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For many of us getting to the place as a musician that gear companies start throwing free gear at you is an elaborate fantasy. We day dream about what our signature guitars would look like and all the pretty little lights flashing on your well earned pedalboard. Unfortunately many of us get a little too excited at our personal successes and assume that we’re ready for that fantasy endorsement deal way before we have earned it. Here are a list of “NO-NOs” and insights that we have picked up via our friendships within the Guitar Gear industry.
#1. YOU HAVE TO HAVE AN AUDIENCE
Being a really good player is not enough. Being the very best player isn’t even enough. YOU HAVE TO HAVE AN AUDIENCE. Sponsorships and endorsements exist to market products to new audiences. You need to have influence over enough fans and followers that your use of a product will result in purchases. Your endorsement needs to not only replace the loss the builder takes giving you that gear, but also earn the builder profit by moving a considerable amount of additional product.
#2. PLAYING AT CHURCH ISN’T ENOUGH
You play in church? That’s Great! You play in a BIG church? Even better! Multiple services? WOW! Still, it’s really just not what the vast majority of builders are looking for from an endorsement prospect. Endorsement and sponsorship is all about what you can do to help get the product into public eye so that other people will want to buy it. You might be playing for thousands every week at church, but how many of those thousands are guitarists? How many of those guitarists buy gear on a regular basis? Now subtract the ones that are already in your circle of friends and what’s left is not very many, is it? When you consider that you are playing to the same thousand(s) of people every week and very few of them can even see your pedal board, let alone your amp (hidden somewhere backstage) your influence diminishes. Then, when you consider how many other churches there are the same size as yours or bigger with the same kind of audience, unless you have a buying influence that extends to many, many churches (like, a national scale) you just aren’t going to be attractive to the vast majority of builders. You can still be proud of your accomplishments as a musician, but you probably aren’t the player a builder wants to endorse. You’re the person they are targeting.
#3. ALL THE BUILDERS KNOW EACH OTHER
And they talk ALL THE TIME. The guitar gear industry is the friendliest I have ever seen in my entire life. Builders an outsider would assume are mortal enemies are actually best buds. Heck, some of them do favors and work for each other! So when you copy/paste your form email to all the builders you can think of in the same week, they are all talking about you, and not in a good way. They are probably sick of you because you are taking away from their precious time trying to scratch out a living when they have to do research figuring out if you actually are some hot new player everyone but them knows about. Long story short, this kind of mass emailing/begging flat out does not work and you are only closing the door to any possible chance of a future endorsement.
#4. BUILD YOUR OWN BRAND
These days it seems like everyone with a smart phone and an idea thinks they can be a YouTuber. Maybe you’re one of them. SO DO IT. Builders aren’t interested in helping you start your YouTube channel. I’ve talked to a few people about this idea and my answer is always the same. If you want to show builders that you have influence, start by influencing people to show interest in the gear you already own. There’s nothing sadder than the guy who emails a builder asking for a freebie because their upcoming social media excursion is going to be a smashing success when they haven’t even bothered to figure out how to use that social media platform effectively. You are a musician. You already own gear. You don’t need free stuff to establish your presence. You already have plenty of gear for brand building.
#5. SUPPORT THE COMPANIES YOU WANT STUFF FROM
This is a big deal for builders. They want to know that you (a player with influence) are already buying, using, and LOVING their product. I know what you are asking yourself, “But I want to be GIVEN the gear, I already know that I like it because I want it”. Wanting it is not the same as liking it, let alone loving it. What if a builder does give you gear and then you discover that you don’t like it and you don’t use it? Why would a builder ever take the risk of sponsoring someone who has zero experience with their product? It makes little sense unless you are some kind of superstar.
#6. BE A SUPERSTAR
Seriously, this is your best chance. Get stupid famous and I’m sure whatever you want will just fall into your lap at your slightest whim. Of course, you know what most superstar guitarists don’t spend time thinking about? GEAR. They spend all their time thinking about their music (and their new yacht), not their gear, which is what you need to do if you want to become a superstar! (Just kidding, no amount of hard work will make you famous. It’s all a big scam/game of chance.)
#7. NOTHING IS FREE
As a demo guy, yes, gear is sent to me that I don’t pay for. In fact, I’m paid on top of receiving the product. I work my tail off making sure the builder gets as much value out of my work as possible. I try my darnedest to inform my audience of the ins and outs of each product with the hopes it will push them over the edge into an informed purchase of gear they will really love. If you do receive gear from a builder, that transaction is not over the moment you receive the guitar, amp, pedal, cable, etc. You are now expected to help represent that product in a way that influences so many people to buy that product that the builder is satisfied with their investment in your audience. Endorsements and sponsorships ARE REAL, and builders use them as a marketing strategy. If you get one, you worked really really hard to get to that place in your life and you aren’t sending emails begging for endorsements; the builders might even be the ones emailing you.