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What's an Endorsement
(and how do I get 'em)?

©1997, Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz, updated 1/21/02

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WHAT IS THE BENEFIT TO THE MANUFACTURER?

Essentially, it is the promise of increased sales. Don't forget, musical manufacturers are in business to sell their products or services and, like any smart business, generating revenue is a prime objective.

WHAT DOES THE MANUFACTURER EXPECT FROM THE ENDORSER?

Since the manufacturer seeks exposure via the endorser, the endorser is expected to be seen using, and/or pictured with, the product. Sometimes clinics are arranged so that the endorser can help spread the word on a more personal level. For endorsers who do recordings, a 'thank you' or mention in the liner notes is customary. Traveling endorsers may be asked to accommodate manufacturer employees or representatives at performances. The endorser may be asked for R&D (research and development) input on the manufacturer's products. Schedules permitting, the endorser may be asked to demonstrate and represent the manufacturer's product at trade shows or conventions such as NAMM and PASIC. And of course, the endorser is generally expected to say nice things about the product and manufacturer.

DOES A MANUFACTURER EVER APPROACH A DRUMMER FOR AN ENDORSEMENT?

Yes. If the manufacturer determines that the drummer will benefit the marketing strategy, they will seek an endorsement.

CAN AN UNKNOWN DRUMMER GET AN ENDORSEMENT AGREEMENT?

Sometimes a manufacturer will sign a drummer who they believe has the potential for exposure. Some manufacturers have special programs aimed at non-professionals, examples of which are Pro-Mark's "Not Yet Famous Drummers" promotion from the early '90s, and DW's "Young Artist" program launched in 2000. The marketing angle is the same either way - the manufacturer wants the up-and-coming drummers to get where they're going while using their product.

DOES BEING TALENTED GUARANTEE AN ENDORSEMENT?

It certainly doesn't hurt to be an accomplished drummer, but the manufacturer's criteria will always be "Do our target buyers know who this drummer or his band is, and will they buy our products as a result?" Remember, it's really not the job of the manufacturer to promote the drummer... the drummer must usually possess some name recognition in order to initiate the endorsement. Conversely, an average player may be a prime candidate for an endorsement if he has visibility (read: marketing value) because of his artist affiliation.

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ENDORSEMENT AND SPONSORSHIP?

These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they definitely have different meanings. Sponsorship usually means the financial backing and/or additional promotion of the endorsing drummer, in connection with the promotion of the product. Full-time clinicians fall into that category, as do child prodigy drummers who are seen on TV behind drums & cymbals with the manufacturers' logos.

An endorsement differs in that it is generally not approached by the manufacturer quite as aggressively as a sponsorship.

HOW DOES ONE APPROACH A MANUFACTURER?

A letter or phone call to the artist relations person at the company will get the ball rolling. They will probably require a promo package, and then determine if the drummer can offer the kind of exposure that will help promote their product. Rejection letters are common, as are "B level" endorsements which may offer only a moderate discount on product. The choice is the manufacturer's when it comes to how they handle their marketing, and it's just not possible for them to enter into agreements with every drummer who asks.

WHAT SHOULD I INCLUDE IN MY PROMO PACKAGE?

First, a brief letter of introduction to let the company know a little about yourself. It's important to emphasize that you have good exposure to other players, so include a resumé and especially a list of upcoming performances. A photo or two is important, just so they can see who's talking to them. If you have CDs you've performed on, it's a good idea to send one or two so that the company is comfortable with who you say you are. But, resist the urge to send any other demos of your playing. Frankly, the companies aren't as interested in how well you play, as how well you'll reach their target buyers.

Once you've submitted your package, unless you hear back sooner, allow 3 to 4 weeks before you follow up with a phone call just to verify that they received it. However, don't attempt to pressure them for a response or decision. Remember that the companies are especially busy prior to the two NAMM shows each year, and PASIC, and possibly also the huge music show in Germany in the Spring. Consider the timing and understand that lack of a reply may just be because they're busy at the moment.

ARE ENDORSEMENTS FOREVER?

Sometimes the specifications or quality of a product change and it no longer meets the drummer's needs; or, the drummer discovers a preferable brand; or, the manufacturer ceases production of the endorsed product, or goes out of business. Barring satisfactory resolution with the "current" manufacturer, these are among the valid reasons to discontinue endorsing a particular product or brand. The manufacturer also has the right to terminate the agreement if the endorser violates the terms of the endorsement agreement, or if it is determined that the endorser no longer possesses suitable promotional value.

BERMUDA'S RECOMMENDATIONS:

Seek to endorse only those products that you would use even without an agreement. Avoid being one of those drummers who takes whatever they can grab, whether they like or intend to even use the product. Your credibility as a spokesperson is important, especially once you seek to endorse additional products and manufacturers. Reputations and relationships possess tremendous value, and nobody will tolerate an endorsement-hopping "drum whore".

In certain broadcast or performance situations, it is not always possible to use the endorsed product. When that happens, you should certainly not be seen using the competitor's product! Mask the competitor's name so it is not visible. In the studio, it is common to use various brands of cymbals and snares. Avoid being pictured with a non- endorsed brand, and don't make the mistake of thanking non-endorsed competing manufacturers in the liner notes! Endorsement agreements are almost always exclusive, and your credibility and contract could both be lost.

In addition to being a business arrangement, the relationship between you and the manufacturer is also important on a personal level. Never whine about how you're not pictured in the latest ad, don't make excessive product requests or other demands, and respect the people who are accommodating you. In this business, it's the nice guys who finish first.


Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz has been the drummer with "Weird Al" Yankovic since 1980, and is seen and heard on all of Weird Al's albums, videos, and concert and television performances. Bermuda endorses, and has enjoyed long-term relationships with, the following manufacturers: DW (pedals), Evans (heads), Impact (drums and cases), Kurzweil (electronics), Mainline (sticks), Rhythm Tech (percussion), and Sabian (cymbals).

 

 

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