Free stuff! Everybody wants it. Getting free gear and being able to say “I endorse so and so” is a very interesting topic, and one that is often approached from the wrong angle with the wrong intentions that deliver the wrong results. First of all, a lot of people talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. These people claim to endorse companies that have no idea who they are. There is a fine line and a fine, keen difference between a musician that exclusively uses a product and that musician actually endorses a company. I find it completely foolish when people lie about their endorsements, or overly advertise that they are endorsed, but do not mention any of the elements that are involved in endorsing a product.
Simply put, whether we speak of you endorsing a product or a product/company endorsing you, we are talking about you as marketing avenue connected to that product/company, an avenue from which they can gain exposure and revenue. It is the endorsers’ responsibility to exclusively use a given product, of course, but also to use it in a way that showcases the quality of that product and the quality of the player (ie: you!) that is now associated with the product. An ideal endorsement is more than the sum of its parts: both sides gain.
It’s not all about a free ride
Endorsements are not about giving free or discounted items to nobodies. As harsh as that sounds, if you are not signed, not touring, not teaching on a high level, or not in a media spotlight that could influence others around you, then you do not make an attractive candidate for endorsements. It is crucial to think about what you can do for the product and its company, not the exposure and “street cred” you get in return for having an endorsement.
It is also a good idea—no, make that a very, very good idea—to make sure you have a solid definition of your potential endorsement.
Artists that come to Brain Grenade Entertainment claiming to have endorsements often raise immediate red flags. We wonder if they are just talking trash, if they bought something directly from the company, or if they are under consideration for the endorsement. One of the first things we do when an artist claims to have an endorsement is to check that product’s artist roster: 9 times out of 10, they are not listed. Often, the people that we might know from that company have never heard of these artists or their bands. Then leaving the question of “what else are they lying about” laying on the table.
That’s why it is important to put out a strong, defined, and honest image. We don’t check to be jerks. We check because a lot can be said in a bio or a one sheet of a band that might be untrue but is not easy to verify. This is. When someone claims to have an endorsement, it is something that can easily be checked. If it doesn’t check out, all the other information the artist supplied and all aspects of their presentation is called into question.
Therefore, even if you are in the process of getting an endorsement but are “not quite there yet,” don’t advertise it. If you do mention it informally, give your contact point in the company, demonstrating that you know such things will be checked, and talk frankly about how it is coming to fruition.
How do I get an endorsement?
Endorsements can help, that is no lie. It is additional marketing for you, and it can open up opportunities with that company and eventually many others. As an endorsed/endorsing artist, you/your group may be approached to attend or perform at trade shows, conferences, and other corporate functions. An individual artist who has an endorsement may also lay the groundwork for other members of their band/group to gain endorsement status as well.
Many larger companies want you to have a major label deal to be considered for endorsements of any kind. These companies are not the place to start. Do not hound them with full promotional packages that discuss why you are going to be the next big thing. That is wasted time, wasted packs, wasted stamps, and in the end, wasted money. You also blow your first impression.
Also realize that most companies have different levels of endorsements. This can help in your cause. If you were to ask for a free amplifier, chances are you are not going to not be taken as seriously as the artist that wants to develop a relationship with a that company and asks for a very small discount on the same amplifier in a detailed letter that explains how they would like to start a relationship with the company.
Below are the top five things that you should never say or list when you are looking for an endorsement. I have asked reps from companies that I have endorsed in the past what their favorite lines were. These were the top ones and a few of the retorts.
Top five no no’s
5. You need to endorse me, I am the next big thing and a lot better than a ton of people you already give free stuff to.
Most of these companies don’t “need” to endorse anybody. You are already coming out of the gate with an oversized ego and giving the impression that you might be difficult to work with.
4. Your stuff is pretty good, but if you custom made it my way, it would sell so much better.
Opening up with how they need to change their products to your specifications and your design is an insult. Such rights are reserved for artists that have been with these companies for a long time or top-echelon artists with extremely high visibility.
3. My gear is from your company but it is in really crappy shape and it needs to be upgraded so I can sound the best I can and it will help your image as well.
So, you are already representing their product in a poor light and focusing your needs while not defining how the company might benefit from developing a relationship with you. This gives the impression you are looking for a handout for yourself and does not position yourself as a desirable endorser.
2. You need to put my name on some stuff, it will really sell.
First off, if you want your name on stuff, there are numerous companies that will, for a fee, put your name on sticks, picks and what ever else you might want. Named products are, and should be, reserved for the highest profile endorsers and clients of the company.
1. I don’t use your gear right now, but if you give me a rig, I will only use you exclusively.
This is my favorite and this is one I, myself, have heard bands talk about. Now, for a high profile artist that may not be using the company’s gear, switching over may bring that company desirable attention from some of his or her fans. As a local artist, regional, or up-and-coming, however, it really is over the top to ask and appears as though you are really just requesting a hand out.
Why should you be endorsed?
So, now getting away from the negative side of it, ask yourself a few of the questions any company would surely want answers to if they were going to consider you for an endorsement.
Why should they endorse you?
What do you bring to the table?
What market would you be able to reach that they are not already reaching? Or what market could you supplement and how?
