Canadian Musician - May/June 2023 | Page 61

COLUMNS The Power of Music and Visuals

By Jessica Rhaye

My name is Jessica Rhaye . I am both a singer songwriter and a professional graphic design artist . Independently , I ’ ve released six albums and have designed collateral for my own music projects and many other artists over the years . One thing I ’ ve learned as an artist releasing music , when thousands of songs are released every week , is how critical it is for artists to have strong visuals to support their music , since audiences now listen with their eyes and not just their ears .

Simply releasing a track , EP or album on a streaming platform is not enough to capture people ’ s attention . If you , as an artist , have thousands of monthly listeners ready to tune in to every upcoming release — GREAT ! That › s fantastic ! Most independent artists , like me , don › t have this luxury and are just standing behind our lemonade stands ready to sell . However , we now have to throw rocks to get cars to stop ! We need some sort of visual element or hook to get audiences to dig in . The biggest audience driver for most independent artists is social media . Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are effective at getting fans ’ attention with eye-catching photos , videos , reels , and then driving them to your streaming platform , or YouTube channel , or webstore . It ’ s more likely that an audience will want to know more about your music if you make it visually appealing and authentic . You have to get the audience to stop and pay attention . First look , then listen . Listeners will be captivated by a compelling song with a captivating visual , hopefully leading to new fans .
Getting traction on social media often requires multiple posts a week / day , without being annoying or a brutal self-promoter . While social media frequency is an art in and of itself , the content an artist posts on these platforms — the driver — is crucial .
Choosing authentic and vibe-appropriate images , thumbnails , illustrations , videos to pull in traffic is key . But you need to know what you are driving with this imagery . What are you trying to sell ? A download ? A physical LP or CD , or tickets to a show ? Are you looking to increase streams on a specific platform or drive-up subscribers on social media ? Your imagery needs to be compelling enough to create a reaction .
As an example , for my latest album Sunshine Baby , I released multiple singles with music videos with the intention of driving viewers to my YouTube channel . As one of my drivers , I created a series of digital movie posters , like those you might see at a local movie theatre . These movie posters matched the branding and vibe of each video and song and generated click throughs on my social media platforms . In addition , they generated more views and subscribers on my YouTube channel . Releasing the songs on their own would not have had the same result . These movie posters helped me get more views and spins . This is just one example of an original visual driver that has worked for me .
Most artists have a clear vision of how they want their music to sound , choosing the right producer and musicians is important , but it ’ s also important to reflect this vision in the artwork and marketing . Make sure you surround yourself with photographers , videographers , illustrators , and graphic designers that complement your music and share your vision . Research people who capture images like your sound so that when you are ready to release your music you can build imagery to support the release .
I ’ ll be the first to admit , I have purchased music in the past because I loved the album cover design , or the packaging and vibe . This is before hearing the music . That is how powerful design can be — it can invite a potential listener before the music has been heard . Even though more music is released now than in any time in history , and competition for fans ’ attention is fierce , it ’ s also an exciting time to be an artist . Technology makes it easier to control your brand , image , and artwork . Musicians have access to tools and software to create and edit their own music videos , reels , posters , and all other graphic visuals at a more reasonable cost than in the past . You just need to take a unique approach to use these tools to your advantage to help you stand out instead of just throwing rocks from your lemonade stand . Your audience will love it , and you will love the results .
Jessica Rhaye is a singer songwriter and award winning freelance graphic designer with a diploma in Fine Craft and Creative Graphic Design . She can be reached at www . jessicarhaye . com / contact .