Endorsement can be an effective way for bands to get resourcing, exposure and enhance their profile, reputation and image, as well as to be supplied with promotional products and kit, sometimes at a discount, or sometimes being loaned or even given stuff for free.
There are no cast-iron rules about which artists are most likely to be considered for endorsement deals. Different companies have different criteria. However, as with so many relationships and partnerships in the music business, both parties should benefit from them, so think what value you as an artist/band can offer a company as well as what you can gain from them.
Visibility is a big factor. A band is more likely to be considered if they’re seen to be on the up and up, have a good image, or later in their career cycle an established rep and fame. It helps if the artists’ image and style of music complements with the brand and its image.
N.B. It’s a two-way relationship, which should benefit both parties, and not just be treated as a source of freebies for the band!
Endorsement deals can be made at various levels of an artist’s or band’s career cycle. For example, new and rising acts who’ve gotten noticed and perhaps built a profile at national level, might be given a generous discount on equipment/instruments, with maybe permission to use the logo on their website or social media.
At the other end of the scale, you’ll find major musical stars who endorse and promote a wide range of products, in various ways. As we go to press, for instance, Metallica have launched their own liquor: Blackened American Whiskey. The product is named for the eight-minute-long track ‘Blackened’ on the band's fourth studio album ‘...And Justice for All’, whilst the booze itself is a blend of American bourbon, rye, and whiskey, that’s been aged by music, notably by Metallica’s music played through subwoofers during the aging process!
Now whilst this rather colourful particular new story shows Metallica using their clout to promote a product of their own, rather than endorsing an existing brand, it does show that bands’ reps can be used to leverage value for products and brands. And companies often want to take advantage of that, to aid their marketing.To get perspective and for expert insight, advice and tips, I’ll be interviewing two industry insiders. Our experts on this topic are Paul Stanley, creator and director at Cloven Hoof Rum and Neil Mitchell, Artist Relations at Orange Amps.
These experts represent different aspects of endorsement:
- Cloven Hoof Rum produce and market spiced rum, and have endorsement deals with some 30 bands. They support the bands, supply product and promotional materials (like T-shirts, logos etc.)
- Orange Amps run an Orange Ambassadors programme and look for bands to endorse and showcase the quality of their product in the bands’ performances, touring, and media. They include groups like Grateful Dead, Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown, and Marcus King Band amongst their ambassadors. Interviews with their Ambassadors can be read at the company’s website https://orangeamps.com.
Cloven Hoof describe themselves as “an odd blend of creative Sussex folks, who truly love rum and drinking it with our mates.” Cloven Hoof Spiced Rum was launched in Oct 2016, establishing itself as one of the fastest-growing spiced rums in the UK.
What Cloven Hoof market is a quality blend of dark and lighter rums. They describe their flagship product as “a curious blend of a dark rum from Guyana’s Diamond Distillery… and a lighter rum from Trinidad Distillers Limited, where they use locally-produced caramel to give this deep rum its distinctive flavour.” To this, they add a mix of natural spices.
The company is proud of their product and as part of their marketing strategy have looked to endorsement to promote product, brand and image. Check out the bands they endorse at https://www.clovenhoofrum.com/category/endorsements.
Thanks for talking to us at WaterBear, Paul. How many bands do you endorse and who finds whom? Do you go looking for bands, or do they approach you?
Paul: “We endorse nearly 30 rock bands and they tend to approach us first, because they like the rum, the brand and what we are about. Often we’ve already heard of them, and if we like the music, what the band stand for - and crucially if we think that they are grafters - then we’ll do our bit to help."
“We get several requests each week from bands asking to be endorsed and we have to say no to the vast majority, otherwise we’d have too many to handle. "
How do bands contact you, and are there any tactics that are more likely to get your attention and interest?
Paul: “Most bands approach us via a generic email or message through Facebook, and that’s the end of things straightaway. You’d be surprised how many lack a bit of creativity with their approach."
“The bands that are successful connect with the brand and are a bit maverick in their approach, so there’s something we like about them straightaway: that encourages us to move forward."
How do you work out if the band’s right for you?
Paul: “We’ll do our best get to one of their gigs, if we haven’t seen them already; it’s a must to check out the band live, meet them face to face and make sure we like their attitude. Then we’ll look at the numbers and see how many followers they’ve amassed and what sort of hits they are getting when they post a video, etc."
So where does it go from there?
“After that it’s all quite informal and nothing is set in stone. We throw some rum at the band, some t-shirts and other kit. We’ll share social media posts, announce their tours and introduce contacts we’ve made at festivals, radio stations, magazines and other industry-related bods.
“Some bands ask for the odd bit of advice and it’s nice to be a sounding board. Two of the Cloven Hoof crew are actually GPs and we’ve helped treat a few sore throats and dodgy ears too! We also get the odd say in the line-up at several of the festivals we sponsor.
“In return, the bands really help spread the Cloven Hoof word, wear Tees, slap our logo on posters and tag us in on socials. It’s like having an army of Hoofers on the road, all shouting out! Most bands are great and it’s a normally a two-way relationship, but we do get the odd band who promise the world just to blag some free rum, and if that happens, things fizzle out pretty quickly.”
How effective are endorsement relationships with bands, from your point of view?
Paul: “We’ve got some great success stories now: Ryders Creed, who are seriously starting to shake things up, were one of the first bands we endorsed; both parties are in it for the journey, they even wrote a belter of new song called ‘Raise The Hoof’ on their new album! Other great bands like Massive Wagons rep the Hoof as best they can, so we do a bit more for them on social media and even ran a pop-up Hoof bar at their Lancaster library gig.
