Online Master's Degree Course

Music Career Strategies: Brand Identity Development for Songwriters, Producers, and Artists

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Authored by Erin Barra, Patrick Ermlich


Course Code: OSONG-505

Next Semester
Starts June 28

Level 5 - Degree Only

Level 5

This course will help you uncover and build your personal brand identity, which will act as a guiding north star as you navigate your way into and through the music industry. From an analytical perspective, we will cross examine and reverse engineer internationally recognized brands, artists, producers and writers, to develop a comprehensive understanding of how they reach and build their respective communities. We’ll then take this knowledge and construct the blueprint of your own brand, from mission statement, to lookbook, all the way to creating a full branding guide to use in all aspects of your career.   

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We begin by diving into the basic principles of branding and messaging, unpacking the mechanisms behind the strategies of how people construct, disseminate, and connect brands. From there we move into deep introspective and self-led work, defining our ultimate “why,” which will lead us to creating a personal and concise mission statement. Halfway through the course we pivot towards creating content with a branding lens, as it pertains to working with (and for) other artists, sync placement, working with photographers, videographers, live performance, social media integration, and all the touchpoints where people might interface with us as creative professionals. Throughout the course we’ll hear from a diverse set of writers, producers, and artists, learning from their own journeys and experiences.   

By the end of the course, you will be able to: 

  • Define what a brand, branding, brand identity, and brand image are
  • Discuss the basic principles of how branding applies to artist and creative career paths 
  • Reflect on the brands you consume and understand consumer/creator relationships 
  • Create your own brand filter as well as analyze other brand filters
  • Generate a mission statement and “ultimate why” 
  • Analyze and synthesize both “hero” and “authenticity” branding in relation to external and personal brands
  • Create connections between brands and songwriting/production
  • Develop content which accurately represents a brand
  • Discuss and navigate the use of still and moving image in relation to branding and careers
  • Create a lookbook and personal branding guide  
  • Engage external partners such as photographers, videographers, and PR firms
  • Create connections between branding and social media, personal websites, release strategies, and live performance
  • Synthesize brand messaging specific to your career path 
  • Test and measure brand effectiveness 
  • Build a “true north” plan for your future which is guided by your mission statement and brand         
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Lesson 1: Foundations and Principles

  • Definitions and Distinctions
  • A Very Brief History on the Origins of Branding 
  • Depth and Delivery
  • Application to Artists
  • Writers, Producers, and Other Music Careers
  • Assignment 1: Brand Profile Research

Lesson 2: Reverse Engineering

  • Examining Major Brands of Popular Culture
  • Keyword Mapping: Reverse Engineering
  • Finding the Branding Bridge
  • Assignment 2: Applying Reverse Engineering to Brands

Lesson 3: Mirroring

  • Seeing Yourself in Another’s Brand
  • Inspirational Self vs. Aspirational Self
  • The Share Trigger
  • Finding Your Fanbase
  • Assignment 3: Understanding Your Fanbase

Lesson 4: Mission Statement and The Why

  • The Mission Statement
  • The Why and The Resonant Frequency
  • Condensing for Clarity
  • Assignment 4: Developing Your Mission Statement

Lesson 5: Personal and Hero Branding

  • Archetypes: Hero vs. Authenticity
  • Character Development and Documentation Process
  • Development of Your Origin Story
  • Assignment 5: Developing Your Origin Story

Lesson 6: Sonic Branding

  • The Sound of a Brand
  • Writing/Producing for Your Personal or Hero Brand
  • Writing/Producing for Others
  • Sync and Writing to Brand
  • Assignment 6: Composing the Sound of a Brand

Lesson 7: Brand Development: Photography

  • Branding Through Photography
  • Location, Location, Location
  • Creating Lookbooks/Vision Boards
  • Assignment 7: Creating a Visual Representation of Your Brand

Lesson 8: Brand Development: Video

  • Branding through Videography
  • Longform Videos
  • Brand Bites
  • Personal Branding Guides
  • Assignment 8: Creating Your Own Personal Branding Guide

Lesson 9: Integration

  • Social Media Platform Development 
  • Official Websites
  • Release Strategies: Shared Expectations
  • Live Performance
  • Assignment 9: Website and Live Performance Research

Lesson 10: Messaging

  • Voice of the Brand
  • Contextual Social Media Messaging
  • Media Messaging/PR
  • Assignment 10: Brand Message Research and Analysis

Lesson 11: Testing and Measuring 

  • Brand Effectiveness
  • A/B Testing Via Digital Marketing
  • Building Your Own Focus Group
  • Engaging a Publicist to Tell Your Story
  • Assignment 11: Tracking Your Career Growth

Lesson 12: Your Brand Shapes Your Future

  • The Next Level
  • Defining Success
  • Artist Profiles
  • Writer/Producer Profiles


Requirements coming soon.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of  Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software (available in the course when joining your first chat)
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal Microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Erin Barra

Author & Instructor

Erin Barra has been a key player in the creative process of many projects from conception to final master to stage performance. With a wide ranging skill set (educator, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, music technology consultant), she enables people to create content they’re personally invested in and execute their ideas.

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Specializing in music technology integration, she works with artists and bands looking to integrate laptops and digital technologies into their writing, production and stage setups, and has developed, taught and executed several music technology curriculums at the open source (Coursera and ROLI), K-12 (Beats By Girlz), and collegiate levels (Berklee College of Music, Berklee Online).

An authoritative voice in music, tech, and education, Barra is the Director of Popular Music at Arizona State University, Executive Director of Beats By Girlz, course developer for Berklee Online and former Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Specializing in composition, performance, and creative music technology application, she has worked with and represented companies such as Ableton, Splice, ROLI, MusicTech, Moog, and iZotope. She has presented at Loop, NAMM, SXSW, Moogfest, Gearfest, KIEM, Future of Music Coalition, Yale’s EXPOL, and Re-Mixed Media Festival. Check out Barra’s work as an artist on all platforms, and catch her live electronic performances on YouTube. Read Less

Patrick Ermlich

Author & Instructor

Patrick Ermlich is a 20+ year music industry veteran living in Brooklyn, New York. The son of two opera singers and entrepreneurs, music and business is in his DNA. He is educated through Northeastern University’s music business program in Boston, and the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Phoenix, Arizona. His career began in New York City at the renowned Cutting Room Recording Studios, where he started as an engineer and producer and grew to managing and developing the studio into one of the most successful in New York, working with some of the biggest names in music along the way. His entrepreneurial instincts led to the launch of an independent record label and later the founding of a music publicity agency, serving artists at all levels and styles. In 2017, he signed the K-pop group BTS to his agency, who launched their career in the US with great success. Patrick has consulted with more than 1,000 artists in his career and is known for his insightful, thoughtful, and direct approach to artist and business development. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Compass Method, designed to bring clarity and direction to artists as they navigate the complex world of the music business. 


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.


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