ENDORSEMENT FAQ UPDATED
10/31/11
by Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz
(originally published in Usenet rec.music.makers.percussion, December 27, 1997)

 
WHAT IS AN ENDORSEMENT?
For the purposes of this FAQ, an endorsement is defined as the expressed or implied recommendation by a popular and/or well-respected and/or influential drummer, of a particular manufacturer's product, product line, or service(s).

WHAT IS ITS PURPOSE?
Endorsements are designed to increase product or brand-name awareness (and sales) through the use of a familiar spokesperson.

IS THE DRUMMER THE ENDORSER, OR THE ENDORSEE?
These terms are often used interchangeably. To be accurate, the drummer is the endorser, since it is the drummer who does the "endorsing" of the manufacturer's product. The manufacturer would therefore be considered the endorsee, although that's a seldom-used reference.

WHO CAN GET AN ENDORSEMENT AGREEMENT?
Any drummer who has a good level of exposure to the manufacturer's target buyers, either as a personality or through their own artist affiliation, is a candidate for an endorsement agreement.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO THE ENDORSER?
In exchange for the drummer's endorsement, the drummer can expect "consideration" in the form of discounts on the product endorsed (and possibly on other products from the manufacturer). Based on the level of exposure the drummer can provide, the agreement may include free product, however there is generally a limit to the amount and frequency of such consideration. Other agreements may include exchanging old product for new, and in some instances, product is simply loaned as necessary. High-profile drummers may be compensated in addition to product consideration. The specific product may also govern the consideration. That is, a drummer is more likely to get free sticks from a stick manufacturer, than to get free drums from a drum manufacturer. The amount and type of consideration is usually proportionate to the marketing value of the endorser to the manufacturer.

Another valuable benefit is the "support" offered by the manufacturer. An endorser will enjoy better pricing, and usually faster service than at almost any retail store. This is especially important for the traveling drummer, where needed product may be unavailable in local stores.

The drummer may also have their name and/or photo used in the manufacturer's product literature and advertising campaigns.

Occasionally, the drummer may be involved with R&D (research and development) regarding the manufacturer's products, and may become an integral part of the manufacturing process.

WHAT IS THE BENEFIT TO THE MANUFACTURER?
Ultimately, it is the promise of increased sales. Musical manufacturers are in business to sell their products or services and, like any smart business, generating revenue is a prime objective.

WHAT DOES THE MANUFACTURER EXPECT FROM THE ENDORSER?
Since the manufacturer seeks exposure via the endorser, the endorser is expected to be seen using, and/or pictured with, the product. Sometimes clinics are arranged so that the endorser can help spread the word on a more personal level. For endorsers who do recordings, a 'thank you' or mention in the liner notes is customary. Traveling endorsers may be asked to accommodate manufacturer employees or representatives at performances. The endorser may be asked for R&D (research and development) input on the manufacturer's products. Schedules permitting, the endorser may be asked to demonstrate and represent the manufacturer's product at trade shows or conventions such as NAMM and PASIC. And of course, the endorser is generally expected to say nice things about the product and manufacturer.

DOES A MANUFACTURER EVER APPROACH A DRUMMER FOR THEIR ENDORSEMENT?
Certainly. If the manufacturer determines that a drummer will benefit the marketing strategy, they may seek their endorsement.

CAN AN UNKNOWN DRUMMER GET AN ENDORSEMENT AGREEMENT?
Sometimes a manufacturer will sign a drummer who has (or who they believe has the potential for) good exposure. Some manufacturers also have special programs aimed at non-professionals, examples of which are TRX Cymbals' "Rising Stars" and Trick's "Factory Test Pilot" programs. The marketing angle is the same either way - the manufacturer wants the up-and-coming drummers to get where they're going while using that product.

DOES BEING TALENTED GUARANTEE AN ENDORSEMENT?
It certainly doesn't hurt to be an accomplished drummer, but the manufacturer's main criteria will always be "Do our target buyers know who this drummer or his band is, and will they buy our products as a result?" So, an average player may be a prime candidate for an endorsement if he has visibility (read: marketing value) because of his artist affiliation, whereas another player with fabulous chops may be rejected because nobody knows who they are. It's not the manufacturer's obligation to promote unknown players, even if it's seemingly, potentially to their own benefit.

