• Artist Name: Brian May
  • Job: best known as the lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, but an astrophysicist at the same time
  • Career duration: 54 years
  • Country: England
  • Net worth: £133 million ($175 million) according to The Richest

“I think music is about our internal life. It’s part of the way people touch each other. That’s very precious to me. And astronomy is, in a sense, the very opposite thing. Instead of looking inwards, you are looking out, to things beyond our grasp.” – Brian May

Introduction

Brian May, born in England on July of 1941, is a legendary musician best known as a lead guitarist of the British rock band Queen and a composer of numerous hit songs such as We Will Rock You, Tie Your Mother Down, I Want It All, Fat Bottomed Girls, Flash, Save Me, Who Wants to Live Forever and The Show Must Go On. He has been featured in various music polls of great rock guitarists including but not limited to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2001), a Planet Rock poll and Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All time” (2005) and was appointed a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II for “services to the music industry and for charity work” in 2005. Even in last year (2018) in his 70s, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award which recognizes “the most distinctive recordings in music history”.

Knowing that May’s talent in music is really something out of this world, it’s hard to believe that he’s an accomplished astrophysicist at the same time who owns a PhD and has been working with NASA for the New Horizons Pluto Mission.

Queen and NASA, it looks like a completely random combination of terms, but May has successfully connected these two dots and effectively melted them down into his personal brand. It’s a powerful personal branding that is worth looking at.

May’s value that differentiate him from other musicians
There are many other great rock stars in the world, but Brian May is clearly distinguishable. What made him stand out?

Legendary Guitar Sound
Let’s start from the easiest one. It’s crystal clear that he’s a legendary rock guitarist who’s identified with a distinctive sound created through his layered guitar work. May has been referred to as a virtuoso guitarist by many publications and musicians. Steve Vai stated, “He’s a class act from head to toe, and it shows in his playing. I can listen to any player and pantomime their sound, but I can’t do Brian May. He’s just walking on higher ground.” Former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar stated, “I think Brian May has one of the great guitar tones on the planet, and I really, really love his guitar work.

Dedication to Astrophysics

What’s so special about Brian May is that he’s a great musician that is dedicated to astrophysics at the same time. He has won honorary nicknames like ‘starphysicist’ or ‘astroglidestar’ and has been compared to Isaac Newton as you see can from below comments which were left for his “New Horizons” music video posted on YouTube.

Before May began his career with Queen, he spent four years studying for a PhD degree course in astrophysics. However, he abandoned his studies to turn his attention more to the success of Queen, while he still co-authored two peer reviewed research papers which were based on his observations at the Teide Observatory in Tenerife. And in 2006, May who couldn’t get rid of his childhood desire to become an astronomer, re-registered for his PhD in astrophysics at Imperial College and eventually earned his degree. In 2015, due to his work with stereoscopic images helping to make three-dimensional scientific photographs, he was introduced as a New Horizons team member of NASA during the Pluto flyby. While there are quite a number of artists whose interests are not limited to their main career, it’s difficult to find someone like May who has been recognized to be accomplished in both areas.

Moreover, May didn’t satisfy with being great in both areas independently, but moved one step further by effectively combining them by releasing making songs related to astronomy. The most remarkable example is ‘New Horizons’ single which has been released just after midnight on New Year’s day last year to celebrate the epic flyby of NASA spacecraft. He later revealed that it wasn’t an easy job, as he had to struggle with the taught dichotomy between art and science. However, after realizing that many astronomers and astronauts to be musicians and artists, he now “feels as though [human]kind is coming back around and putting the two halves of its existence back together.” While May had composed only one science-related song named “39” before he created “New Horizons”, he’s now in a place where he feels ready to create other space music.” Being a guy who’s making a synergy effect from music and science, he definitely seems to go against the old adage “You can’t have your cake and eat it”.

Kindness
In addition to his talents, there is one more crucial factor in his personality which plays an important role in differentiating him from others.

