The importance of visuals for musicians

todaySeptember 16, 2023 19 1 5

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By Knox Ryder White

Music Journalist

The speed of light is faster than the speed of sound. This means that you will see something before you hear it, even if it is for a brief, unnoticeable moment. Music does not always strike our senses in this way due to the fact that it travels through the air, allowing it to be heard without the listener ever seeing its source. However, one cannot deny the incredible importance of having strong visuals for a musical artist. The idea of having a visual connection is nothing new as brands, academic institutions and musicians have tapped into this aspect that can strengthen one’s image for decades. These visuals can strengthen the impact of the artist by allowing them to have their own unique identity and make it look like they are putting effort into their project.


On the left is a picture of The White Stripes wearing only red, black and white. Jack White is playing a vintage, red guitar. To the right, there are various White Stripe album covers, each one featuring the colors red, black, and white exclusively.
Jack and Meg White of The White Stripes beside various White Stripes album covers. | Fabio Venni from London, UK; modified by anetode, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


One of the most used tools of branding is the use of consistent colors. You wouldn’t expect to see a Coca-Cola bottle without the red label wrapped around it, or a delivery truck with a speck of blue on it. The White Stripes, the duo behind the hit song “Seven Nation Army,” also follow this exact color scheme, not donning any clothes or playing any instrument unless it is either red, white, or black. Not only that, but none of the album covers or concert posters sport a color besides the ones mentioned. Having a strict adherence to a narrow color palette can create the sensation of entering the musician’s world, in addition to showing that they are taking themselves seriously, which is something that fans can appreciate.


On the left is a picture of Elvis Presley in his later years wearing a white jumpsuit adorned with flashy decorations. On the right is a photo of the band The Ramones who are wearing leather jackets and jeans in an alley.
Photos of Elvis Presley and The Ramones showing their outfits that they were known for. | RCA Records, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons and Danny Fields, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Clothing is also incredibly important for artists as it can tell fans what to expect and add to that fantastical factor. For example, Elvis Presley was nicknamed the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Towards the end of his life Presley began wearing flashy clothes and colorful jumpsuits which were reminiscent of the garments that nobles may have worn. In this instance, the wearing of these gaudy clothes added to the fantasy that you were witnessing “the King.” However, for a band like The Ramones, the fashion was more of an identifier. Coming from the punk rock scene, they dressed casually in jeans and t-shirts because that scene wasn’t big on formalities and because one of its tenets was that there were no differences between the artists and the fans. Now the iconic leather jackets the band wore can be seen around the world in any local punk scene.

Finally, certain images can act in a likewise manner. Symbols like a pentagram or some other demonic symbol work well on metal album covers and posters. It helps convey what content may be on the album which weeds out people who may not like the style of music such as someone who exclusively listens to gospel music. Fonts also fit into this category as well. Black text that has sharp lines and characters with pointed features probably points to the album being hard rock. However, an album with colorful text that has big, flowy block letters conjures the idea that the content won’t be so aggressive.

Branding is incredibly important for any business, but especially the music business. How an artist is perceived and whether they can keep fans engrossed in the fantasy of their image can be the difference between expanding their fan base and leaving their current one disappointed. It’s because of this that all musicians, both on the local level and on world tour, must put forth the effort to not only entertain our ears but also our eyes.

Written by: Preethi Mangadu

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