The Myth of Endorsements - Part 1


Would you like FREE DRUMS!!! 
Do you want to be FAMOUS??? 
How would you like to be in all the DRUM MAGAZINES??? 
Well, all you need is a DRUM ENDORSEMENT!!!!!

Well, not quite. But there is so much misunderstanding about product endorsements out there. Do you really know what an endorsement is and what it means? Probably not, at least what an endorsement really is. I read about it all the time in drum forums and on the web, "If I had an endorsement, it would be great. Think of all the free stuff I'd get…" Well, not quite again. Let's take a look at endorsements and burst any false bubbles of expectation you may have.

I'm able to look at this from various perspectives:

  1. I currently have, or have had endorsements.
  2. As an interviewer, I've talked to a lot of drummers about their endorsements.
  3. I've worked for various gear manufacturers and have seen how they handle endorsements.
In part 1, I'll look at endorsements from the artist's perspective.

What is an Endorsement?


  Let's look at the definition of endorsement:

en·dorse·ment
enˈdôrsmənt 
noun
An act of giving one's public support to someone or something.
An endorsement is a form of public support or approval. If you give something an endorsement, you're basically saying "I approve of this product."

So basically you are saying, "I like this drum/cymbal/etc. and give my approval to it over other similar items." But why would a drummer want an endorsement? There are a lot of different reasons. Beside really loving the product, let's look at the top ones drummers have told me over the years:

  1. Product support. This is almost always the first thing anyone mentions. If you are a touring drummer, traveling with drums is expensive, especially if you go overseas. Imagine if you could call up a drum/cymbal company, tell them what you need for a tour, then get off the plane and there is your set up ready to go. Or what if you are in New York and have to fly to Los Angeles to play 1 gig, then back to New York. How great would it be to not have to bring any gear? What if something breaks while on tour. Wouldn't be nice to be able to get replacement gear no matter where you were? Service and support is invaluable to a working musician.
  2. Educational Opportunities. Some drummers are really into teaching and clinics. Some gear companies are really into that too. So it helps both parties to work together. And let's face it, clinics/teaching/instructional videos are also lucrative for the money, and the publicity. Back in 1973, I was able to hang out with the late Ed Shaughnessy for a couple of shows he did with Doc Severinsen. Ed was a long time Rogers endorser who had just switched to the then new, Pearl Drums. I ask him why he switched. His answer was something like this, "They're both good drums, but Pearl offered me a guarantee of at least 20 drum clinics a year at $500 each." That's $10,000, which was even more money 40 years ago. Ed loved to teach, and this helped his income a lot. Who could blame him for taking a better business opportunity?
  3. Personal Relationships. Despite what you might think, the music industry is actually pretty small compared to other industries. Many of the companies are still family owned, and all of them tend to have a family atmosphere. So you hear a lot of talk about an artist being a part of the family. Musicians like personal relationships. They like to know the people they are working with, and often hang out with them in their spare time. Many companies have parties, golf outings, and various hangs. Having a personal relationship with the people at the company you endorse also improves all the other aspects, like service, etc.
  4. Product Development. Drummers are inventive sorts and often have a lot of ideas about improving their gear, or creating new stuff. The companies like feedback on their products and want to know how it works and lasts on tour. Some drummers are also designers and want to help develop new gear. This can even lead to Signature products, which adds to your public profile, and can even add to your bottom line in the form of a small percentage from the sale of each signature item.
  5. Publicity. As a working musician staying in the public eye keeps people aware of your existence, and ultimately helps sell more recordings, concert tickets and books/DVDs. So endorsing a product and being splashed about in all the music magazines in their ads is great publicity (and business, as well as a healthy stroke for the ego.)
  6. Free or Discounted Gear. As a drummer, most of our gear is a consumable—it wears out over time, even drums. Just imagine how many heads/sticks/mallets you may go through in a career. Replacing all that is costly. But what if you can get everything at a deep discount, or even free? That helps the old bottom line at the end of each year. In the past, companies often gave out free gear like candy. Any endorser could get some free stuff. Today, costs are higher and profit margins are tighter. Yes, some of the really big names still get free stuff, but more often endorsing artists get deep discounts, usually at cost or less, on the gear that they use. This is great for the musicians, but it also helps the companies, because they want their artists to be seen out there with the latest gear. Companies routinely have different endorsement levels. Obviously a drummer in a major touring/recording band would be at the top level and receive free gear and/or bigger discounts, as well as more extended service. A drummer in a regional or local band would receive a smaller discount on gear, and perhaps limited support.

Endorsements are usually exclusive, in that you can't endorse say, 2 different drum brands at the same time, as that would be confusing. "Well, which drum do they really like?" They may also come with various timeframes or be open ended.

In Part 2, I'll look at things from the manufacturer's perspective. The discussion is now open…

~ MB


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