Last updated on April 17th, 2022
A few weeks back, our site featured an article about how and why you should make an Electronic Press Kit (EPK) that showcases your music and your brand. An EPK is more or less crucial if you want to encapsulate your sound, your vibe, and your goals. You can send it to people you meet on and off the Muze app, and in turn, you can ask for theirs. An EPK is cornerstone to networking and professionalism as a whole in the music industry.
Now let’s take a second glance at some of the other things we’ve talked about thus far. A few weeks ago, I outlined the importance of good photography, and then you read about how to properly write your bio. All of these things will appear in your EPK. Otherwise, let’s get down to the brass tacks of presentation. Think about those photos that are going to be viewed on your press kit, you social media pages, your Muze profile, and beyond. Now factor in appearing in the real world. Whether it’s on a stage, in the crowd, or anywhere else you’ll be playing the musician game, you’re going to want to look your best. Yes, we’re talking about wardrobe.
For a while there, I didn’t think much of my appearance. No, I wouldn’t step up on a stage in a stained Snuggie and slippers, but there wasn’t much else going into my “look” that distinguished me. It wasn’t until I was pulled aside by a man I trusted who played on the same music circuit as me in downtown Nashville that I was first confronted by my own frump. “Listen, man. You sound great. There’s no doubt about that.” He told me. “But you’ve godda invest in some new threads. Maybe some decent boots, a few slick shirts… you know what I mean.” At the time, my trusty Timberlands, Levi jeans, and Nike t-shirts were all I needed to feel comfortable. Plus, if I sound good, who cares what I look like? If only it were that simple…
Why It’s Important
I’m by no means a fashionista, but when I finally realized that people were actually paying attention to my “look,” I was hit with a sudden burst of awareness. Ironically, a closer look at the clothes I was wearing made me feel remarkably naked. Whether you like it or not, your immediate presentation leaves an impression upon listeners (yes, they’re using their eyes as well as their ears). Great performers understand this, and that’s why the last big Americana act you saw made sure he appeared on stage in that rugged jacket, slick pair of jeans, and other rustic adornments that made him look cooler than everyone else in the room.
Not only should your clothes make you look good – they should represent your sound and aesthetic as well. Take my word for it when I say that I hate shopping more than most anyone, but I really enjoy hearing someone tell me, “I really like your style!” It makes me feel confident. It makes me feel noticed. It makes me feel unique. It also exemplifies the extra care I’m willing to put toward authentic exhibition and self-respect. Make no mistake – what you’re wearing out in public and in pictures is important.
Choosing A Style
Before I got more acquainted with my outward self, I wasn’t traversing the streets in bleach-stained shirts and dirty old shorts. I always liked looking good, but when I learned that what I enjoyed looking like just needed a little more care and attention. I like my leather, I like my tattoos, I like my Frye boots, and I like my sharp button-up shirts and jackets. I’ll even go so far as to sport a Slayer t-shirt beneath a sport coat from time to time. Case in point: I know what I like to wear, and I understand how it factors into my art.
So ask yourself this: what am I writing about? What are my themes? What is my overall commentary on the world through a creative lens? Slash encapsulates debauchery in the flesh. Hence bandanas, sunglasses, and the iconic top hat. Marilyn Manson is the guy who haunts your dreams. Pallid flesh, mismatched irises, and various diabolical outfits that look like they were exhumed from Dracula’s personal sex dungeon are appropriate.
I’m not saying you have to become a theater piece – I’m just saying that your clothes should reflect what you’re going for. Sometimes, simple is effective. Ryan Bingham’s best friends are dark shaded t-shirts, bracelets with Native American emblems, and jeans fit for a cowboy. Why? Because he’s a cowboy with a great sound.
Make a list of musicians whose look you like, what you sound like, and what best represents that sound in object form. It’s a wide spectrum with plenty of possibility. Play the part that you were born to play and you’ll never feel inauthentic.
How To Save Money
If you’re starting to get excited, there may be a dismal little voice in the back of your mind whispering, “But you’re pooooooor….” and to be fair, clothes are expensive.
Otherwise, there are plenty of ways around having to break your piggy bank. You’d be surprised what you can find hidden in the shelves at any nearby Goodwill. It’s not unheard of to find designer clothes in mint condition that only cost you the price of the last fast food meal you scarfed down. H&M always has great sales, and there’s generally something for everyone at stores like that.
Likewise, keep an eye out for local fashion designers who have pop-up sales across town. Most of them, while trying to make a name for themselves, have some great stuff that isn’t overpriced. And, in the age of the internet, you always have an ally in finding slashed prices and people who are selling their own clothes on eBay.
Try investing in a few really nice garments that you can pair with any number of cheap threads that will look solid in value once you put them all together. I personally spent just under $400 on my beloved Frye boots, but I still wear them every day and it was definitely worth the investment. Rarely do I ever splurge in such a way (because I can’t afford to), but it’s worth having a few precious articles of clothing lying around.
I will painstakingly drive this point home at every opportunity. Bear in mind that, regardless of how cool something looks, it’s still going to look foolish if it’s been done a million times before. There’s a reason you don’t see tie dye headbands and bell bottom jeans all over the place anymore – because the look has been exhausted.
If you like a certain style that falls within that category, consider meshing it with something else and inventing something new. Think outside the box. Sometimes, wacky and mismatched works wonders. Google image search your favorite musicians and pay attention to what they’re wearing. Odds are there are equal parts things you should avoid and things you can borrow. After all, every form of art or innovation is borrowed in one way or another.
Work With What You Already Have
Do you have tattoos? Good. Show them off. Do you have jewelry somewhere in the house? Good. Put it on. Have you got some shirts hung up in your closet that you have never worn or forgot were even there? Good. Try them on and maybe consider how you can alter them/pair them with something else.
I found a lot of valuable stuff crammed into the corner of my dresser that I thought I’d never wear, but a second look saved me a trip to the store for the exact same thing and an unsavory contribution to my credit card bill. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but your own trash can also be your own treasure.
Once you’ve developed an idea of what you think you should look like (ask your friends’ advice too), now you can keep moving forward with projects like an EPK or beefing up your Muze profile. Anyone who sees that you’ve paid extra attention to your outward appearance is far more likely to take you seriously and be charmed by the image/sound you’re selling. Higher ups like publishing companies and booking agents are going to notice this sort of thing too, so understand first and foremost that looking good is imperative to doing good things.