Do you deliver the image that the company would want to portray?
Would your endorsement bring additional sales and more attention to their product? If so, how?
How will you be a continually effective endorser?
When you can answer these questions in detail, it will improve your chances of receiving a potential endorsement.
When you take the approach of developing a relationship with a company and proving that your endorsement will help them, this will in turn help you. So many artists are out there for themselves. Be different; show the company that you understand that it this is a business and that developing this relationship would be a smart business move for both parties. Taking a professional approach will reassure them that you are worthwhile to be involved with.
Begin at the beginning
Start small. Don’t ask for a full rig or free stuff. Inquire about the different levels that are offered by the company and ask if you can start at the bottom. Explain how you can prove that you are a quality endorser. Again, this will show you are not selfish and that you truly are trying to develop a relationship with a company and product you believe in.
Which brings to the crucial point….BELIEVE IN THE PRODUCT. Do not endorse something just because you can get the endorsement. It doesn’t really help them or you. Artists that have a history with a product or company, especially in pictures that clearly display the product and its label, show continuity and a long-standing relationship.
When I was first drumming, I played on Pro-Mark drumsticks. I played a model called the Simon Phillips 707’s. I was a big fan of Simon and loved the ball tips of those sticks. I tried a couple different brands as a teen, but always came back to Pro-Mark and specifically to those sticks. Most drumming shots of me from the time I was 13 have me holding a pair of Pro-Mark sticks. So when I state that I have been playing Pro-Mark for 18 years, it rings true and the proof is in the pictures.
Why do you want to endorse that product?
It is also a lot easier to talk about why you like a product when you really actually like it. To tell a company their product is great or “I don’t play anything else” is not really much of a line unless you are a top-level client. When it came to Pro-Mark, for me… “I found that the sticks have a great center balance, are well crafted and have a touch that I can’t find in other sticks.”
I have used Pro-Mark on the bulk of the recordings I have been on as a drummer and I always have a couple sets of the 5A’s, 5B’s, Elvin Jones Signature set, Hotrods, 3AL’s and my old favorite 707’s on hand for the drummers I produce in the studio to try to get different sounds and feels as well as turning other drummers on to the sticks.
This comes off a lot stronger than “they are good,” and it also ties in the marketing elements.
Figure out why you like a stick, a guitar, an effect, or any product. What has it done for your sound, your writing, and your performance? See what can you add in a marketing sense that other endorsers may not have already?
Other elements you will need to add
Are you a solid player?
What is your experience?
What other drummers do you compare to or are influenced by?
Do you teach?
Covering a basic resume about your playing and your career to date as well as projects you are involved in can help with endorsements as well.
What makes your band stand out?
What makes you stand out?
Are you involved in charity/ music education work?
Do you tour frequently?
And what are you going to do for them?
Tell them what you would do for the company. Talk about how you will do additional marketing for them and then show that it is being done. Explain that you will have their logo or a mention that you endorse their product on recordings. You can also mention in early stages that you would be happy to put on the next release that you exclusively use the given product.
If you’re the drummer, will you place the logo on the bass drum for shows?
Will you wear a shirt or other item at least once a week, advertising the product?
Will you reference it in your promo materials?
What other ideas can you come up with to justify the company standing behind you as you show how you will stand behind them?
Lastly, when connecting with the company, be respectful! Try to find out exactly who you are suppose to contact. Do not send emails to every address at the company. I have heard too many stories about this happening.
Bad idea. Bad. DON’T DO IT!
Inquire respectfully, ask nicely. See if the company is currently looking to sign endorsers, and if not, ask if there is a good time of year or better time than now to submit a letter or package. If they have a form, fill it out and send it to the appropriate contact. Just because you have heard your favorite star works with Mr. X. from your favorite company, this does not mean you should inundate this guy with your emails or calls.
If you do not hear back, do not continue to hound. Think! Is it during a convention or trade show period? This is not a good time to go after endorsements and most likely, these guys and girls are not at their desks. Doing a ten-day follow up by email is professional, if you do not hear back after that, leave them be.
It is not that these companies are being disrespectful, but they are receiving thousands of emails with the same requests as yours. They can’t possibly get back to each person. It would take days alone to do that. Also if you continue to hound, you will be flagged and possibly ignored. In making contact, as I listed above, stand out in a good way: Explain why you want the endorsement and especially give the company a reason why they should want you.
Take these steps in a respectful and professional manner. Look at the idea of endorsement from all angles. If you can honestly answer all the questions and present in a professional manner, then you may be ready to apply for an endorsement.
If you are not, wait a while, get some more experience or marketing elements under your belt before you make contact. Your responsibility, originality, creativity and patience will help you and also portray you in the best possible light to a potential endorser. Being patient as well as preparing your materials correctly will give you more opportunities for longer relationships and better connections down the road.
Loren Weisman is an accomplished music producer based in Seattle,
Washington. Having worked on over three hundred albums, Loren has also
worked on numerous television, film, video game and radio productions,
from New York to Los Angeles, Boston to Seattle. Loren is also the
founder of Brain Grenade Entertainment LLC, and the author of the
Freedom Solutions Recording Plan.