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“Who am I – how am I now?” – Dynamics and ‘self’-related discrepancies of artist brand Hurmerinta, Leila Peltomäki, Tuuli Introduction and purpose of the paper The ongoing development in multimedia technology enables consumers to listen to more music; however, it directs them to listen to fewer artists (Strobl & Tucker 2000). The decision of what to listen to is made by the user (Hargreaves & North 1999). In this situation, popularity and branding become important issues for any artist (e.g. Till 2010). Although there is agreement in academia that people can be brands, this field is under researched (Bendisch, Larsen & Trueman 2013).
The music industry is driven by personalities (Dann & Jensen 2007; e.g. Corona 2013). The mass of nameless musicians have only their music to sell, but, if they are acknowledged as a brand, they become products themselves (e.g. Schroeder 2005). The brand literature has emphasised that brand development takes time; the timing of a brand, or the moment when something becomes a brand, is less studied. Timing matters when we consider an artist brand as a living unit that develops and changes. This may create challenges in the brand identitybuilding, as the core of the brand should remain constant (Aaker 1996). Thus, it is essential to understand how the identity of an artist is formed and how it relates to the identity of the person behind the artist — the ‘selves’.
Thus far, the research has emphasised the consumer’s perspective on consumption of music by representing the self in social interaction within the music consumption community (Larsen, Lawson & Todd 2009). The music is analysed in how it reflects the person’s self in the audience (e.g. Ahmadi 2011; Hesmondhalgh 2008), and the artist has been ignored. What is not studied is the artist’s self-perception of himself or herself as an artist and as a person, and how these perceptions are related to the selves of the audience.
The purpose of this study is to analyse the dynamics of the artist identity, its sensitivity to time and the discrepancies between different inners of selves. The study combines theoretical insights and perspectives from psychology (e.g. self-discrepancy theory by Higgins 1987), social psychology (e.g. temporal comparison theory by Albert 1977; see also Mead 1934) and marketing (e.g. theory on brand personality by Aaker & Fournier 1995).
Theoretical background Within the field of social and personality psychology, ‘identity’ is sometimes used to describe dimensions within the personality referring to the person’s consciousness about ‘being the same’ (Erikson 1980), the experience of continuity and being uniquely different from others (Ruud 1977). Thus, the self has its temporal dimension (Albert 1977; Erikson 1980; Mead
1934) and social dimension (Erikson 1980; Mead 1934). At the end, the self is formed and defined in relationship with others (Erikson 1980; Mead 1934). The artist also has this ‘innerself’, but how much is inferable from the ‘artist-self’ and sharable with the audience? It is clear that the inner-self of the person is integral to the artist identity (cf. Bendisch et al. 2013).
Identity or self is not a ready-made construct, but a process (Erikson 1980; Mead 1934); it is constructed. In the brand relationship, there are two sides of identities: the artist’s and the mix of personal identities in the audience. The relationship is created, and the two — an artist and its audience — need each other to find and build their own identities; identity construction needs reflection, and each conception of self can be located in a timeline (cf. Markus & Nurius 1986). The audience ultimately determines how the artist identity is perceived, the actual brand identity (Bendisch et al. 2013).
There is, however, a risk for discrepancies between the different self-concepts (Adler & Adler 1989); the artist-self and his or her civil-self have different social contexts and different bases for identity reflection and construction. Further, although the core aspects of personalself are relatively unresponsive to changes in one’s social environment (Markus & Wurf 1987), it may be distorted by sudden events (cf. Denbigh 1981).
The artist-self is pronounced related to the selves of its audience, but also to the artist’s own personal-self, the civil-self. Thus, there should be two kinds of fits, between the artist-self and the civil-self and between the artist-self and the selves in the audience, to create and maintain an enduring brand relationship between an artist and her or his audience (cf. Bendisch et al.
2013). The discrepancy between any two of these self-concepts can induce a state of discomfort (Adler & Adler 1989; Higgins 1987; Markus & Wurf 1987).
Methodology A qualitative approach to the research subject was adopted to capture the richness and diversity of human behaviour, understanding and emotions (cf. Hargreaves & North 1999).
