At some point in a musician's career, one starts to ponder the thought of seeking an artist endorsement. This is a very common thought for an aspiring musician, especially taking into consideration all of aspects 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 AR executives 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 for "PRS" here), why PRS? Are you knowledgeable about the product offerings? Are you already playing PRS? Are you willing to enthusiastically promote PRS products socially and publically? Basically, what are you going to do for the company you are endorsing? If you're looking for free gear, you should rethink 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.
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 don't 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!
My advice to a musician seeking an endorsement is to first 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're constantly seeking new artist endorsers to add to our roster who will be influential for our brand. It's common that big-name artists are highly influential, and we invest a lot of our time seeking out artists who have the big 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. We aren't a company that 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 very tough for us. We get hundreds of endorsement inquiries on a monthly basis, and it's extremely time consuming to review the requests, materials, music, etc. If you can answer the "why PRS?" question, you'll be one step further in the right direction of being considered.
So, some questions you should ask yourself before approaching us for an endorsement:
Do you sound good? Are your peers impressed with your skills?
C'mon, let's face it, of course you think you sound good! And you probably think you understand many aspects of music, but this is the time to be completely honest with yourself. What does the public think about your playing? Have you received any media acclaim?
What kind of reputation do you have within the industry? How would you describe yourself as a person?
We aren't solely interested in your influence as a musician, but also how you would describe yourself as a person. Are you a 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, and we can usually get a good feel on a potential endorser just by having a quick chat with our industry peers.
We live in a world of social media. What's your social media presence like?
The old saying of "don't judge a book by its cover" is not applicable here. First impressions are important, and we want to see how you're engaging with others. A strong social media presence is highly recommended. This will most often be the first place we look when trying to determine whether or not to consider extending an endorsement to an artist. Your social media pages should show a sizable influence (i.e., number of followers), but it should also show us that your followers are engaged with you (i.e., ratio of likes/comments/shares per post to total followers). Remember, your goal is to be perceived as influential, and the connections should be meaningful rather than just numbers.
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 consumers. You are an important voice of PRS whether it's through your guitar playing, the tones you're getting from your amps, or a simple verbal/written statement that attests to the quality and reliability of the instruments and/or the PRS brand. We need you to "wave the PRS flag" on and off the stage and let the world know why you play PRS. Think about what projects you have on the table and how a relationship with our brand could mutually benefit both of us. Can we help get the word out on what you are doing? 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? And 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 it across our networks (which reach more than 725,000 unique people per month right now).
When starting out the relationship, it's also important for you to ask yourself if and how much you're willing to support the company's goals. If you're open to supporting the products that are important to our brand at that moment in time, we're going to be way more interested in working with you.
- You will need a press kit. It should be available in print but also as an EPK. Ideally, it should be available in a format that you can email (Sonicbids makes this super easy!) as well as make available for 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 (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.). You should have a dedicated website with an active performance schedule 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 three- to six-week response time, as most companies receive hundreds of simultaneous requests.
- Be realistic with your expectations and open to any opportunity that you may be given. Remember, this is the beginning of a relationship. It's a starting place from which to grow.
Bev Fowler is the director of artist relations for Paul Reed Smith Guitars, a manufacturer of high-end musical instruments and equipment in Stevensville, MD. Bev has worked in a variety of positions with increasing responsibilities within the business since 2002, including executive assistant to the president, event manager, and artist relations. In her current position, Bev's main focus is on expanding and maintaining brand equity within the community of accomplished and emerging artists and musicians.