Landing an Endorsement Deal

By Bev Fowler, Director of Artist Relations for Paul Reed Smith Guitars  •  July 16, 2021

The benefits of signing as a brand ambassador may have morphed, but there is still much that can be gained by partnering with a well-known company

At some point in your career, you might entertain the idea of seeking an artist endorsement. This is a common thought for many aspiring musicians, especially taking into consideration all of the costs associated with getting your name out there, acquiring the necessary gear, covering travel expenses, etc. As Director of Artist Relations for PRS Guitars, I thought it might be helpful to provide a few tips on what brand executives like me look for in artists, and what artists should look for from brands.

First, ask yourself why it is that you want an endorsement. Are you looking for support from a promotional standpoint? Are you looking for gear or tech support? Are you looking to establish a relationship with a company that you believe in? From my standpoint (and you can sub in any other brand name here), why PRS? Are you knowledgeable about the product offerings? Are you already playing our instruments? Are you willing to enthusiastically promote our products socially and publicly? Basically, what are you going to do for the company you are endorsing?

If you’re looking for free gear, you should re-think your approach and ask yourself the above questions. For the most part, the days of free gear are long gone and if you have the expectation of receiving free gear right off the bat, you will likely be disappointed. But there are many other benefits that come with the endorsement relationship. For example, manufacturers that showcase their products at music industry events sometimes need artists to serve as demonstrators. If those companies sponsor concerts or other events, there might be gigs to be had. Manufacturers may also want to feature artist endorsers in their advertisements. Overall, the marketing boost and networking opportunities afforded by endorsement deals can be some of the best benefits.

I often refer to an artist endorsement as a “marriage.” It’s a commitment that involves loyalty and dedication. It’s a two-way street and should be mutually beneficial to both parties. The moment that the two-way street becomes one-way, the relationship is compromised. I’m happy to say that things do not come to this point often, but if you approach your endorsement with a company as an investment or marriage, the desire to commit and support should be at the top of your priority list. Not free gear!

Take a good look at yourself and the state of your career. You should be prepared to convince us that we need you! Believe me when I say that we are constantly seeking new artist endorsers to add to our roster who will be influential for our brand. It is obvious that big name artists are highly influential, and of course we invest a lot of our time seeking out artists that are household names; however, we offer several different levels of endorsement. For example, we work with numerous pro players, who are well respected in their markets but are not of national renown. We also seek out emerging artists, session players and influential educators in various markets.

PRS is not a company who puts all of our eggs in one basket, and we value all of our artist endorsers regardless of the level at which they are endorsed. More often than not, making a decision on an artist endorsement is a very tough decision for us. We get hundreds of endorsement inquiries on a monthly basis, and it is extremely time consuming to review the requests, materials, music, etc. If you can answer the “Why PRS?” question, you will be one step closer to being considered.

Mike Martin, general manager of marketing for CASIO America, does similar work engaging artists and signing endorsement deals and says, “A thoughtful, well-written email is the most important first step. Be clear about what you can offer the brand not only by how well you can play but what you can offer the brand that is unique. The quality of your YouTube channel, Instagram and other social media platforms are very important, so you’ll need to be comfortable in front of a camera, not only playing music but speaking about the products you wish to represent. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get an immediate response. Give it some time but follow up in a professional way, reminding the company why you should be their next go-to artist.

Some questions you should ask yourself before approaching a brand for an endorsement:

Do you sound good? Are your peers impressed with your skills? This is the time to be completely honest with yourself and to be willing and able to accept constructive feedback from your peers.

What kind of reputation do you have within the industry? We are not solely interested in your influence as a musician. How would you describe yourself as a person? Are you positive, outgoing and easy to get along with? Are you a giver or a taker? You’d be surprised to know just how often Artist Relations folks talk to one another. We can usually get a good feel on a potential endorser just by having a quick chat with our industry peers.

What do you bring to the table as an endorser? How are you going to help us with our business needs? Artist testimonials are important and influential to our consumers. You are an important voice for the company you represent, whether it’s through your music or simple verbal/written statements that attest to the quality and reliability of the instruments and/or the brand. We need you to “wave the PRS flag” on and off the stage and let the world know why you choose PRS. Think about what projects you have on the table and how a potential relationship with our brand can mutually benefit both of us. Can we help get the word out on what you are doing? How can we be a part of your project in a way that gets our products and your support of them in front of a broader audience?

Helpful Tips:

· You will need a press kit, available in print and also as an EPK (Electronic Press Kit – see page 30 of ASCAP Experience Digital #6 to find out how to make a great one). It should be available in a format that you can email or download via your website. Your press kit should provide a brief overview of who you are and any major accomplishments. Consider including some impressive photos that represent your onstage presence and embed links to relevant online content (e.g. Facebook fan page, Instagram, YouTube, etc.). It is highly recommended that you have a dedicated website that includes everything mentioned above as well as audio samples of your playing.

· Be patient and allow time for a response to your endorsement inquiry. You should anticipate a 3-6 week response time as most companies receive hundreds of simultaneous requests just like yours.

· Be realistic with your expectations and open to any opportunity that you may be given. Remember, this is the beginning of a relationship.

Because content sharing is the name of the game right now, remember that if you can produce good content with our products, we’ll share them across our networks (which reach millions of unique people each month). When starting out the relationship, it is also important for you to ask yourself if and how much you are willing to support the company’s goals. If you are using and open to supporting the products that are important to our brand at that moment in time, and willing to say so whenever you can, we are going to be way more interested in working with you.

Want more insights into the art and business of music creation?

Read the latest issue of ASCAP Experience Digital.