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What Does A Creative Director Do In The Music Business?

A creative director is a role most often associated with advertising. However, there are many creative directors working in the music business.

In fact, they are often-times one key stepping stone for the success of an artist. Coldplay actually call their creative director Phil Harvey their fifth member.

Creative directors tend to work hidden in the background

Record labels have changed a lot over time. Back in the day, they decided about the look of the release as much as about the look of the band.

However, today artists feel that they can communicate their visual vision to the fans as much as the sonic one.

Labels aren’t what they used to be and artists are realizing that they know best when it comes to exploring their inner creative

*source, Mazdack Rassi (Milk Studios)

There isn’t one set definition of what a creative director is

The music industry isn’t a homogenetic place. On the contrary, it contains numerous individuals spread over all continents of the planet.

Want to learn more about the music business? Read on to learn what A&R means in the music business!

That is why the role of a creative director is so hard to pin down. It always depends on the band or musician and what their approach and vision for their work is.

Also, sometimes a creative director will only work on a project for one release cycle. However, most of the times the CD is part of the team and has huge responsibilities.

Creative directors take the audible message of the song and create imagery that conveys the emotion and message of the song.

*source: Amber Horsburgh

In today’s world with its strong focus on visual storytelling, a coherent creative message is more important than ever.

YouTube and Instagram are some of the most important places for music discovery those days.

What is it a creative director doing on a campaign?

The creative director can oversee the overall visual development of a band or artists. As well as they work on an actual release.

That includes building so-call treatments for translating the sound into visual representatives. This helps deliver the artists vision to the fan.

In order to achieve that goal, creative directors oversee the creative budget. They also partner with graphic designers, video producers or photographers. As well as they manage the creation of assets like photos or artwork.

Creative directors have many responsibilities

Most times they are also responsible for the overall look of the artists/ bands tour.

Touring is one of the most lucrative parts of the artists’ release cycle. The more important is the visual impression the fan has at the concert.

It has to tie into the overall campaign. Nobody goes to a concert anymore for just music. Most fans actually expect some kind of light show. It also helps to transport the feelings the musician wants to evoke.

Artists like Billie Eilish have executed this point to perfection. Cour Design (Erik Anderson & Gordon Droitcour) impact on her overall rise to fame is astonishing, within just a year.

Photo credit: Jonathan Kingsbury 

The first tour we sent Billie on was with one of our automated systems and her dad was setting up the lighting because there was no LD to operate anything. Now she’s doing seven trucks. That’s happened in a 12-month period.

*source, Erik Anderson

This example shows brilliantly what a creative director can achieve for a band or musician. Surely, on a stretched budget, a creative director is a very costly name on the pay-roll.

However, whenever a band or musician feels that their artistic vision is lacking in visual appeal. Or perhaps that they can’t produce the kind of release they want. It may be a good idea to hire a creative director.

Amber Horsburgh has created a brilliant document outlining the role of a creative director.

Being a creative director requires a lot of different skills

One thing is for sure, there is no Plan A on how to become a creative director. You need many creative skills as much as a sense for budgeting and keeping deadlines.

What is more, one of the challenges is to have the authority to lead a team of creatives yourself. As well as staying creative at the same time.

You have to be able to communicate with the talent. Transporting their ideas into visual storytelling and to connect them this way with their fanbase.

Tyler, the Creator’s sketchbook helps him to communicate with CD Phil Toselli.

Humans by nature love looking at things, they have an appetite for consuming images that are interesting and make us see things differently. And that appetite will never fully be satiated.

*source, Professor Robert J. Thompson

In those iconographic days we live in, visuals and pictures are a key part of any music release campaign.

You can’t run a successful record cycle without taking care of the impact that the artwork, video production and pictures have. A well thought through creative campaign helps to deliver the context of the release and sound to the fans and help them become part of the artists’ world.

I hope you found this post helpful!

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