Creative Freedom within Artist Branding
Nearing their album drop in early `17, Gorillaz are slowly but surely creeping back into the public eye, by recently launching their first ever Instagram account.
Artist branding has always fascinated me - It’s the added complexity of including a delicate human element and the accompanying art form within the storytelling aspect that transforms traditional marketing into a particularly mesmerising craft, in my head at least.
Olivia Nunn, Head of Marketing at Island Records, home to some of the world’s most famous music stars including Bob Marley, Amy Winehouse, Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine, PJ Harvey, Rizzle Kicks and many more, defines her approach in a blend of two main ingredients – art & applied science.
“We take the ‘art’ (the artist and their music) and continuously build knowledge around current music trends, competitor artists and consumer behaviour (the science) to create an artist’s USP and new creative approaches to engage target audiences with the art.”
For her, defining what it is that stands out and is uniquely identifiable about the artist is essential to give a real sense of self and musical direction that will mark out a superstar in the long run. But what if one takes away the human element?
Enter Gorillaz. The virtual quartet incepted by Blur lead singer Damon Albarn and his former flatmate comic book illustrator Jamie Hewlett. The slightly vacant, pin-up boy lead singer, 2D; Murdoc, Lemmy-esque bass player; bulky beat-master named Russel; and hyper cute pre-teen rock chick Noodle, are:
a) fully animated
b) completely fictional (none of the creatures are linked to any of their real life counterparts)
c) created out of pure cynicism for popular celebrity culture, according to Damon.
When confronted with the question ‘why?’, his go to answer is: “If you can believe in figures such as Eminem and Marilyn Manson, why not get your head around something which takes that to its logical conclusion?”
In an interview with Metro, Damon states that the whole pop aesthetic is more and more about manufactured personalities and even those that claim not to be are to a certain extent - Coldplay are “a little bit too clean to be real”. With Gorillaz they wanted to turn convention on its head and manufacture something with real integrity.
The benefits of their incognito approach are clear to them and has proven successful in their journey so far. On a personal level it was important to them to maintain a protective layer from the “distracting” celebrity hype. Creatively their approach allowed them to take their brainchild (Gorillaz) and their music to another level - From their detailed fictional band history (a made-up debut gig at the “Camden Brownhouse” in December 1999, which ended in a fictional riot) all the way to the mix of musical genre and sounds produced across London, America and Jamaica - The possibilities were boundless. Even when it came to the credits (credited to 2D/Murdoc/Russel/Noodle and “real life” collaborators), Damon’s name is only mentioned in the fine print as an additional vocalist appearing courtesy of EMI.
As far as Damon was concerned, he barely existed in the context of the Gorillaz’s debut album.
Damon, ending on a mind-f****:
“It’s funny. There’s no actual proof that I’m on the record at all. People just assume it’s my voice. And you assume that you are talking to me. But it always strikes me that using the telephone or the internet is a similar kind of mind-f*** as driving down a road and assuming that no one is going to crash into you.”
For more details:
Grab one of these [Book]
Flick though this [Fresh Insta]
Get lost in this [The band history]