For the past hundred years, the conventional wisdom about marketing your music has been about building a brand and sticking to it. Think about some of the classic stars of the last century: Frank Sinatra, Etta James, Elvis Presley. It's tough to see them outside the context of the carefully crafted personas we now find familiar.
Cutting through the noise of today's media environment to find new audience members requires a different approach. "Branding" is still important, but the way you attract new audience to your brand may require you to reconnect with your broader artistic tendencies.
Viral video gives us a few great examples:
In Bb is an ambient music project built on (at the moment) ten YouTube contributions from artists around the world. It's interactive, fun, and produces the kind of music that wouldn't be out of place on something like Echoes. It's also the brainchild of Darren Solomon from Science for Girls. Although the piece started off as a fun blog post, it's now attracting plenty of attention from folks who might never have heard of Darren's more conventional projects.
Auto-Tune the News is a series of parody songs that include Joe Biden, Newt Gingrich, and Katie Couric showing off their singing chops, thanks to T-Pain's favorite production plugin. Floating heads and bizarre references make for great comedy, but the songs are actually pretty catchy. Michael Gregory, his brother, and his sister-in-law also happen to have a band with an upcoming EP release. Although Michael auditioned for American Idol, this project stands to grow his audience much more effectively.
Gerd Leonhard's been writing and speaking extensively lately about the need for artists to "curate" experiences for their audiences. Successful musicians over the next ten years won't just have crafted single brands. They will have built strong "curatorial" experiences that go beyond a single interest or style, pulling audience members in who would otherwise just have missed out. Because not everyone who though Auto-Tuned gorillas are funny will like "Butter on My Roll, converting samplers to core audience members is a little more difficult. However, getting on the radar of pop culture tastemakers gets a lot easier when your introduction is a lot more unconventional.