Artist Endorsements: To Free or Not To Free?



People frequently ask me how to get artist endorsement deals. My answer typically begins with the question, “Are you sure you want one?” Two clichés come to mind. 

  1. Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. 
  2. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. 

That said, I’ve been very happy with my various artist deals over the years. The reason is that I only endorse products and people in whom I believe. Further, they believe in me, in part because I’ve proven that the relationship is a two way street. 

I’m willing to pay for everything I endorse. Guess what: I do! Frankly my artist accommodation prices are discounted, but the only time I get free stuff is when the manufacturer feels that I’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty. Even then, I still offer to pay because I need the flexibility to use whatever I want, whenever I want. 

In the photo above, my friend Shawn Wayland (left) and I are in full Serious Cycling regalia, representing our race team from 2014. We believe in the sponsors and we feel that they, in turn, represent who we are as racers and members of society. Kitting up in the team colors made us perform at our best, and reminded us that we were part something bigger. We were in fact ambassadors, evangelists and rolling billboards. 

That’s great news if you believe in what you represent. It’s why we look so genuinely happy. 

Imagine for a moment that we were wearing free clothing plastered with something that is the opposite of what we’re about. Let’s say cigarettes. Wait…how about trophy/sport hunting of wildlife on safari? It sounds outlandish, but it’s entirely plausible when you add a large pile of cash to the equation. 

Okay, let’s tone it down and use a couple more realistic examples: guitar amps and lifestyle apparel. How would you feel if Peavy (nothing wrong with the brand—just using it as an example of a non-boutique manufacturer) was paying you consistently for exclusively playing their amps when your heart was into Mesa/Boogie or Fender? Remember that the amp is a reflection of you and your values. Or what if you licensed your artist brand to a clothing company or designer who expected you to rock the socks pictured below at all your photo ops?



Nice, right? Dress for success, baby! In case you’re wondering, no, I did not lose a bet. I did this in service to you, my faithfully devoted readers, to illustrate the point that you better believe in whatever is attached to your name. Plus, I’m always up for a good laugh. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you have no right to laugh at anyone else!

Anyway… the best artist deals for me are the ones that are mutually beneficial. They encourage both parties to actively engage in bettering the other guy’s life. Over the past ten years I’ve become good friends with Bob Muller of Dangerous Music. We’ve never signed a piece of paper, nor discussed an artist deal, but we are allies. Whatever you want to call our relationship, it works for both of us. We both help each other on myriad levels. Bob solves problems for me before I know that they exist. I’ve called him to ask if he knows how to deal with a new issue, and he’s literally said, “Yeah, just press this button and you’re good to go.”

Bob knows he can count on me for honest feedback and sometimes manual labor. I’ve been the talent at several events/workshops/seminars to demonstrate how I use his products on a daily basis, and how they improve the quality of my life. Even though he’s offered appearance fees, I will never accept them. That’s how powerful our symbiotic relationship is. 

Edit

I have the same attitude toward Manley Labs, Chandler Limited and anything that involves Paul Wolff. These guys step up for me, so I do the same for them. Some folks forget that companies are not faceless entities, and that they are in fact collections of individual people who have the same basic needs as you and I. 

The upshot is that it’s important to represent products that represent you. Do you really want to eat, sleep, drink and breathe [brand x] in exchange for a few dollars? That is the question.  When you get past the financial perquisites and focus on the ways that you can be of service, the right endorsements will organically find their way to you. 

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