Assuming everyone reading this is either a musician, works with musicians or has at least met a musician in their lifetime, there will come a certain point in your musical journey where your mind will shift towards the realm of endorsements. Those endorsements may come in the form of providing musical instruments, merchandise, food/beverages or even contraception (although with such a long standing history of musicians being model parents, who would really require that?). When that point comes and preparation meets opportunity, there is something to be remembered…endorsing an artist is a relationship and you have to feel it. Most companies will not sign an artist just to sign an artist. Companies sign an artist because they are 100% behind them. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen, like any relationship, but it may work for another company. So it’s not really about a mistake, it’s about it not really clicking. What can you keep in mind as an artist to put yourself in the best possible situation to ensure success with your endorsement? Well, it’s fairly simple…
Loyalty, Loyalty, Loyalty!
Ask yourself, what is it about this company that has stood out to you? Is it the products themselves, the company or both? Pick the company you would like to work with very methodically. But select a company whose products you believe in. We all have tools required to do our jobs, would you choose to bring an inferior tool to do that job? No, so select carefully and do research into their business and its practices. Find a startup company and seek to become their poster child. Represent them, shout their praises, evangelize their products and love them like a family. When you’ve proven that you are trustworthy, loyal and deliver on your end of the bargain… word will spread throughout the industry. But, don’t be an “endorsement whore,” where you seek to line your handbills, websites, social banners and back line with name after name of products you do not truly believe in and would not be happy supporting if your relationship to be were non-existent. One of the biggest mistakes made is to not live up to your end of the deal/bargain made, whatever that may be. Likewise, words of doing this will spread throughout the industry. Companies love exclusivity whether they require or not. Companies want to see you using their products wherever you can be found. It breeds pride and will help the relationship flourish. Think if you will for a moment, if you were in a budding new relationship and your partner never mentioned your name in public, acknowledged your relationship status online or spent a lot of time with other individuals of your same sex publicly. It would breed insecurity and the relationship would most likely never succeed for either party. It’s no different in an endorsement sense for companies. Just as important as your fan base is for you as an artist, is just as important as the business is for the company.
Let’s further explore endorsement deals for a moment. There are full endorsement deals, partial and loaners. These can be further defined and broken down into endorsement level tiers. When you are at the point where endorsements become a necessity to sustain your career, keep the following in mind: Start where you are at today. So, you are not on a stadium tour and you are not a household name artist…well that’s fine…but don’t expect to land an A-List or Top-Tier endorsement deal. Don’t be of the “American Idol generation” who assumes that just because they sold out their last two shows in Kettering, OH that they are entitled to star treatment. Entitlement is deadly in any relationship, especially within the music industry. If you are offered an endorsement by the company, don’t become overly frustrated at the initial deal offered to you. Sometimes music stores will offer clearance/discount prices that will be just as good if not better than a Third-Tier/Artist Pregen-endorsement-feature pricing endorsement. But don’t scoff at any offer for a company to work with you. You should be honored by the gesture. Often, you will begin with a company on the Third-Tier/Artist Pricing level. This is in part because companies have been burned in the past by artists not too dissimilar from yourself. They want to explore the relationship slowly and see if you have good faith toward actually using their products. If you open up your wallet & spend Artist Pricing on the first product they are more likely to give you the next product at much less or even free (if the company can afford to do so). Put yourself in the A&R’s position for a moment. Consider, what does this individual get paid to do? What are his/her goals and his/her company’s goals? What can you offer that satisfies those goals and ensures a continued paycheck to them? Usually, that goal is the selling of products! So, what role do you play and what is your unique value proposition for the A&R? Some common goals are the marketing of new products, marketing products to an untapped demographic, marketing products in a creative way, the need for demo videos/promotional photos, a desire to have one’s products associated with a celebrity (celebrity endorsement), etc. The BEST way to begin the conversation is to ask, “What are the company’s goals this year?” “Is there a creative way that I can help you meet these goals?”
Picture, if you will, for a moment: you are a business owner and you give someone your product. A product of your own creation, time, research, money, blood, sweat and tears. Then the following month, you see this same individual showing off a different company’s same/similar product online/live. That would more than likely rub you the wrong the way and or upset and offend you. Now, if this same individual were to call you and say, “Hey, I really love this product you gave me, but it’s not working for this scenario…” well, then at least they have given you the chance to win them back over by resolving the issue and rectifying the situation. Loyalty breeds loyalty.
Are endorsements important to an artist? Absolutely. They show good standings of relationships throughout the industry, they provide artists with the necessary equipment needed to sustain their careers and can provide viable revenue for both company and artist in the long term. In closing, do your research before approaching a company. Know what makes them tick, where they are located, what services they can provide and more importantly, what services you can provide to them to make you a viable candidate. Keep your priorities in check and don’t get a big head before speaking to them. Chances are, if you are at the point in your career where you are truly ready for endorsements, the company’s A&R has probably already heard of or knows about you. Don’t become disheartened by rejection or endorsements level offers less than what you had hoped for. Remember, at the end of the day, this is all about building a relationship, and relationships are compromise, compassion, support, and loyalty. Not every relationship will work out, but when the right connection is made… you can go very far together.