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How Music Gear Endorsements Work…

October 7th, 2006 | 4 Comments | Categories: Music News |

It’s one of those perennial questions on bass forums and in emails I get – how do you get an endorsement deal with a bass company? The latest endorsement related discussion revolved around a very friendly chap on on of the bass forums I post on sending me a message to say he was friendly with the owners of a particular company and could put in a word for me for an endorsement deal with them.

Which was very nice buy wholly unnecessary, given that

  • a) I knew the company owner already,
  • b) don’t really like what they make b) wouldn’t switch from what I’m using now just because I was offered lots of money (something that’s really not going to happen to a player in my position) and
  • c) LOVE the stuff I’m using.

Let’s make it clear, getting paid to play someone’s particular product is very rare indeed. Becoming a demonstrator happens occasionally to lesser known players, but that’s just a job like any other – it’s not really a perk, more a cool job. It involves a lot of work, and usually pretty grueling sessions at trade shows. There’s rarely a retainer, and the rate of pay is pretty good, usually, but certainly not something most people could live on…

The Big Boys (probably about 5-10 of them in the world) are on a retainer – signature product sales often incur a royalty for the person whose name is on the front, and there are all kinds of deals struck to get HUGE name players using the gear, which range from split ad campaigns (promoting the gear and the artist’s new album) through to high profile clinic tours that follow the band’s tour, and even stands at arena shows for the company.

Next down are those that get instruments – these are rarely ‘free’, even if you don’t pay for them. They are in exchange for promotional services. They are usually there because the company in question can’t really afford to pay what you’re worth for clinics and appearances and being in ads, so instead they give you gear, which is worth a lot more in hard cash terms to you than it is to them. So I’ve had a few bits of free gear, and in exchange they get the exposure for me using the gear on clinics and masterclasses… it’s more of an acknowledgement thing for what actually happens – my students get to see the gear cos it’s what I play through…

When I left my previous amp deal, and started using AccuGroove, I was offered ‘deals’ of sorts with a host of companies. It was rather nice being courted (no one actually phoned me to schmooze me, but it happened to be around the time of a couple of trade shows and at those trade shows, word got round that I was no longer using the amp I had been using, and I was told by the owners and A & R people from about 6 companies that they would like to ‘work with me’. One of them offered a paid position as demo guy as well. Most of them were much higher profile than AccuGroove, but all had one thing in common – they didn’t get close to the sound I was looking for in my new rig. I knew it had to be stereo and MUCH higher fidelity than it was before. Add to that that I already knew the AccuGroove guys and was friends with them, knew what their speakers could do, I decided to go with quality and friendship over (potential) money and exposure.

Is this because I’m some kind of puritan? No, it’s as much a longer term commercial decision as it is one of ‘integrity’. The guys on the high dollar deals with companies that mass produce cheap crap in China tend to switch fairly often – when someone comes along offering more money, they jump ship, and every time they do, their reputation slides just that little bit further. If I was play in a Nu Metal band to 10s of thousands of people a night, that wouldn’t really filter through, the kidz would just go out and buy the new signature bass and all would be happy.

However, if you’re a solo bassist, you tend to be scrutinised more by the tech-heads. I got loads of emails when I changed my amp set up, asking me what was wrong with the old one, people who’d bought the old one because of me, and wondering if they’d make a mistake etc. The geeks were watching, and I realised that if I was changing every 18 months or so, my credibility was going to disappear pretty damn quick.

So I went with the one that offered me the best possible sound. To get any better, I’d have to go to the pro audio world, and start using studio monitors on stage. Problem with that is, they’d be WAY too heavy, and far too fragile. There genuinely is nothing that could do what I’m doing with these speakers. The nearest direct comparison would be PA companies like Mackie and JBL, but they both tend to optimise their speakers for vocal projection, sacrificing low end and tonal sweetness. They work fine as PAs, not so great as bass amps.

Same with Modulus – I’ve been playing a Modulus bass for over 13 years, the only non-Modulus bass I’ve owned (still own) in that time is my Rick Turner, and their instruments do just about everything I need them to do. They like what I do, I love what they do, and the relationship is mutually agreeable. Add to that that Modulus are, as far as I’m aware, the only bass building company who are striving to use 100% independently certified eco-friendly wood, and you’ve got yourself a match made in bass heaven. it’s the same all the way round.

So if you’re thinking about such things, have a bit of a profile and something to offer a company, my advice would be to forge a friendship with the people who make the gear that you LOVE, rather than just trying to schmooze the A and R people at companies that take out huge ads in magazines.

For the record, the companies that I have some kind of ‘deal’ with [as of Oct 7 2006] are:
AccuGroove Speakers
Modulus Basses
Looperlative
East UK Preamps
Bass Centre Elites Strings
Evidence Audio cables

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Cletus Lyambila

    It would be appreciated if you also gave the actual amounts paid on endorsements to guide those who may get opportunities like this.

  • steve

    Hi Cletus,

    The only things I’ve ever been told about the retainers that big artists get for endorsement deals have been either anecdotal or in private conversation, and therefor well outside of the scope of anything I could republish online. It would be bad etiquette to put conversations like that online, if the information wasn’t given to me explicitly for me to blog it, or wasn’t available elsewhere.

    As for what people get paid to do demos (which is ‘actual work’ rather than any kind of perk of an endorsement deal), it varies wildly, from free travel and maybe a hotel room in the place where the demo is taking place, to a few hundred dollars /pounds/euros a day, depending on the value of the demos to the company, and the negotiation skills of the person involved.

    cheers

    steve

  • Julia Bush

    Good afternoon,

    Hello! How are you? My question is how do you proceed in getting endorsements ? What does artist have to do. what are the ways of receiving endorsements for new upcoming music artist?IF you can help it would be greatly appreciated.

    • Steve

      Hi Julia,

      did you read the blog post? I’ve pretty much spelt out how endorsement deals work. If you have a profile, and can offer some exposure the company, then approach them with that. You’ll have much more chance if you’re already using the gear. Endorsement deals as a way of getting a company to promote you, when you’re not really into the product are a dead-end. I never see great musicians doing that, at any point in their career…