Show Me the Money?Article by Jillian Mitchell // May 02 2007
The motivation for this month’s article stems from an image I stumbled upon in an issue of Modern Drummer: amidst a sea of natural finish, focused and cutting, pure Sabian B20 bronze “bling” was none other than Neil Peart, that vivacious, crazy-capped, monster drummer of Canada’s legendary rock band Rush. Yes, indeed it was an advertisement for Sabian, in which Neil promoted his new line—the Neil Peart signature Paragon cymbals—and, as per usual, Neil was visibly content in his rhythmic environment. I began to study the ad a bit closer. The caption, straight from the artist’s mouth, read “Perfection, Excellence… I think that’s what we’ve achieved,” and directly underneath that was Peart’s own fluidly authentic signature. Now, I like to pride myself as someone who can resist the subliminal and lucrative intentions of advertising, but, for one reason or another, this ad caught my eye. In this photo, there were no flashy gimmicks, no half-naked chicks, and no absurd money-back guarantees… just a boy and his drums. It was real, it was honest, and I was hooked! So there it was, the topic for this month rant: endorsement deals. First, I wanted to know if it was as sensational a gig as Peart and Sabian (and other equally esteemed companies) presented it to be, and, second, I wanted to know if endorsement agreements were reserved only for music’s heavyweights, or if by some chance an Average Joe could also enlist in the race for fame, fortune, and free stuff!
What is an endorsement deal?
Endorsement deals are designed to increase product or brand name awareness (and ultimately sales) through the use of a familiar spokesperson.
Who is eligible?
In an article I found called “What's an Endorsement (and How Do I Get 'Em),” Weird Al drummer Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz suggests that almost any musician is eligible for an endorsement deal. “Any drummer who has good exposure to the manufacturer’s target buyers, either as a personality or through their artist affiliation, is a candidate for an endorsement agreement,” says Schwartz. Naturally, every successful relationship has to be a win-win for both parties, so make sure you have something to offer that would encourage a company to want to establish a working relationship with you. Remember, it’s not company’s job to promote you, as a drummer; it’s your job to promote the company and their product.
What are the perks/duties?
Well, if this show-me-the-money attitude resembles that of your own, then perhaps endorsement deals are not for you. After an extensive search, I have discovered one common truth about the sensational charade: there is no money (for you, the endorser, that is) in endorsements. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say no money. Some endorsers—such as those of Peart’s caliber— do, in fact, bask in the prosperous dream, but for the most part there is no monetary clause in the little guy’s contract. Right now, you may be asking yourself why companies who generate billions of dollars a second can not afford to pay their artists. Well, as each company has such a large magnitude of endorsers, paying each and every one would ultimately break the bank, so to be economically savvy, the company works out other deals with their artists. Evidently, the life of an endorser is anything but fruitless, and depending on the type of agreement an artist has, some of the perks may include the following: free merchandise, artist discounts, exchanges on equipment (old for new), loans (gear), and having your name/picture used in an ad campaign. All of this in exchange for making good use of the product, mentioning the product in interviews or in liner notes on albums, endorsing the product at tradeshows, and, finally, giving clinics. Plus there’s the added bonus of having the support of a major company behind you.
How do I initiate an endorsement deal?
To get the ball rolling, you will need to initiate contact with the company of your choice by either sending a letter or making a direct phone call stating your interest in endorsing their products. After the initial contact, the company will usually require a promo package, or press kit, which should include all of the following: a letter of introduction (tell them a bit about yourself), a resume (discography, bands you’ve worked with), your contact information, a list your upcoming performance schedule (any exposure is good exposure), photos, and a professional demo. Caution: it may take up to a month to get a bite.
How do I choose which company to endorse? When should I apply?
I found a few recommendations on Drummer Café, an online website (www.drummercafe.com) that may help. First suggestion, find a product that you like and believe in. Use it. Use it for many years. Show that you stand behind the product by using it. If you really like a piece of gear, you'll use it with or without an endorsement. Secondly, focus on your playing and market yourself as a player. Play as many gigs as you can and work towards being in the public eye on a regular basis. Once you've obtained a professional level in your career and your playing, contact the companies of whom you use products. Let them know who you are, and how much you love their stuff. The most important thing to remember is that once you have made an endorsement agreement, you must fulfill your side of the bargain and endorse said product! In other words, no flip flopping; be confident in your choice. Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz put it best when he said, “Reputations and relationships possess tremendous value, and nobody will tolerate an endorsement-hopping drum whore.” Needless to say, endorsements are not forever, especially if the endorser no longer produces suitable promotional value or if the endorser violates the terms of the agreement, so keep you head up out there. Be smart!
There you have it: Endorsements: 101. I hope this helped. And if one day you find yourself peaking out amidst a sea of percussion in your own advertisement, strive for excellence like Peart, and make the rest of us Average Joes proud. Good luck!
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About the Author
As a professional vocalist (and self-professed grammar nerd), Jill brings a fresh perspective to The Black Page. In addition to earning a B.A. in music, creative writing and English, Jill has also studied vocals with Philadelphia-based vocal coach Owen Brown, known for his work with Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, and Wyclef Jean. Jill makes up the other half of world soul group The Mitchells, alongside Black Page creator, Sean Mitchell.