Different Levels of Sponsorship and Endorsement Opportunities in the Music Business

By Loren Weisman

There is no such thing as just a single sponsorship or endorsement level in the music business. They all have a wide array of levels and options. Different companies offer different options. Having this understanding enables you to come to a conversation that much more educated and prepared to discuss options as well as how to negotiate deals and opportunities in the moment and for the long term.

Starting-out discounts

In some ways the Fisher Price endorsement (otherwise known as your first opportunity) builds a foundation for a long-term relationship with bigger options. Showing humility and an understanding as you start with your approach by asking for the starter discounts over requesting more highlights you as someone that people will want to work with, sponsor, and endorse.

For-cost deals

For-cost deals are the ground-floor entry-level endorsements. They enable you to make purchases at the “for cost” price. This means you get the items at the cost the dealer pays without any profit markup and gives you a shot while not costing the endorser any money. Think of it as breaking even for the endorser. Some companies give you for-cost but ask for you to pay shipping.

Don’t get cocky; do this. You’re in on the ground floor and getting the chance to build a reputation, a relationship, and a real future with that product, company, or organization.

10 to 25 percent endorsement — and act now for free shipping

With this starting-out discount, you bypass cost, get a small discount off the price, and also the shipping fee is covered. This is one of those courting-type endorsements and is something to take seriously. Make sure you’re marketing, promoting, and showing the endorser how you appreciate it through the way you spread the promotion, marketing, and love.

Promoting a starting-level and starting-discount endorsement is about the endorsing company and not about the fact that you have an endorsement. Bragging to your fan base that you’re endorsing a product or a company isn’t good marketing. Posting content about the product, why you like it, how it helps you, and how everyone should get it is good marketing, good content, and exactly what your endorser wants to see.

Mid-level deals

Whether mid-level deals are offered in initial meetings or you work your way up to them from the smaller levels, these are where you get half off and usually get the shipping for free as well. This is also the point where you may get a few free items to see how things work, but no promises or guarantees for additional support, help, or assistance.

Fifty percent off

Half off is twice as cool, but just as you want to shine with your promotion of a product through online content, events, and everywhere else, make sure you have a reminder and a checklist to promote the gear, company, or sponsor that’s supporting you.

Lolly! Lolly! Lolly! Get your free gear here . . . or at least some free gear

Some companies, usually with smaller items, take a chance on an artist and give them a free product or a set of free products like a box of strings or a brick of drum sticks. As they do this, just like all the other levels before and after, they have an eye on you and what you do with the products. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to promote them.

At this level, as you may be building sponsorship and endorsement connections with numerous companies, realize that they contact each other. Be that artist or band that builds up and has good references across the board from the smallest sponsorships to the largest-scale endorsements.

Top-notch and full-backing situations

The full ride and backing support endorsements are the highest levels you can get. These include a mixture of all the gear you need within reason as well as support for when things break down. These types of endorsements are for the highest-profile artists who enable the highest profiles of those products.

It’s not a good idea to approach companies for this kind of support right off the bat. Not only are they going to say no, but it hurts your chances further down the line if you ask again.

Full-ride endorsements

Most top-level endorsements enable the artist to get an allotted amount of items for free as well as a certain backup of those items available upon request. These endorsers also tend to be clinicians as well as musicians who can highlight, promote, and showcase the gear as well as their musical expertise on it.

These also include the biggest touring acts that are seen by thousands of people per night — artists with major financial backing and yes, you guessed it, artists who might not even need the stuff for free.

Backing support

The highest echelon of endorsement support is that backing support for gear that’s needed in a pinch. These are the musicians who break a cymbal and are able to have a cymbal dropped off from a local music store or FedEx’d out to the next show. Again, this is reserved for the highest-profile artists who allow for the most exposure and sale of a product.

Understand that in the music industry there are few people who are paid to play and use certain brands. It did occur at one point in time, but it’s a thing of the past. Asking what a company plans to pay you to use their brand is not a good idea. Avoid that question at all costs!

With a clear understanding of the different levels as well as knowing what is expected of you, you’re ready to either solicit for an endorsement or sponsorship, or cool your jets and get a few more things ready before you pitch.

Your delivery is everything as you begin to search out sponsorships and endorsements.