Money for nothing and your kicks for free
The life of a mega-selling rockstar must be pretty cool, right? Your day job involves doing something you’ve spent your life doing for fun. People respect/love/buy your creative output, and you get to travel the world performing to those very same adoring fans. You get to experience things 99.9 per cent of people could only dream about. You also get all your equipment, for free, direct from the people who make it. Best of all? It’s your job, and you actually get paid to do all of this.
All of those statements are true, with the exception of the free gear. Sorry to break it to you, but music endorsements aren’t quite what people imagine it to be. Indeed, endorsements are, largely a myth. Certainly in the way that most people imagine them to be, i.e. free gear on tap.
Looking at it in brutal terms, it’s a business transaction between two willing parties, based on a series of pre-determined and mutually agreed deliverables, and is most definitely not a key to the private gear locker at your favourite brand. That’s not to say they’re not desirable; you do certainly get gear to play with, tour with, practice with and mess about with. In the majority of cases though, you probably have to give it back. Sorry to harsh your buzz there.
To bust some of these myths, and give you some credible advice about what exactly an endorsement is, how it could benefit your band, and how you can go ahead and get one, we spoke to Will Jakeway, artist relations manager for Blackstar who count Supergrass’ Gaz Coombes and Ihsahn of the Norwegian black metal titans Emperor among their roster.
Will explained: “It’s a common misconception that an endorsement means you will get as much free gear as you want. That simply isn’t the case. We receive around 20 applications for endorsements a week and, while we do actively encourage artists to apply for music endorsements, there’s no way we could agree to them all. Musical instrument manufacturers are businesses like any other and while we want to support up and coming musical talent, there has to be a benefit to the brand as well.
“The benefit to us comes from respected musicians having our gear used across their backline at gigs and venues, or used in photoshoots or, more commonly these days, referred to lovingly on social media. In order for someone like Blackstar to gain benefit, there has to be a mutual understanding that it works both ways.”
Endorsements are not unique to music. Consider football, where the top players are handsomely rewarded for wearing boots made by a particular brand. If Lionel Messi was a left-back playing for Prescot Cables, no disrespect intended, do you think Adidas would be falling over themselves to get their boots on his feet?
So what kind of criteria is important for brands when considering who to select for a potential partnership?
“For a start, the band or artist in question needs to be signed to a label,” said Will; “The artists we work with are usually at the start of their journey and are starting to create a buzz nationally. When they reach that stage, they are usually in a better position to start promoting us so it makes sense for us to work together.
“We provide them with amazing equipment, support while they are out on tour and further promotion, and in return we get credible musicians actively promoting our brand.”
It’s all relative. A group of 17 year olds with 21 Facebook fans and no songs of their own pitching straight to the Blackstars of this world is akin to someone winning a bout of Gran Turismo online then getting straight onto Ferrari F1 team asking for a job. But there are other routes. Just as there are bands starting out, so there are luthiers and lesser-known foreign brands looking for a way to get their name valuable exposure. Do some research and find something that sits well with what you’re trying to achieve, and be creative with who you approach and how you approach them.
Flip the transaction on its head. To paraphrase a former American president, ask not what the brand can do for you (i.e. free stuff), ask what you can offer the brand. If you’re out there playing every weekend, building a fanbase and steadily growing in stature, then it may be that there is a brand out there willing to take a punt on you.
And, if this post hasn’t completely put you off, you can approach Blackstar here.