Make the persona personal
When Luna Li enters the stage, it can only be described as an arrival. This is an artist who uses style and stage presence to let the audience know that they are about to observe more than just a musical performance. It will be a show.
I was able to witness this in November at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club as part of Indie Week. Lead vocalist and guitar goddess Hannah Bussiere, who dawns the alter ego of Luna Li, for whom the group is named, wore a shimmering gold halter top with matching pants and tons of face glitter.
The best part about this show-stopping outfit is how it all came together. First Bussiere found the top on a family vacation in Italy. Then the glitter came after a surplus from a music video shoot; then the pants were found at a resale shop in the city. A series of happy coincidences led the singer to stumble into this new image.
Finding your image is imperative as a musician. While Bussiere was lucky enough to find the pieces to develop her image, the process does not stop there. Your overall image is how an artist is recognized and is especially important for new artists. It is something an artist must work hard at either maintaining or reinventing. Just like any regular person, perceptions and scrutiny are di cult to deal with, but it is important to stay authentic to yourself.
Toronto-based musician and creator of Toronto Women in Music STACEY credits her ability to find her image to caring less about fear of judgment and fitting in and embracing who you are in your own skin.
“There’s a bit of fear for being perceived as the ‘other’,” said STACEY. “Arriving at an image is an act of bravery.”
STACEY also acknowledges maturity and personal growth as a sort of transformation of her musical style and appearance. It is important for artists to be able to develop with their work so as not be pigeonholed or kept from creating authentic work.
You have artists like Stevie Nicks who have kept up the same image for decades and have become iconic for that image. On the other hand, you have artists like Lady Gaga who broke into the industry with an outrageous and eye-popping image that has evolved throughout her career. For the Gagas of the industry, reinvention is key to keeping up with their creative impulses. One of the ways artists are able to evolve is by creating a persona that is different from personal lives. It is a way to experience artistic vulnerability while keeping a vale over their true selves.
According to Feyen, musicians need to create a brand can be described in business terms as both a service and a product. The musician becomes the product through their brand and their service is their art.
When entering into the music business, your image changes from simply being a look or persona into a brand. Describing your art as a “brand” can feel dirty or cheap, but it doesn’t have to be. Not all music industry executives are the evil villains we see in films and television. It can be easier to think of your brand as your resume. It will help you get signed to a record label or nd a manager to represent you. Just make sure to keep your brand authentic to yourself and how you wish to be perceived.
The onstage persona goes further than your clothing. It is how you stand, speak and walk. This onstage persona will help you be remembered by the audience member who came to the concert to see only the main act that you are opening for. Hayley Williams of Paramore gives a memorable show because of her ability to run across the stage and project a rock-star confidence. Adele is able to command a stage without flashy light shows because of her quick wit and ability to speak with the audience. All of these elements create a worthwhile show and when coupled with musical talent send any musician over the edge into performer.
For Bussiere, her brand represents more than herself. “I see what I do as like as sort of bashing the stereotypes and being like, ‘Yeah I’m a girl but I can shred as well as the guys.’”