What comes to your mind when you think of a rock star? Iconic hairstyle? Well, that also applies to May. But when it comes to all other stereotypes such as taking drugs, drinking heavily or partying all night, you won’t find any of them from May. He instead has a great will power, a strong optimistic side and most of all, a great sense of kindness which greatly inspires people. It is his kindness that makes people perceive him as an intimate companion rather than a snobby super star.

 May’s personal branding traits that made him highly influential

  • He’s multifaceted and practical

Given many people who have a strong personal brand have a multifaceted personality, a wide range of interests seems to have a positive influence in building an attractive persona.

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May’s interests cover more areas than his affinity for squealing solos and stage-crumbling riffs as a guitarist. First, he’s into astrophysics. He got a PhD in astrophysics and has been working as a collaborator with the NASA’s science team on the New Horizons mission.

He’s also known for his interests in stereo-photography. He published his co-authored book, A Village Lost and Found, on the work of English stereo-photography innovator T. R. Williams in 2009, and was awarded the Royal Photography Society’s Saxby Medal in 2012 for achievement in the field of three-dimensional imaging. In 2017, he published Queen in 3D, containing over 300 of his own stereoscopic photos and his patented OWL Stereoscopic Viewer.

He’s also an enthusiastic animal rights activist, leading Save Me (named after the Queen song) campaigns mainly for the hunting of foxes and the culling of badgers.

As you see, May is influencing the world by creating tangible outputs that can contribute to the development of our society with his interests, rather than just enjoying them privately within the frame of personal hobbies. Here comes another great point about May. As a highly practical person, he’s the one who’s changing and improving the world based on his interests and knowledge.

  • He’s passionate about life

His active engagement with the world and commitment to his life show his passionate personality well. Being passionate makes him capable of thinking through any situation or problem, extremely diplomatic and tactful.

Have you heard of his iconic guitar ‘Red Special’ that he uses during performances even until now? It’s an electric guitar he designed with his father when he was only 16 years old. He made it largely because his family could not afford to buy a high quality electric guitar, but also with the intention that it would have a capability beyond anything that was out there, more tunable with a greater range of pitches and sounds. What’s interesting is that it was built with wood from an 18th century fireplace and was composed of household items such as mother-of-pearl buttons, shelf edging, and motorbike valve springs. This teenage experience of making his own guitar must have taught him that there’s always a way out of every situation, and made him more passionate about his life.

“I like a big neck – thick, flat and wide. I lacquered the fingerboard with Rustin’s Plastic Coating. The tremolo is interesting in that the arm’s made from an old bicycle saddle bag carrier, the knob at the end’s off a knitting needle and the springs are valve springs from an old motorbike.” – Brian May

He’s also passionate in his love. From 1974 to 1988, Brian May was married to Christine Mullen and had three children: James, Louisa and Emily. However, he met EastEnders actress Anita Dobson in 1986 who later became his second wife in 2000 and remain together ever since. He doesn’t shy away from expressing his love to Anita to the public, saying that he could have overcome all the sufferings he had to go through and take on a new lease of life because of her.

“If I didn’t have Anita, all the therapy in the world wouldn’t sort me. If she wasn’t by my side now, I wouldn’t be in this state. She’s somehow part of me.” – Brian May
  • He’s strong and optimistic

He suffered from severe depression in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to the point of contemplating suicide, for reasons having to do with his troubled first marriage, his perceived failure as a husband and a father, his father’s death which was later followed by his mother’s death, and Freddie Mercury’s illness and death.

He tried many forms of therapy, but they didn’t ultimately help in the end. In utter despair, he even checked himself into Cottonwood, a clinic in Arizona, where he was with people in a similar position, but also drug addicts, alcoholics and people with food disorders. The medication the clinic gave him however made him worse into the situation where he described “out-of-body feeling the whole time” and couldn’t keep any food in him. From that moment, he resisted taking meditation and started to walk forward in the right direction with his strong will as well as under the mental support of his current wife Anita Dobson. This experience of successfully getting over long suffering from the severe depression made him stronger, more optimistic, productive and enthusiastic.

