Promoting your music can entail everything from choosing the right platform to be heard (Play MPE) to cultivating a killer mailing list, to all the details involved with your visual presence. Music and fashion have gone hand to hand since forever, and that’s why your look also represents your sound. When you upload your music to Player with our music promotion tool, Caster you also get to add in promo materials, which yes, includes a promo photo. That’s why we were so excited to speak to New York-based makeup artist Lisa Aharon. Lisa launched her career as a makeup expert in Vancouver while working in the film industry. She has worked with A-Level talent in editorial and at industry events, but her love for music led her to some incredible musicians and bands. In this piece with Play MPE, we learn about Lisa’s career, what it’s like to work with big names and what advice she’d give to new artists on cultivating their look.
I grew up in Vancouver, BC. A lot of my friends were slightly older and went to art or film school. I was very business-oriented, even then. That being said, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I started out taking business and multimedia related classes. Everyone in my life was artistic in one way or another. That shaped my direction moving forward.
As I continued taking my web design class at Vancouver film school, I was also a sales rep for a high-end cosmetic line. I thought if I could provide an education to my clients, I would be able to support their businesses in a more creative way. VFS offered a night class in Basic Makeup for Film and Television, so I thought I’d take it and see if it helped me. A few classes in, I knew I had found my calling. It was so clearly my path. Art was definitely one of my favorite subjects growing up, and I loved creating and crafting, so my choice wasn’t so unusual.
I thought I had a good handle on things, but the more I worked, and the more situations I found myself in, I realized there was a lot I didn’t know. Doing makeup is an experiential job. You need to do it to get better. I moved to Toronto and continued to book jobs, and that’s how I met Dick Page, who is my mentor to this day. He invited me to New York in 2004 to assist him during fashion week. From there, I started traveling around the world.
Back when I lived in Toronto, I was all about music, I went to every show, bought every album, knew everything that was going on with new bands. I started to work more with musicians than with fashion magazines, and it suited me. After moving to New York in 2007, I connected with Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine. I started to work with her when her album, Ceremonials, was released. Her make-up look was intense and glamorous. Her next album, 2015’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, reached #1 in both the UK and the US. Florence is an incredible combo of celebrity/music/fashion, which brings together everything I love
When I work with her on a video, an Awards show or an editorial shoot, it’s a collaborative effort. My goal is always to try to honor who I am working with – how they see themselves merged with how they want to see themselves. Florence is always open to artistic flourishes that result in her standing out.
Some of the music artists I have worked with are Arcade Fire, Duran Duran, Lykke Li, Fiest, Melissa Auf Der Maur, LCD Soundsystem, The XX, Courtney Love, Sara Bareilles, MIA, The Kills, Skylar Grey, Warpaint, Serena Ryder and Emily Haines. When I work with someone for the first time, I do a lot of research, going down a rabbit hole of images/videos/editorials and feed my brain all of this visual info. Then I let go of it. I don’t want to replicate anything. You can never assume you know what an artist will want. With Florence, I make suggestions because she trusts me to do what will work best for her. I love these relationships so much because we get to evolve together.
Not surprisingly, social media and TV has drastically changed makeup trends. Before trends were coming from film, art, photography and fashion. Now a lot of it comes from influencers and YouTube. I get this is the evolution of the industry, and I’ve embraced it. During the pandemic, I ventured into the world of Instagram reels (@lisaaharon) . I thought it would be a creative way to shout out the brands that support me and my makeup kit. It really helped me to stay inspired.
If I had to give advice to up-and-coming artists regarding their ‘look’, the first thing I would do is ask them “Where do you draw your inspiration? Who are your heroes? Who do you admire? Are you a fan of Stevie Nicks? Do you love David Bowie?” Most musicians understand the concept of drawing inspiration from something you love and admire, and starting from there. Also, it’s important to focus on what your music is like. Are you timeless and classic, like the Rolling Stones, or are you of the moment? Obviously, you’re a unique individual, but that can help to direct your look. If I worked with someone like Dua Lipa, I’d tell her to go have fun, be of your generation. How you look is a very specific, and personal, choice.