Artist Branding- Individuals as Trademarks in the Music Industry Essay

Trademarks are everywhere. In our everyday lives, we are constantly in touch with different brands. In town, in shops, in gyms and at concerts. Multinational companies, local companies, products and individuals are all categories of well-known brands. The benefit of seeing a company as a brand has meant that it is no longer just the big companies that are interested in brand building. Kapferer (2008: 2) Highlights the many uses of brand building and says “Amazingly, all types of organizations or even people now want to be managed as brands”

In addition, he mentions football player David Beckham who was sold to an American football club for $ 250 million – a prize the football club could only afford because they became the owner of the David Beckham trademark during the contract period.

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The importance of using brand strategy also appears when applied to countries (Anholt, 2004). The meaning of the word brand has evolved into a broader sense than merely labeling goods. This can be traced back in time.

For example, ancient Greece, stone sculptors or craftsmen used their own marks on their creations (Moor, 2007). Jones (1986) explains the use of trademarks as a development from the use of symbols. He explains that symbols and marks were initially used as a way of distinguishing the company and for legally protecting it. Further he believes that consumers could create associations to different products the companies have through their symbols. Kotler & Pfoertsch (2006: x) points out that “branding is not only about creating fancy names and logos”. Marks and symbols are not only used to distinguish one company from another, but also to create a mental association for the company as a whole.

The importance of brand strategy in, for example, multinational companies with recognized brands becomes clear due to how widespread they are. What is interesting, however, is that the interest in brands is taking new perspectives. Montoya & Vandehey (2002) writes about the personal brand, to create a brand of a person. This example shows that brand strategy is a topical subject and that it can be applied across several industries. The industries where individuals are the center of brands are interesting. Actors, artists or sports stars are neither products nor companies. However, this does not prevent active people in these industries from being perceived as trademarks (Montoya & Vendehey, 2002). The music industry is a type of industry where people are at the center, not companies or products. It is therefore interesting to study how a brand perspective affects the image of individuals in the music industry. This dessertation will be about individuals as trademarks in the music industry.

Problem discussion

One of several definitions for trademarks is that it consists of a character or set of characters that certify the origin of a product or service that sets it apart from its competitors (Kapferer, 2008). The brand’s identity can improve or worsen due to the associations the brand has (Aaker & Joachimsthaler, 2002). Brand research has for a long time been solely about brands linked to products, services and companies but there is still more research to be done when it comes to branding of private people..

In 1997 Tom Peters introduced an unexplored area, and presented a new view of branding in marketing, with his article “The Brand Called You”. Peters believes that in today’s society, where the individual is in focus, man must be his own brand (Peters, 1997). The literature on personal brands is largely about private individuals (for example Elmore, 2010; Montoya & Vendehey, 2002). I want to move focus from the private individuals. There is a lot of literature on branding but something missing in the field is the focus on professionals who make a living of their brand, for example artists. Montoya & Vendehey (2002) writes about how personal brands can be used and describe this with examples like Madonna, Tiger Woods, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jackson. However, they do not mention whether there is any difference between these and individuals.

In section 1.1, I mentioned Kapferers (2008) example of a football player as a trademark. Another current example of people whose brands are Madonna. She has a brand that makes people pay big money to see her concerts (FIND SOURCE). People being perceived as trademarks or brands is already accepted, but the theoretical link is not as clear. I’m questioning whether a person’s branding work the same way as a company’s branding.

A term that raises questions about people as trademarks is identity. Brand identity is an important part of brand strategy (Kapferer, 2008). Brand identity is linked to the company’s vision and meaning, and helps to create associations for the brand. It’s about striving towards the image that the company wants their target audience to perceive (Aaker, 2010). People also have an identity. In cultural studies, identity is mainly about class, gender and ethnicity (find source). The question is if people that are trademarks then have two identities? Identity is also closely linked to image, which within brand strategy is a about how customers perceive the brand. When the term image is being used in ‘artist’ context, the image means how one artist perceived by the audience and fans.

Something that changed the market of music as of lately is technology development and globalization (Kusek & Leonhard, 2005). Which has within the service sector in the entertainment industry contributed to both pros and cons. One of the advantages with the technology development is that more efficient means of transport and communication such as mobile telephony, cheap flights, and accessibility to the internet contributed to more open borders between countries, and products from other countries have become more accessible (Lathrop, 2007). For example, It’s easier for artists to target an international market. Although a disadvantage with the globalization is that it may lead to the range of products is getting too wide. All products the consumer buy in a day as well as the advertising they are exposed to makes it difficult to remember all of the different offers, which makes it important that the marketing stands out from the crowd. Among other things, it becomes increasingly harder for artists to get meaningful exposure as more artists are trying to get attention through different digital distribution channels every day (Kusek & Leonhard, 2005). The importance of building a brand in today’s society is the most important aspect for a business’s activity as the brand’s success is equal with the successes of the business (Find source). The question is whether there is any difference in applying the brand perspective on artists and if this affects the promotion of artists.

Problem formulation and research questions

The discussion under section 1.2 has shown that a branding perspective is used in several industries. Through current literature in the field of brand, we can state that It is a topical subject, to see companies or products like brands to be able to convey a unified image to the market. What is special for the music industry is that the most important actor, the artist, is an individual. That even individuals can be Trademarks are noted by some authors presented above. But there is more to clarify when it comes to artists and brands. In this the discussion we have been interested in the meaning of seeing individuals like brands. With this focus on the music industry, we have formulated the following research question:

What does it mean to see artists in the music sector as trademarks?


Our purpose of the paper is to analyze and clarify:

What is typical of trademarks related to individuals.

Explanation & Delimitation

Through the presentation of our research question and our purposes, we have made it clear that We have limited ourselves to discuss artists in the music sector as trademarks. With Referring to our first part, we would like to point out that this focuses on what is typical of trademarks related to individuals. What is interesting in this partial reason is the meaning of seeing an individual as a trademark, so we discuss not exclusively artists in the music industry in relation to this subordinate purpose. We have however, limited us to individuals in similar positions as artists, such as writers, sports stars, artists, movie stars and television personalities.

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