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ENDORSEMENT AND SPONSORSHIP?
These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they definitely have different meanings. Sponsorship usually means the financial backing and/or additional promotion of the endorsing drummer, in connection with the promotion of the product. Full-time clinicians fall into that category, as do child prodigy drummers who are seen on TV behind drums & cymbals with the manufacturers' logos.

An endorsement differs in that it is generally not approached by the manufacturer quite as aggressively as a sponsorship.

HOW DOES ONE APPROACH A MANUFACTURER?
A letter or phone call to the artist relations person at the company will get the ball rolling. They will probably require a promo package, and then determine if the drummer can offer the kind of exposure that will help promote their product. Rejection letters are common, as are "B level" endorsements which may offer only a moderate discount on product. The choice is the manufacturer's when it comes to how they handle their marketing, and it's just not possible for them to enter into agreements with every drummer who asks.

WHAT SHOULD I INCLUDE IN MY PROMO PACKAGE?
First, a brief letter of introduction to let the company know a little about yourself. It's important to emphasize that you have good exposure to other players, so include a resumé and especially a list of upcoming performances. A photo or two is important, just so they can see who's talking to them. If you have CDs you've performed on, it's a good idea to send one or two so that the company is comfortable with who you say you are. But, resist the urge to send any other demos of your playing. Frankly, the companies aren't as interested in how well you play, as how well you'll reach their target buyers (refer to "being talented" above.)

Once you've submitted your package, unless you hear back sooner, allow 3 to 4 weeks before you follow up with a phone call just to verify that they received it. However, don't attempt to pressure them for a response or decision. Remember that the companies are especially busy prior to (and immediately following) the NAMM shows in January and July, the Frankfurt Musik Messe in March, and PASIC in November. Consider the timing and understand that the lack of a speedy reply may simply be because they're busy at the moment.

ARE ENDORSEMENTS FOREVER?
Sometimes the specifications or quality of a product change and it no longer meets the drummer's needs.... or, the drummer discovers a preferable brand... or, the manufacturer ceases production of the endorsed product, or goes out of business. These are among the acceptable reasons to discontinue endorsing a particular product or brand. The manufacturer also has the right to terminate the agreement if the endorser violates the terms of the endorsement agreement, or if it is determined that the endorser no longer possesses suitable promotional value.

BERMUDA'S RECOMMENDATIONS:
Seek to endorse only those products that you would use even without an agreement. Avoid being one of those drummers who takes whatever they can grab, whether they genuinely like or intend to even use the product. Your credibility as a spokesperson is important, especially as you begin to seek endorsing other products and manufacturers. Nobody will tolerate an endorsement-hopping "drum whore" (sorry, there's just no other term for it.)

In certain broadcast or performance situations, it is not always possible to use the endorsed product. When that happens, you should certainly not be seen using the competitor's product! Mask the competitor's name so it is not visible. In the studio, it is common to use various brands of cymbals and snares. Avoid being pictured with a non-endorsed brand, and don't make the mistake of thanking non-endorsed competing manufacturers in the liner notes! Endorsement agreements are almost always exclusive, and your credibility and contract could both be lost.

In addition to being a business arrangement, the relationship between you and the manufacturer is also important on a personal level. Never whine about how you're not pictured in the latest ad, don't make excessive product requests or other demands, and respect the people who are accommodating you. Your reputation possesses tremendous value. People in competing companies do talk to each other and they often move within the industry, so you will likely encounter someone you've met before who could easily help (or hinder) you in a prospective situation.

So when it comes to the people, the companies, and the products - do the right thing. In this business, it's the nice guys who finish first.

  Example of a simple endorsement agreement

Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz has been the drummer with "Weird Al" Yankovic since 1980, and is seen and heard on all of Weird Al's albums, videos, and concert and television performances. Bermuda currently endorses Ludwig drums, Evans heads, Sabian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, Taye pedals, Impact cases, Rhythm Tech percussion, Kelly Shu microphone mounts, Factory Metal percussion, Qwik Stix accessories, RimRiser accessories and The ButtKicker low-end monitor. Throughout his career, Bermuda has also enjoyed long-term relationships with DW, Meinl, Kurzweil, Duraline, Cappella, Mainline, Remo, Trick, and several other manufacturers.

Visit The Official "Weird Al" Web Site and Bermuda's Resumé for more on Al and Bermuda!