The Significance of Managing Artists as Brands

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Seeing things from a brand perspective has recently become interesting in several industries. The music industry is one of them, where branding is applied to artists and bands/groups. Although branding is and has been used in used in music for a long time , there has been less research made around what it means to see artists as trademarks.

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Purpose: The purpose of this dissertation is to describe what it means to use a branding perspective on artists and what the pros and cons can be for the players in the music industry who work with artists as well as the artists themselves.

Research questions and objectives are formulated as follows:

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

The purpose is divided into the following sub-paragraphs:

Analyze and clarify:

  • What is typical of trademarks related to individuals?
  • Pros and cons of considering artists as trademarks?

Method: The method of the essay is a qualitative study. The central information collection is four interviews with people who have a direct link to work with artists or brand marketing.

Conclusions: Since a a qualitative method have been used, the essay does not contain any general conclusions. The conclusions presented in the last chapter are the results of this specific study. Although a qualitative method is not a basis for general conclusions, this method is the primary one to be able to get this kind of subject close.


The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the significance of managing artists as brands. As well as exploring what is typical of trademarks related to individuals and pros and cons with this perspective. Brands are a big and important part of our lives today, but not only companies are interested in building brands anymore. It’s getting more and more normalised to view persons as brands and that perspective have been investigated in this dissertation. A qualitative method has been used as well as gathering of secondonday information from reliable sources. Interviews has been done with 4 people half of which is music industry professionals an have extensive knowledge about the subject and the other half with marketing professionals with extensive knowledge on branding of companies.


In this introductory chapter a short introduction is given to the background and problem of the research area, with the intention of giving a basic understanding of the subject. Furthermore, the chosen problem area is being discussed and why there’s an interest in investigating this. Then the research question and purpose is presented.

Background And Problem

Trademarks and brands are everywhere. We are constantly in touch with different brands in our everyday lives. On billboards, in shops, in gyms and at concerts, they can not be avoided. Multinational companies, local companies, products and individuals are all categories of well-known brands. 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). Within marketing, a brand is defined as a name, term, design, symbol or other identifier that identifies a merchant’s product or service from those of other sellers (Moor, 2007). Hammond (2008) believes that a brand is the total sensory experience a customer has with a company and its product or service. Kotler & Pfoertsch (2006) explains that a brand is emotional, it has a personality and captures both the heart and the mind of its consumers. The perception of individuals as trademarks and managing them as products is nothing new. In Hollywood, building an actors personal brand has been around for a century, making it easier to sell their films. During the 20’s and 30’s, the link between consumption and celebrities in the United States was established, and Hollywood’s magazines mixed articles about movies, lifestyles and interests (Ewen, 1988). For a long time, brand research has solely been about brands linked to products, services and companies but there is still more research to be done when it comes to the branding of individuals. The music industry is a type of industry where people are at the center, not companies or products. It’s therefore interesting to study how a brand perspective affects the image of individuals in the music industry. This dissertation will be about individuals as trademarks in the music industry.

Problem Formulation And Research Questions

The short introduction under section 1.1 has demonstrated that branding is used in many different industries. Due to current literature on the subject it’s safe to state that it’s appropriate to manage companies or products like brands to be able to convey a consistent image to the market. In the music industry branding is applied to an individual or band/group, that they can be managed as trademarks or brands is presented in section 1.1. but there is more to clarify when it comes to artists and brands. In this dissertation the main exploration is around the significance of seeing individuals within the music industry as brands, and so therefore this following research question have been formulated:

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


The purpose of the dissertation is to analyze and clarify:

What is typical of trademarks related to individuals.

Pros and cons of considering artists as trademarks.

Explanation And Delimitation

The primary research of this dissertation is limited to comparing branding of companies and artists in the music sector. But the secondary research will not only explore the branding of artists, it shall also discuss the branding of individuals in other industries. However it’s been limited to individuals in similar positions as artists, such as writers, sports stars, artists, movie stars and television personalities.

Literature Review

The purpose of this literature review is to present what has previously been written about the subject and to serve as a support in the analysis of the empirical material.


The benefit of seeing a company as a brand has meant that it is no longer just big companies who are interested in building brands. Kapferer Highlights the many uses of brand building and states “Amazingly, all types of organizations or even people now want to be managed as brands” (2008, 2). In addition, he mentions how, football player, David Beckham was sold to an American football club for $250 million, a sum of money the football club could only afford because they also became the owner of the David Beckham trademark during the contract period. 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, in Ancient Greece, stone sculptors and craftsmen used their own marks on their creations (Moor, 2007). Jones (1986) explains that symbols and marks were initially used as a way to distinguish and legally protect the company. He believes that consumers could then create associations to different products the companies have through their symbols. Kotler and Pfoertsch (2006) also states that branding is not only about using marks and symbols to distinguish one company from another, but is also about creating 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. However, the interest in branding is being explored in different ways , Montoya and Vandehey (2002) writes about the personal brand, to create a brand around a person. This shows that brand strategy is a topical subject and that it can be applied across several industries in different aspects. The concept of an individual being the brand is different, as people such as 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). 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, Montoya & Vandehey (2002). There is a lot of literature on branding, but a lack of research focusing on professionals who make a living off their brand, for example artists in the music sector. Montoya & Vandehey (2002) states how personal brands can be used, giving examples such as Madonna, Tiger Woods, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jackson. However, they do not mention whether there is any difference between these and non public individuals, suggesting that there is a lack of research in that area.

Madonna is an example of an individual with a brand, a brand that entices people to attend her concerts, no matter the price (Hammond, 2008). Individuals being perceived as trademarks or brands is already accepted, but the theoretical link is not as clear. This essay questions whether a person’s branding works in 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 an 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 (Rowden 2000). Identity is also closely linked to image, which within brand strategy is about how customers perceive the brand. When the term ‘image’ is being used in an artist (music) context, the image means how one artist is perceived by their audience and fans (Lathrop, 2007). A question arising is if people that are trademarks have two identities, one private and one public one?

Technology development and globalization has changed the music industry dramatically (Kusek & Leonhard, 2005), which has, within the service sector, created both pros and cons. One of the advantages of technology development is that there are more efficient means of transport and communication, such as mobile phones, cheap flights, accessibility to the internet, more open borders between countries, and more accessible products from other countries (Lathrop, 2007). All these advantages make it easier for an artist to target an international market. Although, a disadvantage of globalization is that it may lead to the range of products becoming too wide. All products the consumer buys 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 even more important that for a brand to stand out from the crowd. Among other things, it becomes increasingly harder for artists to get meaningful exposure due to many artists trying to get attention on 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 (Aaker, 2010).

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