Since the launch of my Patreon last year, I've been researching how a musician grows an audience, and I've run into many articles on the importance of branding. Some common guidelines are to identify with a primary genre of music, and to be able to quickly list off two or three popular bands that make music similar to your own (you'll note I followed both pieces of advice when writing my about page on this site).
However, I struggle with branding—emotionally, that is. Many of my problems have to do with feeling like I'm reducing or "boxing up" my identity (I'm no great fan of filling out online dating profiles either). I have this desire to somehow bypass the first impression stage, to just snap my fingers and have others see the "whole" of me and not some fractional piece.
So that's all to say: I know a bunch of my frustrations come down to just not wanting to deal with reality.
Still, when it comes to what I make and why, I think I also face some real difficulties that make the problem of branding challenging. The most obvious issue is that I make so many kinds of music. In the last year alone for Patreon, I wrote a punk song, a classical piece for solo piano, a country-tinged instrumental, and these were all "side projects" to my "core" indie folk songs (indie folk: that's what I've been telling people I make).
So defining my "brand" in terms of a particular genre of music feels like a lie. It feels much more authentic to describe myself as a "chameleon." I like impersonating styles and trying on different masks—changing color, so to speak. I really like the fact that what I make doesn't fit into one or two genres and I don't think I could stand it if I restricted myself to making just one style of music. It would drain and deflate me.
So the compromise I've settled on for now is that with my Patreon songs of the month, I'm going continue to indulge these "side projects." However, in an "official" capacity for marketing and branding, I suppose I'll keep calling myself an indie folk artist... even if only half the music I make fits the label.