What is Artist Positioning?


It's the next generation of artist development.
Traditional artist development isn't working anymore. It's no secret the music industry has changed exponentially over the past few years. But, what has it changed to?
Sorted Noise sees two key shifts...
1. It's more personal (As in artist / fan relationship)
2. It's more immediate (Fans don't want to wait a year for a new album. They want a constant influx of new material)
Here's the problem... traditional artist development addresses neither. An artist's identity is normally decided or molded by some guy in a suit who's met the artist 1-3 times. How can an artist connect with a fan if they aren't comfortable in their own skin? The skin isn't even their's. And, everyone knows it isn't immediate. How many horror stories have you heard about a band being in a "development" deal for two years? Only to be eventually shelved because their A&R rep got fired.
Over the last decade, Thad Beaty and Jason Collum (aka. the writing / production team of Sorted Noise) have been around some of the most identifiable artists in the world. We are talking Beyonce', Backstreet Boys, and Sugarland. So, what were these "superstar's" secret?
After some thought, Thad and Jason came to the conclusion that it wasn't their songs, or their look, or even their label... It was the fact that all of these things worked together to communicate one clear identity. This is memorable to a potential fan, because it claims a "position" in their mind, and hunkers down. This idea of "positioning" is a marketing concept developed by Jack Trout and Al Ries. Sorted Noise believes this can be applied to the music industry as well.
But, what exactly is Artist Positioning?
Simply put... Artist Positioning is discovering an artist's unique identity, and utilizing that identity to cut through the clutter of today's overcommunicated society to find a home in a potential fan's mind.
So, that's the jist. Interested? Want to dig a little deeper? Then keep reading...
Five years ago, how many bands or artists were you introduced to on a daily basis? And, now, with Myspace, Facebook, the viral word-of-mouth power of Twitter, how many are you introduced to daily? I would guess a few more than five years ago. Artists might only get one shot to find a "position" in a potential fan's mind. And, only the artists with a clear, unique identity are going to claim that position.
How about a real life example...
Let's take Katy Perry. Great songs. Great performer. Great looking. But, what's her position?
Controversial.
Think about it. Her first single was released on a limited basis to blogs in an attempt to get people talking on the web. It was called "Ur So Gay." And, her first mainstream radio single? ..."I Kissed a Girl." Pick up a magazine or watch an interview with Miz Perry. There is one constant in every piece... controversial comments. And don't be fooled. This is a calculated move. Don't forget. She was a clean cut Christian artist in Nashville named Katy Hudson just a few short years ago. "Controversial" is Katy Perry's brand. Her unique identity. Her position. And, it's the reason she will be around for a long time.
Now, let's take a look at Howie Day. In the Spring of 2004, he had a Top Ten hit called "Collide," He was red hot. An amazing performer, amazing songwriter, and the ladies loved him as well. The sky was the limit. He was right where he (and his label) wanted him to be. Now, here's a question... what was his second single called? Anybody? I'll give you a second... Don't you go googling!
So, what went wrong? Well, having great songs and being a great performer aren't positions. There are too many of each. It's all about unique identity. What was Howie Day's? I would argue nothing. Don't get me wrong... he has a very nice track record. But, we are talking about his ability to grab a position in the Top 40 fan's mind, and hunker down for the long haul. That was his and his label's goal. That's why they pushed the single to Top 40 radio in the first place.
In the end, Howie didn't have a memorable enough brand, and he was just visiting that potential fan's mind. Unfortunately, he ended up occupying one of the most un-enviable positions of all... "One Hit Wonder."
Sorted Noise guides the artist from day 1 on the journey to find this identity that is so crucial to longevity and success. Before recording, Thad and Jason like to write with artists to get an understanding of who they are and where they want to be. This process helps them to know the inside of an artist's brain. The artist says things in writing sessions they might not mention just in production. This helps the artist to find their voice and identity.
Once that identity is discovered, it determines all that follows. What TV show's audience would best connect with this song? Should the artist release an EP or full length album? Should the album be released digitally or on vinyl. What social media sites should the artist concentrate on? What web designer can best capture the artist's identity? What labels should we connect the artist with? 
Bottom line... the old school way of doing things isn't working anymore.