Being an owner myself, but also knowing so many builders I’ve been in and seen many conversations on this topic. Typically, from the builders point of view this can be very annoying for them. I thought I would put a small PSA on some things to NOT do when asking for free gear from builders out there. You’d think they’d be obvious, but they’re not.
So here is the scenario – You’re in a band or in a some type of musical project. At some point, the idea crosses your mind, that you’d like to get ‘sponsored’ or ‘endorsed’ and getting gear for your hard work. It’s often times a good initial step from amateur to semi-pro status. Or you’re looking to get support for gear that you go through – ie: strings, drum sticks, etc.
When you want something (for nothing) you need to also look at things from the other side. Why would anyone give you anything for free? As a small business owner, EVERYTHING is tight and you’re just trying to make ends meet, so the thought of you asking can be annoying or insulting – especially since they might know nothing about you. Sure, if you’re a big name they’d love to get you something for exposure,
So I wanted to break down some things if you’re thinking about doing this.
Generic / Template / Form Message
This is the worst. Basically, you’ve written a long email talking about your band and that you’re ‘seeking’ endorsement. Which is obvious that you’ve blasted every builder out there, with little effort on your end. Basically, and simply – spam. You can smell these a mile away. Do not do this. If you’re a fan of a builder, let them know. Talk about their products, and why you’re interested. Be specific. Be direct. Do not make your email too long.
In the attempt of getting endorsements, you might want to talk yourself up. Don’t brag, because.. it sounds like bragging. I’ve received messages like this, like they’re so and so, and were featured in something, played at some festival, you know.. the next big thing. But I take 5 seconds to check out their social media and see 142 likes on Facebook, and 15 followers on Instagram. You can describe some of your milestones without coming off like bragging. Think like you’re at the bar and are talking to someone, do you talk your band up like that?
Avoid saying things like this – “Are you endorsing artists? I may be interested.” You may be interested? “Are you giving away free stuff, I may be interested” is how that is translated. Easy ‘no’. Or no reply.
This topic is interesting and can be a catch-22 situation. Basically, why would anyone give you anything? The builder gives away gear to get value. Obviously not monetary, but some type of value in return. A well known artist using gear is a feather they can put in their cap. It’s a statement that they can say hey John Mayer uses our pedals. That in return has value in multiple ways. What value can you offer? Saying things like, I’ll use your pedal at every show, or we’ll hand out your stickers on tour, etc.. has pretty low value. Saying you’ll add a logo on your show flyers.. is low value. Saying you’ll show a banner at your shows with the builders logo.. is low value. Why? Because how can the builder verify that? Just take your word? They’re giving you hundreds of dollars of stuff on you saying this and most importantly, the ROI on these types of advertising is pretty low. So what can you do? Depending on how popular you are, your social presence might be good, and that might be of value to the builder. Posting what you got and representing the builder on social media with tags and backlinks is verifiable and can help boost the builders’ social presence. Working with the builder to help promote their posts has value. You really need to put your feet in the builders shoes. If you can’t add value – don’t ask. It will come as you become more popular and your reach grows.
Take the discount
Some builders can’t afford offering a full artist endorsement, but some builders can offer an artist discount. Think of it as tiers in their endorsement program. You might not qualify for free stuff, but you might get in on the entry level, which is a discount. If you like the builder, and that was your goal was to reach out to this builder, and they offer a discount – take it. This is a great way to be mutual beneficial. You get a discount. The builders isn’t giving it away free. Hopefully, you still are offering value and helping with their efforts. What happens now, is that you’re establishing a relationship with that builder. If you work it, you may reach a higher level down the road, but at the very least, you saved some bucks.
I think the final thought I want to leave you with, to stress upon, is to put yourself in the builders’ shoes. Ask yourself – “Why would they give me anything?” If you can answer that, then ask away. Don’t brag. Be short since time is valuable. Try to establish a connection and the goal is to develop a relationship. Offer value. Offer value.. and offer value. You’ll get a lot of rejections. A lot of builders have a strict no endorsement policy – because I’ve seen it personally, people almost act ‘entitled’ some how – and that turns off a lot of builders.
It’s interesting, the big artists gets piles of free stuff – that they might not even look at, let alone play (the exact opposite situation described above), while a medium level / semi-pro musician would play that gear lovingly, and struggle to get an opportunity for an endorsement. But that’s how the biz goes.
I know I’m leaving a lot of other valid points, I’m hoping a few builders will read this and chime in with a comment or two.