Images of the printed text speak to us for some reason. Perhaps the playful nature of reproducing the printed word into digital media with analog filters is what makes it such a pleasure to read inside these digitized capsules. The beauty of Instagram will do very little to quell the frustration an artist should feel after reading the photographed segment of text. This impudent paragraph was clipped from a press kit rubric distributed at a Professional Development Seminar.
It takes an audacious institution to hold a seminar devoted to professional development that encourages its students to dress “like hippies on pot,” or “look dark and dirty,” based on the kind of music they play. This sort of thinking creates clone artists and focuses too much on the incorrect link between visual and aural.
The way artists look and present themselves is important to success but that is not the trouble with what this paragraph suggests. The implication is that you need to dress a certain way so people can identify you and consequently lump you in with the other “trouble-making rock & rollers.” The danger of being lumped in is very real and potentially deadly. An artist and their work MUST be able to stand on their own and be identifiable if they wish to cut through the glut of music saturating the Internet and other distribution channels.
Not only do people judge others by how they dress, what a person is wearing can actually influence their performance and self-confidence. Artists should get dressed up for performances, wearing something that makes them comfortable while also taking into consideration how they want themselves to be perceived by the audience.
Perception is more important than reality on the concert stage. New artists should remember that many of the most popular performers such as Madonna and Lady Gaga dress completely differently in concert than they do on a Monday afternoon. A concert can be like a play in the sense that some musicians “act” out a character. It should be noted that none of these characters are other musicians and that is why these artists still stand on their own. You will never see Beyoncé dressing up like Lady Gaga or vice versa.
It is baffling that someone would suggest a young artist dress like an already established and successful one. Is this now considered normal and strategically intelligent marketing behavior? Mick Jagger did not co-opt his on-stage fashion and persona from other performers so why should a new artist take his? This sort of thinking creates derivative-looking artists and the music that follows seems to continue the trend.
What a person wears will never be as important as the music they make but it remains a critical element of their live performance. Everyone that attends the concert will judge an artist more on their music than the image they give off, but the next morning when the blog posts start going up there will be no sound, only text and images of what the artist looked like when performing. Outside of the possible YouTube videos, the collective archived memory of a performance will be more visual than aural and that is more than enough reason for an artist to dress in a way that represents who they are and what they do.
Artists, if you aren’t one of the “hippies on pot” or one of those “trouble-making rock & rollers,” it is not sensible to dress like one. You will risk being labeled as inauthentic and that is worse than anything else. Remember that there is only one of you and thousands of people trying to look like a young Bob Dylan. Embrace your musical style and look like you while doing it, not someone else.