  • He’s down to earth and compassionate

As one of the most popular rock guitarists in the world, Brian May must be well acquainted with the rock and roll life. But in addition to his signature smiling face on the rock music stage – unlike indifferent, chic faces of other rock stars, May is a down to earth and compassionate person who can easily get along with. It is well shown especially on his social media where he frequently speaks to people about his private life or his life philosophy in an intimate, chatty but very authentic tone. Check out some of them below:

  • He has a good sense of humor

His good sense of humor makes him even more adorable. Unlike Freddie who has a very dark sense of humor, May has a bright and positive sense of humor. Check out this post of so-called spoon and dish performance, where you can notice his brilliantly humorous way of showing his affection to animals, promoting his new album and engaging with people at the same time. Once you get addicted to his humor, you won’t be able to peel your eyes away from his social media.

www.instagram.com/p/BvQUfZJhvGO/

With his omnipresent energy and intuition, Brian May has the potential to be a source of inspiration and illumination for people. Of course, May also has vulnerabilities. Compared to his enormous desire to achieve some great ambition, he has a lack of confidence in his own ability to materialize hi dream, and it may cause May much frustration. But it doesn’t seem to be a big problem now. He seems to be able to handle this issue quite well based on his strong will and passion, with the help of his family, as well as by making important contributions to the world.

How he uses media to get attention and popularity

May has a very active presence on social media. He seems to understand the ecosystem of social media very well, as he uses social media in the way that corresponds to its original purpose: communication.

He’s been interacting with people actively through various types of social media including Instagram (1.5M followers), Twitter (943K followers), Facebook (706K followers) and YouTube (207K followers; Queen Official YouTube account has 9M followers). His contents are very diverse, ranging from very details of his private life to his career, interests, passion and vision. One of the biggest features of his social media posts is intimacy and friendliness, which can be felt from every use of his language and every motion he displays. Can you believe this guy saying “I thought I would share the wrapping with you and show you how it works. Amazing. Amazing. Feels good. Smells good” while unwrapping Queen in 3D is actually a legendary rock guitarist of Queen? (Check out the original video here. People commented that May should start an unboxing channel)

I cannot skip mentioning his YouTube channel, which is organized so well that even if you don’t know about Brian May, you can get the rough knowledge of him only by taking a glimpse at his YouTube channel. It first features his “New Horizons” music video and related videos about the NASA New Horizons project he takes part in, which are then followed by his music works, stereoscopy, his speeches, ‘Save Me Trust’ (his animal protection campaign) and astronomy. It has almost everything which can define who he is, from his career to his interests.

Although May wrote “I am a complete novice at anything to do with social media. I come from the wrong generation! THAAAANKS !!”, when he asked people about the ‘archive’ function on Instagram, it seems obvious that his social media presence has helped him build a strong personal brand in the way he wants to a great extent.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BvKPlodhZtX/

How he will be remembered

It goes without saying that Brian May will be remembered as a legendary guitarist of the famous British rock band Queen. However, this is not enough. There is something more multifaceted and stereoscopic in him.

As a ‘starphysicist’ or an ‘astroglidestar’, both music and science have been his major mediums to communicate with people. Also, due to his active engagement with people combined with his good sense of humor and intrinsic kindness, we feel May as our close companion rather than a snobby super star despite his ingenuity and popularity. Thus, May will be remembered as a warm-hearted rock guitarist who tried to change the way we treat our fellow creatures with his affection to the world, and an enthusiastic astrophysicist who joined the journey of humanity to explore the universe. May is the one who opened the New Horizons of personal branding, who has successfully built a strong and long-lasting personal brand by combining Queen and NASA and wrapping them with a layer of kindness and affection to the world.

Brian May’s Personal brand key points

  • Connect the dots. Combining the two areas that you’re great at can create a synergy effect that will differentiate you from others. But as long as you’re surely great at both areas.
  • Kindness has a magical power. Don’t lose it if you have it, whether you’re a priest or a rock star
  • Develop your own sense of humor. It might make you adorable.
  • Move your interests from private enjoyment to the source of actual outputs that can contribute to the society.
  • You can self-design the way people perceive you by using social media. Use it to your own advantage. Display what you like, visualize your ideas, share your affection, show your way of making humors, and inspire people. Brand yourself on social media in the way you want to be remembered for.


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