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In my experience, the word ‘branding’ is enough to make most classical musicians recoil, level it up to ‘classical musician branding’ and you’ll have likely caused somebody’s eyes to roll so far back in their head that they may never return to normal. 

The artistic world, and perhaps specifically its branches that do not think of themselves as ‘popular culture’, has always struggled with how it should or how it should want to fit into the modern, technological, commodifying world.

Perhaps it’s because art has never been certain of its true meaning; is it political, is it reactionary, is it entertainment, is it distraction, is it expression, is it preservation, is it a mixture of all of, or none of these?

Classical music, in light of the modern world, has become obsessed with authenticity, there has never been a time when musicians have poured over manuscripts so longingly or argued with each other so brutally over how things ‘should’ be done. People’s fear of mixing the business side of what has become a musical ‘industry’ with the perceived ‘purity’ of artistic expression and creativity is rooted in people's yearning for art to be a manifestation of our true nature, but the belief that our willingness to fit into the world around us is a compromise of our authenticity, is one that neglects the other side of music’s so called ‘noble cause’, that is to communicate, collaborate and create community. 

In reality whichever way you think about it there’s no downside to having a clear branding strategy. 

If your priority is authenticity then branding simplifies the marketing process allowing you more time to focus on your artistry, and if you value strong communication then a well-defined brand as a musician helps to amplify your message and reach a wider audience. 

(check out this free PDF for music theory on the classical guitar)

Define your unique identity 

Your brand is a mirror that reflects who you are or who you want to be as an artist. 

Begin by pinpointing what distinguishes you from other artists. Think about your musical style, your influences, the things you think you do well and the things you’re interested in improving. 

Do you gravitate towards certain aspects of other artists? Why? What do you want to do with your career? What would success look like to you? What kind of music do you enjoy playing, and why? 

Having a strong sense of identity is a really important part of branding, not just because it helps your brand appear consistent, but also because it can help you not lose sight of who you are once you start interacting with the business side of your career. 

I always think that for artists who have been brought up in a naturally competitive environment it can be easier to answer all of these questions in the negative, what do you not want to come across as, who do you not want to be like? 

It might sound horrible, but ultimately the biggest part of building a brand is to understand what it is that you want to be, and to do that you need to be able to formulate into thoughts or words exactly what that is. 

It’s also a constructive use for all of those judgemental thoughts that you’ve built up over the years, use them to channel you closer to what your personal brand would look like. 


Decide what you want to share 

In my experience the difference between the people that suffer the online world versus the people who enjoy being part of it is compartmentalisation. 

Because social media plays such a huge part in our current world, it is easy to forget that the people behind big pages aren’t sharing everything about their lives, even if it might seem like it. 

Drawing clear boundaries online not only keeps you safe, it also keeps your relationship with likes, follows and comments healthy. It might sound silly to somebody who has never built an online presence, but the numbers can really suck you in and a hateful hurtful comment can ruin your day if you are sharing everything about yourself, after all if you’re sharing everything about yourself in as true a way as possible and somebody leaves a nasty comment, it will cut deeper than if you are a page that shares country music tablature and somebody says they hate it. 

One says ‘I hate what you do’, which you can convert into, ‘ok, this content isn’t for you’, and the other says ‘I hate you’, which is less convertible into constructive critique and just ends up being nastier and more personal. 

Branding for classical guitar: a classical guitar leaning against window

Decide what you want to say 

Every brand has a narrative, and if you want your online presence to be worth your while you will want to craft one that is more than just trying to be popular online. 

Having something to say and using your page and brand to say it is going to be much more effective for developing a presence than trying to just ‘share authentically’ as it means that you can use all of the information you are getting online, criticism included. I think for musicians and artists this is especially useful because we are taught to be scared of coming across as egotistical. 

Understand your platform, understand your audience 

Whichever platform you end up using, bear in mind that it should be one you know well and one that you use. 

I’ve read a lot about social media and ways to leverage an audience but the biggest steps to building an audience for myself, I made as being part of an audience on that platform. 

Understanding the intricacies of a platform and being able to intuit its algorithmic trends all come from experience with the medium and keeping up to date with how the platform is changing. Spend time understanding what you would like to see on your chosen platform, what do you think would make this space better? 

branding for classical guitar: leverage instagram for growith

Make a plan 

Just like with everything in life, inspiration will only get you so far, in order to stay consistent you need to have a plan that you can stick to even on the days where you don’t have the motivation to start something new. 

Make yourself a little plan with some goals on it, perhaps to post once a week, once a month, it doesn’t matter, consistency is the key. 

This isn’t to say that your plan can’t change direction, only that you need a contingency plan for when you’ve left the sunny-day-coffee-house-inspiration bubble and are sitting at home in the grizzly Monday morning rain in front of your propped up iPhone. 


By following these steps and staying open minded and true to yourself, you can build a brand that reflects your identity as a musician and resonates with your audience. 

Remember, building a brand is a journey not a destination, so embrace the process and enjoy the ride!

Some free resources for every classical guitarist

Take advantage of these excellent free courses for the classical guitar, suitable for guitarists at every level:

Free course: Right Hand Virtuosity for the Classical Guitar

Free course: How to Play Bach on the Classical Guitar

Free course: Sunburst: A Modern Masterpiece

Free course: Stanley Meyers’ Cavatina

If you're looking for more, click below to sign up for a free 14-day trial to tonebase, and watch lessons with the world's greatest classical guitarists (Pepe Romero, Scott Tennant, Ana Vidovic, etc.).

You'll also receive invitations to weekly live events, custom annotated workbooks and scores, and more.

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Dave McLellan

Concert & Chamber Guitarist

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