Ever wonder what it takes to be an endorsing artist for a company? You know, someone who goes around getting paid gobs of money to play a certain brand’s instruments? Well, many up and coming musicians may think that an endorsing artist is rolling in money from their respective company, but I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at what it actually means to be an endorsing artist and how you might go about becoming one. If you already have an endorsement, we’ll also take a look at how best to nurture the relationship.
I spent several years managing artist relations for a major instrument manufacturer and am still working closely with endorsing artists in my new communications position. So, let’s start from the beginning. Who are endorsing artists? Endorsing artists are musicians who play a particular brand of instrument(s) and help promote this brand with the ultimate outcome of GENERATING SALES. Remember, this is the key factor. So, the artist is a resource who often becomes integrated closely in marketing a brand and/or product. However, they are very special resources because they are, well, human. This is why when we talk about the relationship between the artist and the company, we call it “artist relations.”
When I first began working in artist relations, I was a member of my company’s marketing department. We had twenty-one brands under the company’s umbrella, and I worked with 900 endorsing artists. Some brands and product categories had more artists than others, which made it extremely competitive in certain areas. Nine times out of ten, the phone would ring, and there would be a musician on the other end asking about “getting an endorsement” or “starting a relationship.” Okay, the relationship line is a bit easier on the ears, but if the call is unsolicited, it is quite abrupt and seemingly overbearing to call a company and ask about “getting an endorsement.” If you are truly interested in this, it’s probably best to rephrase the question. Take a moment and look in the mirror. You are probably at the point where you feel you should be supported with an endorsement. Take another look in the mirror. Don’t look at your reflection as someone who deserves the endorsement. Look at yourself as someone who is an established, valuable musician who wants to help promote the brand and company. Ask yourself, “What can I do to help the company promote the instruments I play?”
Aha! Now, if you are going to make a phone call, be prepared with sensible ammunition. If you are not already playing a brand that the company manufactures, be prepared to explain why you are interested in their product. Make sure you have done research. Be truthful, and most importantly, don’t call if you have not done your research on the company and its products. It’s usually best if you are already playing the instrument that the company manufactures. In fact, both of my positions in artist relations have been with companys whose prerequisite for an artist applicant is that s/he plays the instrument currently. The real pitch now is to let the company know about your history with the brand and that you are interested in helping promote the product because you believe in it and have chosen it for your work. It’s a bit different than asking for an endorsement. It’s a testimonial and offer to help. If you are willing to give, the company will be more willing to give as well. If you are successfully accepted as an artist, you may have benefits that vary from company to company. You will at the very least get the distinction of being an endorsing artist, and you will get increased visibility. There may be other possible benefits to the relationship, but be prepared to give. Yes, always give of yourself to help SUPPORT the brand, and the relationship will prove beneficial to both sides.
As for those who do not feel like calling a company out of the blue, well, congratulations! It is probably better. The unsolicited call is always awkward, and many companies require a referral from another artist currently on the roster. The musicians who are out there getting noticed for their musicianship, merit, accomplishments, and potential to continue on an upward trajectory are the ones that artist reps are looking to speak with ultimately. So, keep your nose to the grindstone, stay humble, network, and be the musician who everyone wants to work with, and you will be well on your way.