The reason for choosing a case-study strategy within this approach was it allows the researcher to focus on ‘understanding the dynamics present within single settings’ (Eisenhardt 1989, p. 534) and enables a focus on processes and change. There were three cases, or artists, in this study. The main criterion for case selection was that it could be characterised as a brand that ensures the manifestation of the phenomenon. The second criterion related to the time and timing of brand: some distance to the emergence of brand was required to observe the potential change in the artist- and civil-selves. At the same time, this time distance should not be too long ago to be recalled. A third, secondary criterion related to the artist’s willingness to take part in the study. Each of the chosen cases had its great moments, being on the crest of the wave of popularity and might be characterised as brands. Their brand history took rise in the beginning of the 2000s. Some years have passed since those times. This allows a more objective review of one’s own career and of one’s own self. Each of the three artists represents different trends of popular music: one is a band and two are individual artists.
A theme interview comprised the main data-collection method that was supported by multiple secondary data published since the beginning of 2000s in newspapers and magazines, representing the voice of the public and the artist. The interview data were collected in 2011 and 2012. The starting point was the artists’ own subjective understanding of himself or themselves as an artist. The interview questions were structured on a lifetime story basis utilising temporal comparison theory: a single individual compares himself/herself in the past or future at different points in time (see Albert 1977). Based on this, each artist got his own artist story, described as a temporal timeline, where important events were placed and were discussed through self-descriptions taken from different points in history. The changing and unchanging parts of the self were gathered, and the continuance of the true inner-self was ensured (temporal and subjective dimension of the self). To reflect the uniqueness of the artist-self and of how others saw it (temporal and social dimension of the self), articles, newspaper clippings and discussions in social media were analysed and placed in the same timeline. The secondary data validated the appearance of discrepancies between the different selves. The data were coded according to the theme ‘time’. Whenever something that related to moment, event, change or process was mentioned, it was coded as a time-related item and placed in the timeline. The critical moments of discrepancies between different selves were analysed and illustrated by quotations.
Findings and implications — theoretical and practical The analysis of the cases emphasised the critical events during the artists’ careers that were turning points for their identity development. The artist-self is a social construct built on both individual (inner-self) and social elements (selves of the audience). It is subjected to expectations and evaluations from both sides. The discrepancies between the inner-self and artist-self (brand) usually cause discrepancies between the (artist) brand-self and selves in the audience that may further trigger attitudinal, cognitive or even behavioural responses on the part of the audience (cf. Aaker & Fournier 1995). This may cause a breach in the brand relationship. Whether this component of the artist-self is part of her or his core essence, civilself that endures through time, this mismatch is irreparable.
In the long term, it is difficult for an artist to behave contrary to her or his true nature, and her or his desired brand identity should be based on the person’s own personality (Bendisch et al.
2007). The selves, artist- and inner-self, have a tendency to converge in the end. The core of the brand identity must be found and remain unchanged to keep the brand going through time (see Aaker 1996). This is an important issue to be acknowledged among artists at early stages of their potential career.
The moment of the artist’s popularity mostly defines the brand, and how the audience sees the artist, for years to come. Artists rarely are aware of this moment and the factors on which the audience grasps and draws attention. Persistent images are seen only after a prolonged period. The artists’ individualised brand elements are largely ready at the point when popularity is achieved. This is natural, if they have come up on their own terms, based on the artist’s true identity. However, they are often based on coincidences, without any intentional purpose or link to their inner-self. The potential future artists should be aware of the unexpected part of their path from unknown musicians to well-known and popular artists. For generic musicians, the time for popularity is seldom preplanned (cf. Schroeder 2005). The artist must know how he or she wants to be identified. Everything else can change, or be changed, except the essence of the brand.
Originality and limitations The originality of this paper arises from the communality and temporality of the research phenomenon. The aim was to understand the multiplicity of an artist’s identity as a basis for artist brand and its sensitivity to time, which risks discrepancies between different selves that may be fatal to the duration of the brand relationship. This was done from the artist’s perspective. The need for a real-time longitudinal approach to the subject became evident to catch the true dynamics in the development of the self-development process. This approach enables getting an insight to the momentary changes in the self, although this study could only catch the enduring changes. In the case of the band, everyone in the band should have been interviewed to get a holistic view of the band-self that is a collection of individual selves. On the other hand, the band might be seen as a social context, where each individual can form both its own and collective artist-self. This is a suggestion for further research: how the individual and collective selves interact in forming a band-self.
Keywordsartist, music, identity, time, self-discrepancy
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