Ask Damian Erskine: Landing Endorsements
Q: I am in the process of getting endorsements, but I want to know what the most effective way to get it done right the first time. I was at NAMM this year and spoke to a variety of people just to meet and greet, but I didn’t ask for artist endorsements. I have an EPK (pics, vids, recordings, and I’m building a website), but I want it to be stronger so its almost guaranteed to get the one of my preference. Any insights?
A: This is an interesting one. I know a lot of guys who chase endorsements for no other reason than to have them. Honestly, endorsements don’t really do much for you other than secure artist pricing (which is typically wholesale pricing). Companies don’t really do ‘free’ any more unless you’re very high profile. Actually, if you are reasonably present in the music world, many companies will give you professional or artist pricing anyway.
I will say a few things about this though…
1. Many companies don’t even necessarily care how good you are. It’s more about visibility both online and on-stage. If you don’t have any gigs and/or web presence, it’ll be hard to get the endorsements you want. They want you to be seen most nights of the week using their gear (preferably all over the country/world, not just at that bar around the corner). They also want you to have a strong web presence. If there’s a buzz about you, there’s a buzz about your gear (to a certain extent).
2. Only bother endorsing what you really want to play. There are times when a company may make you such a sweet deal that it is more of a business decision than a tonal decision. An example might be a company that has back-line support all over the world, if you travel a lot (especially flying gigs). Or your second tier company offers you free stuff while your first tier company is expensive.
I personally have decided to stick to what I’d prefer to play. I did very recently switch one of my companies for one I used to endorse years ago. This was primarily because I prefer the family vibe of this company in addition to global back-line support and I just plain love their gear. I’ll let you figure out who once it’s official and reflected online.
3. Don’t be a gear whore and try to accumulate endorsements like Scrooge hoarding his gold. It doesn’t really mean anything and will eventually reflect poorly on you. Also, don’t exaggerate your resume or try and pit companies against each other or nag companies. These guys get assaulted daily by guys asking for gear. (I’m amazed by some of the emails I’ve seen shared by friends of mine at various companies).
I heard Andrew Gouche respond to a brazen bass player who declared, “You should give me one of those basses, man” (I couldn’t believe the nads on this guy). Gooch said it best, “I give to the needy, not the greedy!”
If you’ve paid your dues and are working hard, playing hard and take what you do seriously, the endorsements will come! NAMM is a great place to form real relationships with people. I got my first endorsement at NAMM after Joe Zon heard me playing and I bought a bass from him (retail for the first one). We developed a friendship that I treasure to this day and I became an official artist. Now, you may know that I also endorse Skjold basses. That’s because I needed another voice for certain playing situations and have a friendship with Pete. Between Pete Skjold and Joe Zon, I have every thing I could ever ask for tonally in a bass. That on top of our strong friendships is priceless! Play what you love to play!
The endorsement thing should really be about a mutually beneficial professional relationship. That means that it’s about honor, integrity and mutually supporting each other. They scratch your back (line up clinics, artist pricing, build you basses to your specs, etc.) and you scratch theirs (promote heavily online, actually use their gear on all gigs but especially high-profile ones or tv appearances, etc.).
Making yourself look good online is a big part of the puzzle, but it’s only a part. They will first look to see that you appear pro online, then they’ll check your calendar and then they’ll listen to your audio/video. Google yourself. How much stuff comes up? That’s a great indicator of online presence for a lot of people investigating that.
More often than not, though, these companies are much smaller than you’d imagine. (Pete Skjold builds every little bit of that bass by himself, Joe Zon only has one solid partner (Joe does the woodwork and Marc does the electronics with a few helpers in the shop). Mark still builds most every Accugroove cab by himself with a little help.
That means that a) they can’t necessarily afford to give everyone artist pricing and b) they don’t have much time for surfing players websites, etc.
NAMM socialization, clinics, events, etc. are great ways to foster a real relationship with these guys. Pursue the builders of the gear you love and be patient. It’ll happen when the time is right!