Endorsement Deals – Do’s & Dont’s
10 Aug 2016
Endorsement is a word we see mentioned very frequently in the music industry, and being on the artist roster of the biggest manufacturers, right next to your idols is usually a dream of every musician.
We have always been fortunate to be able to work with and endorse some of the biggest manufacturers in the industry, from D’Addario to Laney, to Roland, and the list goes on. Our students and customers always hear how passionate we are about these brands and a question we get asked many times by our students is, “How do I get an endorsement deal?”.
A lot of the time the real basis behind what an endorsement is, is misunderstood. In this blog our resident drum guru, Lee Davies, de-mystifies the world of endorsements for you!
Who is Endorsing Whom?
Let’s get this straight. You, as the artist, endorse the company; not the other way around. You are endorsing them by allowing that brand to use your image, photos, and likenesses for their bragging rights and for marketing purposes.
Indeed, some companies do offer sponsorship opportunities for special events or clinics, etc. (for example the prizes at our masterclasses and workshops), but why would they endorse their customers? In other words, they want to be able to say that you use and love their products, NOT that they love you – even if they do.
Some of the things you typically hear from people looking at endorsements are:
+ I need some free cymbals, whom do I need to speak to?
+ I break sticks for fun and they are way too expensive. Who can I speak to, to get them free or get them cheaper?
These could be related to any instrument but you get the idea….. this can usually be about free gear.
This outlook and approach wont win you any friends especially if this is your initial approach when first contacting any potential companies. Remember that some companies offer several levels of endorsements with a range of discounts based on your visibility. Letting the company know that their product is your one and only choice, regardless, shows them that you really believe in the brand – and that has value, too. Choosing a company based purely on the fact they will give you free gear works up to the point until they realise you’ve never used their product before.
What Do I Need to Understand?
Why would I endorse a product and allow a company to exploit my image? Simple! You should endorse a product only because you absolutely love playing that manufacturer’s equipment. Players select the brands that they love, but if a musician plays brand A, why would you send an endorsement request to brand B?
If the reason you did the above is that brand A declined an endorsement, then that is the completely the wrong way to go about it.
Free Stuff is Not What It’s About – Even If You Get It.
The music industry is a tightly knit community and, if word gets around about musicians hounding the life out of companies, it makes things a lot more difficult for everyone in the future! In addition, people will see your name in a BAD light as someone only interested in “free gear!” That’s not the reputation anyone wants in such a competitive industry because, ultimately, you will have no value to the brand if you put no value in their products.
What Are Companies Looking For In an Endorsee?
Musical equipment manufacturers are running a business; therefore, the companies are out to make money and profit. They choose artists based on visibility, marketability, and how that artist might be perceived by their targeted demographic. In other words, if a company wants to attract 18 – 22 year old musicians that play Pop music, they are not going to go for a someone who plays in a heavy metal band. On the other hand, a respected musician who has crossover appeal to many styles can be an excellent choice for them.
So, Where Do You Fit In?
Here are some questions to ask yourself before looking at applying to companies:
+ What can you offer the company to help them grow their business and be a visible ambassador for them (How much of the product will they sell of the back of you using their equipment?)?
+ How marketable are you and what are your activity’s within the industry?
+ Do you educate as a clinician or instructor?
+ How visible are you on social media. Is your content appropriate to their image? As things are right now: Do you link to them? Do you tag them? Show them some love!
The List could go on and on, but you must think of the situation from a business point of view. How can you be valuable to them?
Contacting the Companies
So, the most important factor to consider is how your endorsement proposal will benefit the musical equipment manufacturer/their customers/their employees. What do you bring to the proverbial table? Let’s get back into the business mindset and think about your communication through the company’s eyes. Most companies are bombarded with endorsement requests and, upon speaking to various artist relations teams, most people’s requests are below average/average at best. Remember to BE HONEST about what you do, where you play, and what your background is, as a performer.
What Can You Offer That is Different from Other Endorsement Proposals?
Be clear and concise about your activity’s within the industry, include a professional EPK (Electronic Press Kit), albums you have played on, any tours you have undertaken, Do you teach/Educate? Explain to the company how you could benefit THEM! In addition, tell them what your approach and outlook would be to build a long-lasting working relationship.
“When selecting an artist to join our roster, we employ a variety of selection criteria. Although not an exhaustive list, we look for artists with a high level of musical ability, an active tour schedule, a good sense of product branding, an ability to provide maximum exposure for our brands, whether via Social Media, education, etc. plus a genuine love of our products.” – Elaine Smith – D’Addario UK (D’Addario strings, Planet Waves, Evans Drumheads & Pro Mark Sticks)
First and foremost, BE PATIENT! Artist relations people are very busy… Busy looking after their current artist roster. Companies will rarely get back to you right away, but I dealt with a company in early 2012 that took approximately 6 months from initial contact to have the deal ironed out!
What’s in it for me?
According to Bob Kasha of Big Bang Distribution (Ahead Amor Cases), “People want free equipment all day long, I receive [at least] 500-600 endorsement requests a year! I want to see a fair trade, Ultimately what exposure can the artist bring to my products?”
If you are successful in getting a deal, don’t forget your duties as an endorsee, stay in touch with the artist relations teams, keep them up to date with all your activity’s, and you must promote the companies wherever and whenever it is at all possible. Read your artist agreement carefully and thoroughly to be sure that you are living up to your end of the deal. The last thing you want is to end up having them drop you from your deal.
Remember, they have helped you, now continue helping them! Good Luck!
One More Thing….
Always keep your options open and never dismiss anyone. A relatively new company approached me in mid 2011 that I had not come across before. I checked out what they were about (and what they had to offer), and the product was off the scale! In turn, other doors opened off the back of this deal. Remember; do not be hung up about the idea of endorsing a brand. It’s about making music and being successful at that first. If you are making waves on that front, it will all come good in the end!