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Understanding Artist Endorsements

So you’re in a band and looking to step your game up as an artist and dip your feet into the world of endorsements to work with your favorite companies and establish some credibility to your name, but how do you start?

This article is going to cover everything you need to know about what you should do as an artist to secure that deal.

To understand endorsements and their purpose, the first question we must ask ourselves is “Who endorses who?” While endorsements are a mutually beneficial two way street, it is the artist who endorses the product. When you boil it down, the ultimate purpose of an endorsement is to help grow a brand. If the artist doesn’t qualify to help grow the brand, then the manufacturer wants that non-qualifying musician to purchase his or her gear from a local dealer or favorite Internet dealer. What they do want is to have an endorser promote their brand in order to influence their fans and/or peers to purchase that product or something else they make.

What a Company Looks for in an Artist

From a company’s point of view, they want artists that have influence, which means someone that gigs/records constantly and has a strong social media presence. Are you out there grinding it out playing shows and building a buzz around yourself as a musician? Are you getting out of your own local scene and growing your following in other cities? How’s your social media following? Do you have a solid number of followers and do you constantly engage with them and in turn, do they engage with you? These are questions you need to ask yourself because this is what companies look at when deciding to take on a new endorsee. Companies also value artists that are loyal. They want to work with artists that want to work with them, not artists that send generic endorsement inquiries that were most likely sent out to them and ten of their competitors.

What to Send in to a Company

Now that you’ve established that you as an artist have enough of a career to contact a company and get a deal, what do you send in to them? Introduce yourself, give them your 15 second elevator pitch explaining who you are as an artist and what you do.

Next, talk about the gear of theirs you use and why you like it. Again, loyalty is key and letting them know you are already using their product is a sign to them that not only you are knowledgeable about their company but that with or without an endorsement, you will be using their gear. If a company is on the fence about whether or not to take you on as an artist, that type of loyalty could tip the odds in your favor.

Speaking of gear, if there is additional products they make that you’re interested in, this is the time to mention it. In your submission to the company, you should also attach your Electronic Press Kit (EPK) for them to understand who you are as an artist, what you bring to the table, and ultimately why they should care about you. If you don’t have an EPK, the folks over at Sonicbids have a great breakdown of what you need to do here. Lastly, you should include any existing endorsements you have in your submission if you have any. A great way to increase your chances of landing a deal is by showing that other companies are investing in you and see value in bringing you on board as one of their artists to influence customers to purchase their products.

What Type of Endorsements are Available

So a company has offered you a deal. Awesome! But what did they offer you? There are three different tiers available for artists.

  • Class C is cost plus a percentage, usually 10-15%. This is the lowest deal which offers the least amount of risk to a company.
  • Class B is a cost deal; whatever it costs them to make the product is the price you pay.
  • Lastly, Class A is a full ride deal, everything is on the house. This is the deal most artists want but not everyone gets. It is important to note here that some companies strictly do not offer class A deals because they feel if the artist really wants their product, getting a discount from them is better than paying full price at a retailer either in-store or online.

There is also the difference between an exclusive deal and non-exclusive deal. An exclusive deal means you are tied to that company and can’t endorse any of their competitors. If you have a non-exclusive deal, you are free to do as you please.

In my experience, I think it’s in your best interest as an artist to treat any deal you have as if it’s an exclusive deal. Let’s create a hypothetical scenario to show you why. A non-exclusive company is working with two artists: one who treats his deal like it’s an exclusive deal and is loyal to the company, the other endorses two of their competitors. The company is put in a position to highlight one of their artists for an upcoming social media takeover they want to do. Guess which one of those artists is most likely to receive that extra love from the company?

What is Expected From the Artist?

As an artist, you have expectations you must fulfill when you are on a company’s roster.

First, you must obviously use the gear in studio and on stage.

You are also required to make social media posts about the company using tags and hashtags. We live in a digital age where social media is king and companies rely on social media heavily to keep people updated and informed on product releases and any other news that is relevant to them so your posts on your pages about them are valued just as heavily.

If you’re in the studio laying down drum tracks for your new album and have a stick sponsor, take a picture from behind the kit of your sticks and talk about how tracking is going, making sure to tag and promote your company as well.

Same goes for anything you’re doing in a live setting, whether it’s a tour announcement, an onstage photo or acandid shot on the road. Giving the companies visibility while you’re out there working is exactly what the companies want to see.

In the same way, make sure to make posts on social media and your website when a new deal has been made to get that news out there and establish your relationship in the public space.

Also, anytime you are doing interviews, make sure the interviewer knows you have companies backing you so you can have that brought into the conversation. When those interviews are posted, circle back to your artist rep and send that over so that they can keep it on file, and maybe even share it to all of their followers too.

As an artist, you also need to do photoshoots so the company has images of you with their gear so that they in turn can promote you via social media and official websites. You can also use those pictures to fulfill your promotional obligations to the company.

As an endorsed artist, you also need to link the companies you work with from your official website. In the early stages, including the handful of companies at the bottom of your homepage with hyperlinked logos is more than fine. Once you start growing and have more companies supporting you, having a tab on your site dedicated to them is recommended.

Lastly, you need to include your endorsement companies in the liner notes of any physical copies of your music. You used their products to create this group of songs, it only makes complete sense to thank them for their products and support.

What is Expected From the Company?

In the same way you have to hold up your end of the endorsement deal, so does the company.

The first thing a company will do is put you up on the artist page of their website. I’m sure many of us have spent a minute or two browsing the artist section of our favorite companies seeing who is playing what gear. As an endorsed artist, you now get to join those ranks and have your name listed on their website. Depending on the layout of the page, it could simply be your name hyperlinking to your website or a full artist profile with your picture, bio and links to your music. Either way, that’s extra exposure to the company’s core audience.

Speaking of exposure, social media promotion is another way the company can give additional visibility to their artists so whenever you have an album release, music video release, tour dates or anything cool coming up in your career, send that information over to your artist rep ASAP so they can work it into their social media calendar.

If they end up doing a big media push around a product model you happen to use, there might be opportunities for them to use your likeness as well.

Additional exposure outlets come from trade shows like the NAMM Show. With so many artists wandering the convention center floor, companies like to use them to drive extra traffic to their booths so you could end up doing a signing for them alongside some of their other artists.

Another way companies give exposure to their artists through trade shows is social media interviews. While companies usually take to social media during NAMM to showcase and highlight the new products they will be rolling out for the year, they also like to take the opportunity to bring their artists to the booth to either perform or do interviews with them and talk about what’s going on in their careers, what products of theirs are currently in their rig and why they love using it. Especially with the live components of Instagram and Facebook, companies have been keeping with the times and getting on board with that to promote their artists.

A curveball in the artist-to company relationship is the potential for creative partnerships. This could be as simple as giving away company swag through social media contests to a full on takeover of the company social media pages to give their audience a look into a day in the life on the road with your band.

While it may not sound like a huge perk, having direct-to-artist shipping is extremely convenient and helpful, especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere on tour and you need a company to dropship you some products on the fly.

Lastly, what you can expect from a company is credibility. Having a company supporting you and backing you goes a long way, especially for a low to mid-level band. When other people in the industry (promoters, booking agents, management) see a company has taken a chance on you and believes you have the ability to influence people to buy their product, it makes everyone else take you that much more seriously and makes them take a bit more interest in you.

In closing sponsorships are a great way to up your game as an artist while cultivating new relationships within your industry and create new networking opportunities.

I hope this article shed some light on sponsorships and gave you some useful tips that you can put into practice in your own careers. Good luck!

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