Does a band need a logo? For a lot of people, a brand is just the company/products logo. The image that you see plastered over everything that they produce. But it is different for a band, they interact with their fans differently than a company will with their customers.
First, they are selling something that is not really seen. In the digital age with downloads and streaming on the rise, you no longer get a physical product. You never get to touch the music that you are listening to. With Vinyl and CD’s you see the album artwork that may or may not have the band’s logo on it. Also if you are listening to the music on the radio you won’t even get to see the album cover you will just hear the DJ say the band’s name before or after the song and I believe that many bands will build their brand on their name.
A solo artist is their own brand, that’s not possible with a band. With a band, you have the possibility of a lineup that changes so often people will ask you ‘so who’s in the band today?’ Yes, you can build the band’s brand up around one or two members of the band, let’s face it who knows who the members of U2 are apart for Bono and maybe the Edge? With building the band’s brand around the name you do not have the issue of members leaving or in the case of the Foo Fighters you can release an album with no one knowing you are the drummer from Nirvana releasing an album anonymously.
On the subject of the Foo Fighters, they are a great example of a band that has a logo but also uses just their name when needed. Their ‘double f’ logo first appeared on their third studio album cover ‘There Is Nothing Left to Lose’ and has been used on covers and artwork when needed ever since. Foo Fighters will use their logo as a secondary brand mark after their name, like many bands their name will feature on the cover in a different style each time to fit the look of the album cover. Foo Fighters will even copy other bands logos for one-off performances like they did for a David Letterman show when they copied The Beatles famous ‘dropped T’ logo. But the Foo fighters do return to the logo for Tour Posters and T-Shirts and it also features on EP’s and compilation albums like Saint Cecilia and Medium Rare. The sporadic use of the logo can be confusing but does allow them to be able to fall back on their brand when their music sound is developing and evolving, or maybe Dave Grohl does not want to get a new band logo because he has it tattooed on the back of his neck!
Muse are a band that have had their logo throughout their entire history and has featured on all but two of their album covers. Absolution (2003) and Black Holes and Revelations (2006) both had albums covers designed by the late and great graphic designer, Storm Thorgerson. With his artwork being so striking and meaningful it was decided to have the Logo printed on a sticker and placed onto the case or outside packaging allowing the cover to be viewed without the logo. With the Muse logo being constant since 1994 this allows the three-piece band to market and develop their brand around that. Whenever you see the letters M, U, S, and E with a thick line above and below you know what band produced that music. But is this logo needed?
Like the Foo Fighters, many bands will have their name on the front of an album cover but the styling of it will change depending on what the cover has on it. But unlike the Foo Fighters, they will not have a logo to fall back on. Over the five studio albums Panic! at the Disco have released they have not had a logo. Their name has just featured on the album’s cover in a different design that suits the look and feel of the cover and it didn’t even feature on their 2008 album Pretty. Odd. The earlier argument that a band needs a logo to build a brand is also valid here with a total of five members and six touring members changing all the time, leaving just Brendon Urie by himself to release their most recent album as a solo piece of work. This means the band is relying on the music and their brand that they are the same band as before, just with different people. Their first album went Platinum in the UK where their last two only went to silver, and to say this is because they don’t have a logo is completely wrong, the music industry, like all creative industries is very fickle and can easily forget someone. Panic! at the Disco don’t have a logo and that is not doing them any harm but having a logo can do you the world of good.
The Rolling Stones famous tongue logo has become iconic around the world. Like the BBC and Apple logo, people know what it is instantaneously. Even if they don’t know who Mick Jagger and his friends are they know what the logo stands for, having a good time and not caring about what people think about you. A band’s logo is not about branding a band, people won’t buy the music because the logo is good or used on every cover, they will buy the music because it sounds amazing and makes them feel like nothing else does. A band’s logo is all about marketing. As with clothing companies like Nike and Adidas or Gucci and Chanel people will buy it because it’s related to that company. People will spend hundreds of pounds on a handbag just because of the logo on it, it’s the same with the music industry.
Fans will spend money on multiple copies of an album. A CD for the car, a digital download so they can listen to it on the go or a vinyl because it just sounds so much better, and if you were to put out something with a limited run it will sell that much quicker. The proof of that is Record Store Day where limited runs of vinyl from some of the world’s most famous artists will sell out in hours, some of these vinyl will, unfortunately, spend the rest of their days on eBay going for much more than their original monetary value. Fans don’t just buy records because they sound better, they buy them for their collection, to use as a piece of art. Whether there is a logo on that cover won’t change how seeing, feeling and listening to an album will make the fan feel. The brand of a band will always be more than a logo, more than a name. The brand is the band itself, the members, the instruments and their fans but the logo and visual identity gives them something to congregate under.
People will make decisions about you from the band t-shirt that you will wear, they will decide if you are going to be best friends or mortal enemies depending on the poster you have hung up on the wall. At the end of the day a band just needs to make sure it produces good music.
“People say, ‘Well wait a minute you were in Nirvana and you sold a billion records.’ Well f***king who cares how many records I sold?” — Dave Grohl