Who Is Adam Lambert To the Music World?


First of all, let me say I write this blog post only with the intention of being helpful and being of contribution with my personal branding expertise.    If you are cynical and want to think otherwise, please stop reading this now.

I know many of you fans think Adam can’t and shouldn’t be labeled. It is exciting. I appreciate how you want him to be self-expressed.  I’m not trying to put him in a box and label him and make him cookie-cutter.  I’m trying, like always, to help him be self-expressed, let his fantastic voice be heard, reach and move as many people as possible, be happy and fulfilled as a human AND get the music industry to welcome him.

The reason for my intention is that I can’t seem to get over the conundrum created for musicians, such as Adam Lambert.  When you are so talented, shouldn’t that be enough?  Every time I see this problem play out, I get sad for the artist and for his fans.

For guidance of this personal branding puzzle,  I turned to the people who know Adam best- his fans.   I’ve incorporated some of their wise insight below.   One thing will always be true- if you don’t stop and listen to your fans objectively and collectively, in an effort to learn from them, your brand is a bust. As Adam once said of his fans, “I see people of all races, etc and there’s something really great about that. It speaks to the universal power of music.”

My goal is for everyone, whether an artist/entertainer or a professional lawyer/financial adviser, to have an “intentional brand”. This brand is built on each person’s natural gift and talent that allows them to give to others without any expectation of any reward.  Adam’s natural talent is his fantastic voice and his being.   One fan thanked him by saying he is a Shaman (healer) with courage to share his gifts.  He has a message to share- one of struggles being overcome, joy being resonated and not “acting” and “putting up pretenses”.

I offer this support because he actually does heal people, as his fan said.  Noskerdycat, a fan wrote to me explaining this phenomenon.  She said she once turned around to view the audience (instead of Adam) from her front row seat at his concert. What she saw was surprising, but it is exactly why I want to support him with this blog- because he heals people.  Noskerdycat states,

“What I saw… or what I THINK I saw was this crowd of people and faces totally and utterly connected to this individual on stage.  I could have sworn that I actually saw the strings of glittery light energy that each person was exchanging with Adam as he performed. It was utterly beautiful. In fact I still shake my head in awe when I remember it.”

So who is Adam Lambert, as a self-expressed musician, and what’s the problem? Over the weekend, I was musing over this issue with a colleague of mine who works with another artist, Jason Mraz.

As one Glambert so aptly put it, proactively building your image and then marketing it is easier than having it thrust on you somehow and then managing it.  The latter often feels like drinking from a fire hydrant because you have been “labeled” by others. It stinks to be out of control and not living your true intention in this way. It’s confusing.

So Adam came into the public eye via American Idol.  It wasn’t by his own intentional branding plan as such.  As a result, he was labeled the “wild Idol” when he was the runner up on that show.   So he tried to live into the wild brand projection that was thrust on him.  But why? I’m not sure it worked so well.  Something just seems to be ‘off’ with this label and brand.

Confusion often leads back to lack of brand clarity and consistency.  That’s what we had here.  Lots of American Idol fans recalled him for the love songs he sang on the show.  But his “wild” side had him wearing lots of make-up and singing with Queen, etc.  As a result, the music industry was put off and the “love song” fans were confused. Still to this day, he has a new visual brand (different hair and clothing style) pretty much every time I see him.

Confusion leads to aggravation.  When we don’t connect with an artist, we don’t “get” them and then we get scared.  This doesn’t have to be logical. Subconscious processing of this kind is rarely logical.  It comes from the heart, not the head.

So can Adam, or any artist, be all things to all people?  When you can sing anything as well as Adam can, it seems everyone wants what they want from you- the record labels, the fans, and everyone else in the mix.  Not having one consistent brand is alright, as long as it is not confusing- for the fans and for the artist.

In all this, what about Adam the artist?  As fans and management, no doubt you want the best for Adam, right?

So the questions for Adam, and any artist, to consider are:

  • Do you self-express via your voice OR  the actual music?  Many artists have an average voice, but a sweet message.  Successful artists understand the difference and know their truth here.
  • How did you come into the public eye initially and what’s your intentional branding plan?  And I’m not talking about what your management or your PR folks think….this is about YOU, the artist and the human.
  • Are you joyful and happy at every turn that you take as an artist? If not, then you deserve to be- for yourself and for your fans.