“Bands also secure stockists for us and get us stocked behind the bar when they are on tour: Nikki Smash, of Rocket Dolls fame, is a fine example of this!
“When we released our new 66.6% Over Hoof rum back in April, we packed out The Frog ‘n’ Fiddle in Cheltenham and all the bands we asked to play jumped at the chance: Aaron Buchanan, Gin Annie, Wicked Stone, The Outlaw Orchestra and Black Cat Bones – it’s fair to say that every band we endorse said they would have played if they’d been available that night - which just shows the relationship really works.
Are you interested in any other avenues and connections for endorsement?Paul: “We’ve just started some Crowdfunding though Crowdcube. It’s heart-warming to see how many of the bands we endorse have put their hard-earned cash where their mouth is and invested to become real shareholders in Cloven Hoof!
“We are proud to support the British rock scene and do our bit to help bands on the up. Let’s RAISE THE HOOF!”
That’s great. Cheers! Thanks for talking to us and passing on your experience and advice!
Now we turn to another side of endorsement, where an equipment or instrument manufacturer takes on band to endorse and promote their products and brand. Our expert here is Neil Mitchell, Artist Relations at Orange Amps.
Hi Neil. Thanks for talking to us about endorsement and offering Orange Amps’ perspective and advice. To start off, can you talk us through what you offer bands and what you expect in return?
Neil: “The four corners of our Ambassadors programme are:
- Special Pricing on Purchases
- Backline Support (mainly for overseas touring)
- Priority Tech Support
- Cross-Promotional and Content-Sharing Opportunities
“Honestly, we don’t publish minimum requirements for becoming an Orange Ambassador because we don’t have minimum requirements. What we look for are artists who are enthusiastic about supporting our brand. Our desire is to create mutually-beneficial relationships, give-and-take relationships where both parties are endeavouring to support one another.
“We do ask that, wherever possible, our Ambassadors refer to us as a company in social media, use our products on stage and supply us with content such as photos, interviews, videos and testimonials.
“Every relationship is as unique as the band we work with, so the things I’ve listed above are the minimum we’ll offer. There are loads of other things we can help with or opportunities we may be able to offer it just depends on the situation. We encourage bands to bring ideas to us too – treat us as a blank palette. If the idea is a bit much, we’ll say so.”
So, how do you find the bands and choose them?
Neil: “Frankly, in all kinds of ways.
“Often, bands actually approach us, particularly if they’ve been using our gear already. We may see a band at a gig and think they’re cool. Sometimes, we’ll approach bands and see if they’re interested in working with us, particularly if we feel one of our products would be a really good match for them.
“One of the most common ways is that we receive an application through our website; we get hundreds of applications every week and we genuinely look at each one and judge them on their merits.
“We always respond to every application too. So if you’ve applied and haven’t heard back from us, don’t be upset, we may just not have had a chance to review your application.
“It’s really hard to say what makes us say yes to an application. It could be a combination of things or it could be that we just think you’re awesome and want to work with you.”
Do you have a set amount of bands you work with?
Neil: “Nope. If we think a band is cool, we’ll work with them and give them as much of our time and support as we can. We can’t promise to keep you out of the cells if you go full-on rock star though!”
Tips for bands approaching you?
Neil: “Remember that we’re not endorsing you – you’re endorsing us! Endorsement deals have to make commercial sense; whilst we love to support new music and up and coming bands, we’re in the business of selling amps. If you’re not in a position to help us do that, it’s unlikely that we’ll offer you a deal.”
In a nutshell, what would you say are the dos and don’ts for bands looking for endorsement?
- “Firstly, don’t introduce yourself by asking for free gear. I’m going to say no and you’ll only be disappointed. You’d be amazed at how often we get that as an opening gambit.
- “Do give me as much information about your band as possible. Links to your social media, tour schedules, your plans for the next year. The more information I have, the more I can present to the rest of the team when we’re making decisions.
- “Don’t send me examples of your music that include a 10 minute drum solo. I’m not an Artist and Repertoire man for a music label. I’m an artist relations chap for an amp company. All I care about is the guitar.
- “Do be honest with me. If you happen to love our cabinets but prefer another amp company’s head, say so! It won’t be a deal breaker.
- “Don’t try to friend me on Facebook. If I don’t know you, you’re getting ignored.
- “Do be friendly. You may be the best guitarist on the planet but if you’re rude we just won’t deal with you.”
In summary, endorsement can be mutually beneficial to both artist and brand.
It’s best to avoid cold calling and on-spec unsolicited approaches, or coming across as wanting to blag freebies.
Make sure that you have something to offer the brand you want to endorse: your image, reputation, music and perhaps a fanbase that’s resonant and in harmony with the brand.
Think of what the company is looking for. See it from their perspective, as well as your own. Remember to consider who is endorsing whom in deals, and keep that in mind as the relationship unfolds.
And, as ever, deal with the companies, their representatives and staff in a polite, friendly way. It will help directly with the company, and as noted before in earlier blogs, people talk to people, and between companies!
For further advice, check out The Musicians’ Union page on Merchandising and Endorsement Deals, at https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/Home/Advice/Your-Career/Promotion/Merchandising-and-Endorsement-Deals
N.B. The Musicians’ Union also offer an advisory service for endorsement deals that feature a written contract, and advise that artists check out the deal before signing anything.
Many thanks to Neil Mitchell, Artist Relations at Orange Amps and Paul Stanley, creator and director at Cloven Hoof Rum.