The Myth of Endorsements - Part 4

Changing Endorsements

It's interesting to see how much hostility there is online, in various drum forums, when an artist changes endorsements. I can't believe the comments, which range from anger, to mocking. It's really not fair to judge anyone from afar on their changing endorsements. I'm sure that all drummers have changed brands of heads/sticks/drums/cymbals/etc. at sometime during their career. And behind those changes were probably hundreds of reasons for the changes.  As all of you probably know, drums/cymbals/sticks are very personal choices. You develop a relationship with the gear you use. But sometimes, you just want/need a change. Why do you play what you play? 

Why Do Artists Change Endorsements?

I could probably write a list that would quickly become a vast dissertation on the various reasons for change, but I'll just look at the major ones here. Drummers have various reasons for changing endorsements. As a writer, I’ve interviewed a lot of drummers and have asked them why they changed brands. It rarely came down to money/free gear.  Reasons drummers changed:

  1. Better service while on tour. This is a BIG one. If you are a drummer who travels a lot, having the right drums provided for you, so you don't have to bring your own drums, is important. Sometimes a drummer just can't get the level of product service they need while touring. It's no fun going over to Europe and not having the proper drums provided. So a drummer might change brands because they can get better service from another company.
  2. Maybe they just discovered a different sound that appeals them. Change can be good. Change can be inspiring. I've talked to enough drummers who said that it came down to them looking for new sounds, new inspiration. Sometimes you just need something different after playing the same thing for a number of years. Or your musical ideas have changed and you are hearing new & different sounds in your head that another brand matches.
  3. More opportunities to do clinics and educational work. Some drummers are big on education, but the company they currently endorse may not have a strong educational presence. Moving to another company can open up teaching possibilities. And this all ties into more public presence, that helps raise your profile; and more financial income, that helps your bottom line.
  4. Maybe the current endorsement just didn’t work out the way they had hoped, so they changed as soon as their contract was up. This happens. You've probably taken a job or a gig that just didn't fit right, so you quit and got into something different. Endorsements are no different.
  5. They get to help develop product and get their own brand/line. As mentioned in part 1 of this series, some drummers are also inventors/designers. If a company wants to work with you, develop your ideas, and put them into production, why wouldn't you want to work with them? Besides, there's financial reward in having your own products.
  6. The main guy they worked with at their endorsing company moved to another one, so they went with him because of the personal relationship they have. You've seen examples of this before, like when Armand Zildjian died. Lennie DiMuzio was Armand's right hand man for years. He also personally took care of many of Zildjian's top endorsers. After Armand died, he went to work with SABIAN as an artist representative. Shortly after that, lifelong Zildjian endorser, Neil Peart of RUSH, changed to SABIAN cymbals. Coincidence? I don't think so. Neil and Lennie have a very long and close working relationship, so it was natural for him to stay with Lennie. An added benefit was being able to help design his own signature PARAGON cymbal line. There could also be a management change that creates a different vibe at the company, or changes the artist's endorsement agreement. When there's some sort of management change at a company we often see endorsers both come and go. For example, when Takashi "Hagi" Hagiwara retired from Yamaha drums, a number of top endorsers (some very long time ones) jumped to different drum brands. Hagi was the genius behind Yamaha product development and artist relations for almost 40 years. He also had a personal relationship with many Yamaha endorsers that was impossible to replace.
  7. Someone at the company they endorsed either pissed them off or embarrassed them. Yeah, it might seem trivial, but we're talking about personal relationships here. I know a few drummers who left a company because of something negative said that hurt their relationship with the endorsing company. It's like a divorce. It happens.
  8. They and/or their music has changed/grown/matured, and they want something else with a different sound/vibe. This one is a bit more esoteric, but sometimes something just changes, and you want something else. Drummers have told me things like, I was hearing different sounds, or, the vibe changed, or, I was too comfortable and wanted to shake things up a bit. We all all like change, sometimes just for the sake of change, for something new and fresh.
  9. Free gear and/or money. OK, that still happens, but not like it did in the glory days of rock or jazz. In the old days, companies literally asked endorsers, "What do you want?" And then sent them tons of gear. Companies still give away gear, but not like then. And face it, what kind of product spokesperson is an artist who uses the gear just because it's free, or they get paid? Companies would much rather have artists who use their products because they really like them. And the public often knows better.

Yeah, there are a few professional brand hoppers out there, who seem to go from endorsement to endorsement. We all know who they are, and so do the companies. So their endorsement credibility is a bit suspect. We've also heard stories about drummers endorsing one brand, but actually playing another brand, like in the studio where they won't be seen. But that sort of thing is rare. Drummers will use non-endorsement gear, especially in the studio, if it gets the sound they are after for a particular track. Snare drums are a great example. Most drummers have an arsenal of snares from various manufacturers. And then there is the inevitable rental backline gear that they have to play on that is a different brand. I'm sure you've seen the logo for the company someone endorses on the bass drum head of a different brand kit. It happens.

99% of the time drummers have very valid reasons for changing endorsements. So the next time you see that someone changes an endorsement, even after a short time with a new company, don't judge them. You don't know the whole story. Besides, it's not your life. And it probably doesn't personally affect you. 

We all go through changes throughout our lives: jobs, relationships, favorite things, etc. Changing drumming gear brands and endorsements is no different. In the end, there is no magic way to get an endorsement, and no reason to stay with one brand forever. Oh, and not everyone should have an endorsement. If you can't honestly say you would be happy to be locked into playing one brand of gear, but would rather play anything you want, then an endorsement is NOT for you.

Well, that ends this series on endorsements. I could've written a lot more, but this should be enough to answer most questions. If you want to learn more, talk to both endorsing drummers, and company reps about their endorsments. Many companies have information on their web sites.

~ MB


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