About the Author

purisbrandingKaty Goshtasbi has thirteen years experience as an attorney working in all areas of corporate America. She combines her knowledge of what succeeds in corporate America with her inherent understanding of what is a successful personal brand and presence. This in turn translates into clients being in control of their first impressions.View all posts by purisbranding

  1. Lauriellen

    Thank you for this wonderful and insightful blog.

    I think that Adam’s “problem” is that there is so much there to digest that many people can’t handle it and end up being fearful of him. If you want to just watch a performance and walk away unchanged, Adam Lambert is not for you. To experience him, especially live, is a religious experience.

    You bring up his being a healer, and recently a book was published called “Aura” that is a collection of essays from Adam’s fans. What struck me was the similarities in the stories and how so many have been inspired and healed.

    Regarding Adam’s “brand”, I’m not sure that Adam is fully aware of his power yet. I believe he understands what his fans do for him, that he is energized by them. His infinity tattoo is all about that exchange. What he probably has trouble comprehending is his ability to change his audience. I believe that the infinity symbol does not fully represent what is happening. I think that each time the energy is exchanged that it is not an even exchange that simply goes back and forth. I believe that each time the energy is exchanged it is magnified. So it’s kind of like, pardon my religious analogy, making wine out of water, except that unlike the effect of the wine that wears off, Adam is pouring out some sort of magical elixir that changes lives.

    I only half joke that he’s the second coming.

    • purisimage

      Great comments. Most artists find it hard to believe, and deal with, that they do change their audience’s lives. It’s a big responsibility that leaves artists somewhat overwhelmed/scared and that leads to a less than intentional brand. Hopefully, Adam can own his ability and lead by example.

  2. celtcwrtr

    He may have used Idol as a platform, yet he’s Zodiac Show. He just took it mainstream with as much as he’s willing to compromise. His brand is his free spirit… and talent.

    • Lauriellen

      Idol was a double edged sword for Adam. He said himself he was on his best behavior. When he auditioned in the opening rounds he sang Gnarles Barclay’s CRAZY and for the judges he sand MJ’s ROCK WITH YOU and BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. So he gave them several styles. But since the show is “cast”, they only showed Bohemian Rhapsody and labeled Adam as the ROCKER. He did what he could to stretch the boundaries of the Idol box and forever changed the Idol box so that no one can fill it.

  3. Jo

    Katy, I suspect you didn’t actually watch Adam on Idol. He kept us on the edge of our seats every week because we couldn’t wait to be surprised! The talk on the blogs and around the water coolers was “what would he sing, what would he wear, how would he style his hair?”. He was a chameleon from week to week. It was Christmas morning every Tuesday night! We loved the suspense, the unpredictability. We still do. I think that is one of his strengths. Of course, it won’t appeal to everyone and he knows that. He has said that he gets bored easily and that’s why his look is always changing. Frankly I think most people have a short attention span and also get bored easily. I doubt I would still be as invested in his career as I am if he didn’t keep me guessing and so very entertained! I’m not sure how you brand someone as unique as Adam….maybe you just can’t. Maybe you shouldn’t.

    • purisimage

      All good points. I like your Christmas reference. And for what it is worth, I really did actually watch him on AI!! Thanks.

  4. imrahd (@imrahd)
    imrahd (@imrahd)09-05-2013

    I’m not AT ALL confused about who Adam is an ARTIST..he is a free spirited & very talented. Trying to brand him or put him in the neat box will never work…he is not for the faint of heart people…he is chameleon..his personality is always changing more then his hair style but one thing remains the same…HIS TALENT…I should say 2 things..HIS TALENT & HIS HEART..his love for his art & people will always remain..he is a sweetheart…however wild…playful..sweetheart whom I love dearly. I love him just the way he is..no water down Adam for me.

    • purisimage

      I respect that. Thanks!

    • iimrahd

      I should have said always changing up style of singing & presentation..always full of surprises (not changing personality)

  5. Popcans

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s because he’s not like other singers. A lot of the uber commercially successful singers have been in the business since their teens or early twenties like Britney Spears and Madonna, so maybe his age worked against him at times. Of course there’s the idol stigma, and he can’t always please all the fans he picked up from idol. He’s not easily guided by the record label, wanting to make music his way. It could be anything. I do want him to be more recognized and commercially successful but I also think he’s better off being a hidden gem though, since a lot of the uber successful singers end up having some sort of break down or other sort of problem as well.

