Entertainment 'Brand' Success Comes After Producing Good Stuff

Can you think about David Bowie and not think about “branding”?

Maybe you should.  Most people  don’t go into music, TV, or other entertainment considering “brand.” One goes in hopefully to make good music, TV, movies, and other stuff. A “branding” label comes later. Think about a Dick Wolf TV procedural shows: the “Law & Order” and now the “Chicago” franchise of dramas.

Speaking at the Television Critics Association meeting, director Cameron Crowe, promoting his new Showtime series, “Roadies,” told a story in which he, as a 16-year old journalist, got to know Bowie while he was making music in Los Angeles. Kind of like a scene from Crowe’s movie “Almost Famous.”

“David Bowie was the anti-branding artist,” said Crowe. “He always shook it up and he always served the God of creativity. That was the lesson I learned from him then.”



We want to believe big creators of entertainment are focused on their “art”-- and not with a holier-than-thou attitude, but with calm and determined creative resolved. Hopefully with some humor. Seems Bowie drove around Los Angeles in a beat-up VW bus.

Failure? That’s part of the package. Many don’t want to change their “brand” -- since there’s the risk of losing long-time fans. In that regard, you might wonder why Bowie would risk changing his music and onstage persona more than a few times. Ask the same question of a number of other artists -- Miles Davis went through a lot of changes as well.

Crowe said of Bowie: “His death is a seismic event for artists, and it came at an amazing time because he is proof that the answer to success in music is creativity, not branding.”

Will people still listen to your music because of your brand? Will they watch a TV show because of what you did before? Yes, but not for long if it isn’t good.

A few days before his death, Bowie released “Blackstar,” which is now the number-one selling album in the U.S.; Best of Bowie” is number four. If Bowie didn’t have a “brand” before, maybe he has one now.

Now you just have the unenviable task of defining it.

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