When used properly, gimmicks can be one of the most effective ways for artists to grow their brand. By definition, a gimmick is a stunt or hoax to gain attention or to increase awareness around a particular subject matter.
Let’s be clear, don’t confuse gimmicks with being trendy or deploying tactics that rely on skulduggery and bamboozlement. Using gimmicks in music is a proven recipe that continues to deliver results. When it comes to building a brand, gimmicks should be used a tool for growth.
For example, Jay Z has pulled off some of the greatest gimmicks in Hip Hop history that are still used in today’s era. The “This Album Will Be My Last Album” gimmick is a go-to maneuver.
The best gimmicks play into your brand as an artist. For Jay Z, it was about feeding into that ‘hustler’s mentality’ of supply and demand. Ultimately, giving the PEOPLE what they want, when they want it.
Check out the video below.
When creating ideas around how to — properly — use gimmicks to build your brand, ask yourself two questions:
- What would other artists do?
- How can I be different, yet still be true to my brand?
The video above is a great example of how Jay Z used his leverage as the “top rapper” in the music industry — at the time — to garner attention for his current album and next album. The key with gimmicks is to create conversations and add perspective to your situation.
This will allow you to build a brand by introducing yourself to curious outsiders and add a deeper level of understanding to your new project or event. Keep in mind, gimmicks should be cost effective and add to the human nature of your brand.
Some gimmicks of note that have added to the brands of popular artists are:
- Migos — Making it a point to always dress alike and feed into the ‘three amigos’ persona.
- DaBaby — Wearing a diaper at SXSW in 2017 (Check out the video below).
- Young Thug — Wearing a dress for the cover of his “Jeffery” album.
EXTRA: Lil Nas X Sold His Soul On Old Town Road?
The value that gimmicks hold is that they are automatically different from other artists. Why? Because your core brand will be different 9 times out of 10.
Lil Nas X is a great example of how using a gimmick to play into your core brand can garner attention and build leverage based off of a perceived reality.
Below I am going to discuss three schemes that break down Lil Nas X’s newest release and the gimmicks surrounding the ‘Old Town Road’ artist.
- Did Lil Nas X sell his soul on Old Town Road? This is a play on the famous story surrounding blues legend Robert Johnson, who had disappeared for a year and returned as a completely different musician.
Johnson had acquired an insane skill level and unusual technique, strumming a series of rapid-fire chords that made the guitar sound almost like a piano — a piano with three hands playing it.
How could this kid, who was lousy enough to get kicked off the stage in Robinsonville, return just a year later as the most talented blues guitarist in the Delta?
To the stunned crowd in Banks, Mississippi, there was only one explanation — Johnson had made a deal with the devil.
a Robert Johnson documentary on Netflix.
- Has Lil Nas X solidified himself as King Troll? Staying true to his core brand, which is being the Internet’s biggest troll. Lil Nas X “accidentally” copies FKA Twigs’ entire video concept for ‘Cellophone’ after winning “Best Video” for ‘Old Town Road’ over FKA Twigs for the same video at the 62nd Grammys.
- Did Lil Nas X go too far with his collaborative shoe drop with MSCHF? The ability to tie all these scenarios into one marketing scheme proves the power and resources that a major label brings to the table. With Lil Nas X’s ‘Satan Shoes’ being priced at $1,018 and only 666 pairs being produced speaks to the scarcity that can be created around a single product. With Nike suing and ordering MSCHF to stop fulfilling orders only ups the value being created.
In conclusion, the fact of the matter is that stories remain to be the number one driver of the economy. As Lil Nas X and Columbia Records have most likely outperformed his debut single ‘Old Town Road’ (statistically) with ‘MONTERO’ sitting at 80,000,000 views and headed for number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
This speaks to the power of gimmicks and how playing into them can only strengthen your brand. If you’re an artist and reading this, I suggest you find a way to be different. Use that difference as a vehicle to create value and build leverage.