    • purisimage

      All valid points. Interesting point on the “hidden gem” concept. Thanks!

  6. Kerry Kolsch
    Kerry Kolsch09-05-2013

    I totally disagree with your premise. Adam Lambert’s difficulties in the entertainment business have NOTHING to do with branding. Trailblazers are always met with opposition. The individuals that become iconic can never be truly defined and put into a box. Their brand, if you want to call it that, is unique unto themselves. It can not be created by PR people. Adam is his best PR person and has great instincts. Your description of confusion caused by American Idol did not exist. Adam was both the crooner of love songs and the wild idol. We all knew that. My explanation of the real cause of Adam’s difficult climb to super stardom and why he will be succeed takes a book to explain.

    • purisimage

      I appreciate your perspective on this and respect it. Thanks.

      • Kerry Kolsch
        Kerry Kolsch09-05-2013

        I mean no disrespect to you . 99.9% of the time your view would be correct. When it comes to Adam Lambert, you are wrong. Talent like Adam’s comes along, maybe, once in a generation. It has been said that,” No army can stop an idea whose time has come” and that is the position Adam Lambert holds. He is the combination of extreme talent and a tool for social change that is put into place by the universe. Mere mortals have tried to extinguish him , but he is like the rising phoenix.

  7. Jacki

    I didn’t discover Adam via Idol (I dont watch it). I discovered him through his music when he toured in Australia. I never got the sense that he was “trying” to be anything. I’ve always felt he is just himself at any given point in time and that’s what I love about him and his music. That’s his personal brand and it’s very clear to me.

    The problem is people are too used to artists taking on some PR mantle of some kind that tells the audience “I am this or that” so it makes it easy for them to decide whether or not they like something without actually even having to listen to the artist. This also means they don’t believe someone can be “themselves” – they think everything is a PR exercise so when someone is being genuine and wholly in their own multi-faceted skin they think it’s a trick.

    In another respect, the LGBT community also like to use labels and Adam just won’t fit into any of their boxes either. Consequently he often faces opposition from the very people you would expect would support him because he is too gay/not gay enough/not being gay in the proper way – depending on their own personal idea of what being gay means.

    But all this also means Adam is a game-changer, an innovator and someone who has already been at the forefront of changes in attitudes. Again…. I’m seeing a very clear personal brand here. It isn’t the typical “commercial” branding that we’ve come to know and loathe, it isn’t something he has to put on over the top of his real self. It’s just the genuine article known as Adam Lambert. And it’s the kind of “non-branding” that has created legends in the past. He’s not a ‘product’ that needs a label. He’s an artist that just needs to be himself and create.

  8. funbunn40

    While I see your point and agree that it’s easier to promote an artist with a particular brand, Adam really doesn’t fit in that category, in my opinion. If he had strong leanings or talent in one area it would be very simple, but he, unlike the usual artist excels in any vocal area he chooses with equal ability and interests. He’s like a multi-faceted fine diamond with many sides and blinding brilliance. Adam inhabits whatever he is singing, telling a story, completely immersed in it’s passion, pathos or banging good time. He lives and breathes every note and is compelled to share those feelings with every individual in the audience. When he performs live or you meet him face to face, he grabs you like a magnet and looks at you with the most incredible eye contact.He looks at the faces in the audience and really sees them. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my 73 years. I have traveled to 8 different states from Florida to California to see this man and it’s a huge adrenaline rush with amazement and stunned rapture seeing him perform. He fills me with joy and positive energy. The mention of his name makes me smile and while in his younger days he was experimenting and searching for his place, he is now a world traveled smart, articulate man that knows his enormous capabilities , charitable responsibilities and is ahead of his time. I’m hoping the world will catch up. So far Europe and Asia are way ahead of the unimaginative US. I have also believed that Adam is destined for greatness in areas other than his vocal qualities, making a difference in the world with his beautiful, giving spirit with music a his vehicle to be heard. That journey has also begun in his life, quietly and efficiently, charitably giving others a better quality of life. Adam Lambert is not the norm, but a beautiful, exquisite gift that keeps on giving to those that accept it. 🙂

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