Endorsements. Everyone wants them, well not everyone. As a forewarning, this post is mostly geared towards educating musicians with minimal experience with endorsements or currently searching high and low with no luck.
Let's begin here. You can give up on the idea of free gear unless you are Benny Greb, Jojo Mayer, Mark Guiliana, Matt Garstka, Mike Johnston and the list goes on. You get it. These guys are monsters at the kit and have a HUGE influence on young and experienced players. Take note of that second statement and let that stew. When you first started playing music/drums, who's the first person you look to when trying to find the right stick, drum, cymbal, kick pedal, pick, guitar and so on? Chances are, the answer to that question is your favorite drummer, guitarist, bassist, etc.
What does that mean? Well first off, it's often misunderstood that an endorsement is a deal as such:
Artist - "Hi, I'm Jimmy Warner and I am a killer player. Will you sponsor me with free gear?"
Company - "Well Jimmy, what can you offer for our company?"
Assuming this artist has little or no experience with endorsements, I guarantee they have no answer for the company's response. No one is going to give you an endorsement because you are the best player in the world. There, I said it. Unfortunately, I've come into contact with a couple world class players who still struggle with this idea and damn it bums me out.
Here's the skinny, whether you like it or not (and as much as I hate saying it), you've got to start treating yourself as a brand. Give companies a reason to have you on their team. In short, that's the sought after secret. True endorsements should be a mutual relationship between the artist and respective company.
What are some examples of treating yourself as a brand? Whether you like it or not, you are going to have to build an audience, interact with others on socials, create useful content frequently, go to shows, maybe even book shows, build a website, join drummers/musician forums online, etc. Give people a reason to be a fan and follow you. I'll go more in depth on building an audience in my next post. (You can also read any book by Seth Godin or Gary Vaynerchuck to jump start these ideas.)
Let's be clear, I am by no means a pro at the endorsement game, but I did work as an A&R assistant for a brief period of time. I've seen it first hand and gained valuable knowledge from one of the best (if not THE best) in the drummer's realm. Below are a few more key points before wrapping up.
- Be loyal to companies you are truly behind and want to play. Don't settle on company X because they came at you with a deal first.
- Wait until you have something unique/special to offer before reaching out. This one is important, it directly relates to the key point at the beginning of the post. You don't just get a deal because you're good.
- Sometimes it's better to let the company come to you. Trust me, you don't want to look desperate. Imagine seeing the same player's endorsement application come through multiple times within a year or two. How do you think that looks? Be patient.
- Enjoy yourself. If it's not fun, it will show. Companies don't want to work with poor attitudes or player's who think too highly of themselves. There are the rare cases where they may put up with it, but if you're reading this, chances are that’s not you. I'm not sorry, it's the truth.
Please keep in mind, this is a brief overview outlining the key points that are almost always missed. I'll say it once more, you don't get a deal because you kick ass at drums. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any more questions you may have on this subject. I'll gladly respond to the best of my abilities for your situation.
It goes without saying, I proudly endorse Risen Drums. -Wes