  I tend to wear similar outfits day in and day out so I don’t have to think about it as much (last thing I want on my mind is worrying about what I’m going to wear).  Most musicians (that I see) tend to get into the groove of just wearing an old t-shirt (probably with another band on it for some reason…?), ripped jeans, and canvas sneakers. Now this may have worked back in the early 90’s to portray a certain “I don’t give a shit” attitude, but with the over saturation of musicians trying to make it I firmly believe you need to be firing on all cylinders in order to make yourself stand out. Not many guitar players show up to a gig in a sport coat, and not to quote Bill Murray in Caddyshack, but I have to say it: “…so I got that going for me”.

One needs to be able to market themselves and have a personal image.  The artists that understand what I’m talking about are out there, and to see them getting after it overwhelms me with pure joy… I’m not kidding, I love it…  I’m very fortunate to have been able to speak with a few local musicians (and friends of mine) to see how they viewed style and music.

The first artist that came to mind was Marcus Alan Ward.  Although we’ve only met in personmarcus a few times, I always felt a sense of style with him and his music.  By simply taking a look at his online presence and live performances you’d agree. When asked about his personal style and how it relates to his music this is what he had to say:

“Today, style is more important than ever before. We live in a post music era. Luckily I had an interest in actual music early on and I took the time to learn instruments, compose, etc. but there are artists who are building entire careers solely off of aesthetic and viral activity nowadays. I’d say that style isn’t merely an extension, but as important (or more) than the music.”

A great point that a lot of people seem to overlook… aesthetic is such an important aspect to an artist.  When you don’t try to stand out, you’ll blend in and be overlooked.  With that being said (and with as natural as a transition as I can make here…) I’m going to introduce my friend Cassie Bishop: she is the mind behind Shy Moon, a duet based here in Clecassieveland, OH that I dub as “goth folk”. Here are some of Cassie’s thoughts on the topic:

“Ever since I was young I’ve always viewed fashion as an art form.  I loved creating weird outfits to project my mood when I was in high school, regardless of all the stares I would get…. My music is somewhat dark and dreamy, so I wear clothes that project that image.”

As she stated she likes to project a certain mood with both her music and appearance.  From seeing them live, it definitely makes for a great visual!

After speaking with Cassie, I decided to find someone that kept their style a little more classic Rock and Roll: Maddie Finn.  Most of you will know her as the creative behind The Whiskey Hollow, but recently Maddie has been making a name for herself with vocal coaching, production assistance for artists in the studio and building a large following online:

“I recently have been trying to make my clothing options as streamlined and easy as possible… I went the Steve jobs route and have been limiting myself to black and white shirts,maddie black pants or jeans and a fancy hat every now and again. I find that It helps me make more effective use of my time. I’m not sitting there wondering what I’m going to wear to a show. I can just focus on the more important aspects of a show day.”

As you could imagine, this sounded all too familiar to me. I stated early on that this is essentially my approach and I fully support the “uniform” mentality.  Whatever it is you feel you need to do to stand out or set the mood at a show, do it.  People respond to a performance, and I don’t just mean technically. They want something to remember.  The first time I saw Marcus he had stage props, a black/white color scheme and high energy to boot.  For Shy Moon, I remember them having a creepy night sky projected behind them at their EP release show and I loved it.  With Maddie, she can command a crowd like no one else, which is memorable in and of itself.

In short: Give a damn about what you’re doing.  Respect the audience and give them something they won’t forget. For those that need advice on HOW to go about doing this I’ll leave you with another quote from Marcus Alan Ward that I think hits the nail right on the head:

“Open a blank page in a notebook and imagine it being the cover of a magazine. Think of an imaginary artist, a person you’d hypothetically be gravitated towards, a person who you’d look at and want to emulate. The coolest person ever. Imagine their shoes, their jacket, their haircut, their accessories, their aura. Become that.”

Thanks to Maddie, Marcus, and Cassie for sending me some great quotes! Follow them below!

FYI: This is PART 1 in a new series I’m calling “Musicians Etiquette”.  Look for PART 2 soon!



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