Todays artists would not be known unless it was for their image. Almost no one would care about artists like Justin bieber, lil wayne, lady gaga, or one direction had it not been for their image or looks. These artists have little to no talent, so without their image, they would not have become famous. Seriously, mainstream music is just something to be talked about nowadays, it has almost no effort put into it. The lyrics are crappy and probably not even self-written, the beats and hooks are mostly electronic and computerized and are also extremely repetitive and generic. Not to mention, most artists don't or can't play an instrument and can barely sing without auto tune or something to enhance their voice. Mainstream artists today can't be taken seriously and their image is the only reason people like them.
As sad as it sounds, music today is about the image of the artist. Music is no longer about the art of music or song writing. It is all about an image that a record studio can sell to the public. That is why bands and singers geared towards little kids are so popular.
I believe when talking about something like this it depends on the artist in general. What I mean is someone for example that is mainstream their image comes into play a lot more than let say someone who is a jazz player or something that is in that area of music.
I've noticed over the last 2-3 years, there has been a resurgence of actual music and musicians who put in time and are talented. Of course image is still important, but it's not as important as it was in the late 90s and early 2000s. This is very nice to see.
While an artists image does enhance the fan base the artists music itself is what initially hooks people to follow a particular artist, someone with an unique style of song will prevail over someone who has a unique image but a mediocre sound, I believe in toady's music both are important but actual music still wins over image.
I believe there is a wide variety of music available to today's music consumer but because of this, not all music is strictly about the music. Some artists are growing an image to later utilize in other marketing schemes. I believe this is what commercialization does, but if you want soulful music, you can still find it.