Ryan exclusively uses P Mauriat Saxophones, Theo Wanne Mouthpieces, Legere Reeds, BG Ligatures and Accessories, Neotech Straps, EBS Bass Amplification, Godin and Seagull Guitars, Onboard Research, and Go Pro Cameras.
I often get asked about some of the endorsement situations I'm in, so I created a little Q&A to help YOU figure out if an endorsements is right for you.
What is an endorsement?
An endorsement is a mutually-beneficial situation where you and a company who makes gear that you use/love decide to enter a partnership that focuses around you promoting a piece of gear or a brand, and the company promotes you playing that gear or their brand.
They may also offer you discounted or free gear- a rarity- and you can potentially be put in situations where you could be paid the be a clinician, help with product testing or even be asked for your ideas on the creation or revision of products.
I often heard this described the wrong way: "_______ has endorsed me." Incorrect. You are endorsing ______. You are their endorsing artist.
Why does this have to be mutually-beneficial?
If you are only in this to help yourself out, you have made yourself non-essential to the company you're talking with. They don't want someone who is in this for themselves. They want someone they can count on and work closely with to help develop their brand and they want to reach the max exposure they can have in the area where the player is. On the other side, if the company is using you a lot for promotion or ideas and you're getting nothing in return, this is often a bad deal.
The company is offering you a deal on gear or sometimes even money in exchange for their exposure when you play or talk about gear. This situation is give-and-take. Effectively, you're kind of an employee of theirs.
There are different levels of endorsements, and sometimes these have to do with location and exposure. An A-list endorser is often someone with massive exposure who interfaces with large groups of players or listeners on the national or international stage. Depending on how an endorsement is set up, this deal usually offers the greatest deal to the player because of the level of exposure that the company is getting.
Many companies offer regional-level endorsements for people who are great players who interface with many other players but more often in smaller numbers as they're only playing in regional acts or teaching. These players have some great influence over those who are paying attention to what they're doing in the area. This is a great thing for teachers and professors, who generally have a good bit of students who are always asking questions about gear, and if they might be playing on the right product for their level of playing. Some companies have endorsement programs specifically catered to this crowd to promote directly to interested students.
Am I A Good Fit?
1) How long have I played the product?
It's not very often that companies will enter an endorsement situation with a player that has just started using a product of theirs. They love people who have counted on their brand or products for years and are invested in it. They really love people that know every last thing about a product and can easily explain or describe it to others when asked about it.
2) Do I rely on said product for my sound?
You absolutely should. No company wants to offer a player an endorsement who is using their product only some of the time. They want full-time exposure.
Exceptions? It seems that guitar companies don't mind this, because they understand that every type of guitar has its own sound, and they build it for that purpose.
3) Am I playing the right kind of gigs/enough gigs to be considered for an endorsement?
More often than not, companies are looking for players with large levels of exposure. If you are playing in a national act that has constant tour dates or you're always appearing on great recordings, you are more likely to be successful in seeking an endorsement. If you're in a bar band playing covers, I'd say you have a significantly lower chance of getting an endorsement.
Are you a great player? Do you have great feel/taste? Are you very educated on your instrument? Do you have your own sound? Are you surpassing many others in your field to become a "first call player"? You have a higher chance of becoming an endorser. These players have a natural influence on those around them, probably because they're constantly playing all of the good gigs.
DATES: It's my understanding that some companies require potential artists to have a number of dates per year. Without this, those companies will drop you. If you're at the beginning of the process, they won't even consider you. Most companies don't advertise having dates as a requirement, but I'm sure they consider it when they consider their own exposure.
4) What image do I project?
Am I a positive person to be around? Am I useful when asked for help or information? Am I a nice guy? They will consider these things.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Be aware of what you put on social media and how you use it. If your social media platform is for everyone who wants to be in touch with you (including these companies), a positive image helps. Constant music updates are ideal.
In my own scenario, I have Facebook as my area for mostly friends and family and Instagram/Twitter for most of the people that are following me for music reasons. In Instagram/Twitter, I rarely post opinionated things and definitely not political things. My Facebook account is setup so that people can only see what I want them to see. The message here is: Don't be an a**hole, but control your image on the whole.
Also, having an overall web presence is helpful. Record releases (iTunes, etc.), a Youtube Channel, a website and online reviews of shows or even quotes from publications or players are helpful in establishing your career and a good presence.
5) Am I willing to promote the product?
If you take on an endorsement situation and you're not willing to help promote a little bit, you're not doing this for the right reasons and your endorsement situation may be short-lived.
You could be asked to promote products as a clinician, where you'd be expected to present information to different sized groups of people- some who are knowledgeable and some who aren't as educated on the subjects. This should also involve product demonstration and having the ability to discuss the technical side of the products. This is a major plus if you have the ability to be a clinician.
6) How knowledgeable am I about the technical intricacies of my instrument? (Important one- this make or break you for a JOB that pays you. The same can be said about being a clinician.)
If a company asks me to help with research and development of the products, can I provide them with the necessary knowledge and expertise to be able to help create or revise a product that meets and/or exceeds their standard of quality?
Should I consider putting myself up for an endorsement?
If you can answer most of the previous questions with "yes", you might be a good fit. You have to always remember that you need to put as much into this as you get out of it.
Do I have to be a salesman?
No, not really. There are a few points to consider:
A) A great product may sell itself as you play it. If it's a product that you seriously trust, your love for it often shows in your playing.
B) Be open to answering questions from other players who are interested in what you're playing and WHY you play it. It doesn't mean that you're there to sell all of them on the product, and it is very useful to always understand that the product that you use for YOUR sound isn't going to work for everyone else, and that's ok. A wise person will appreciate the education and product knowledge you've presented them regardless of if they use it or not.
C) Be honest. Do you want to be known as the salesman who jipped someone by overselling a product that doesn't work for said person? Have integrity. People will be more inclined to try or buy a product knowing that the info they receive from you is accurate and not inflated at all times.
Do I take every deal?
For ever endorsement I have, I've probably turned four deals down. Why? Maybe I wasn't the right fit. Maybe I can't help the company achieve their goals. Maybe I felt like it was going to be difficult to work with the company and I didn't enjoy my contact people. Maybe I don't have a technical mind they were looking for. Maybe the compensation wasn't right. Don't take every deal, and be wise about what you choose to dive into.
If the product has a life cycle like strings, sax reeds or drumsticks, it's wise to know what the lifespan of the product is for you. Some companies specify that you are allotted so many of that product per year. If you're using more than that amount, you can potentially negotiate that amount to be higher, especially if you're willing to put in more work. Maybe you're doing twice your normal amount of clinics for them, and you need more product to justify it. Maybe you just play hard and that's part of your sound and you go through more product.
Many companies offer a deal that allows you to buy products at a discounted rate. Don't try to negotiate this. It's often that this pricing is structured around their cost of materials and the time it takes them to research and/or build this product. It would likely be insulting to request a lower price. Have some business sense and consider peoples' value and time.
Have a relationship with the people who make your gear.
I think that it's an excellent idea to have a constant relationship with the company. Aside from having a few more friends, it's a great idea to know the people involved in making your products. You can better understand what their goals are for their products and their long term business goals too. Is the company going to be around for a long time? I hope so. I like constant support for what I'm using. Do they have a great product and no business plan? Either they are going to struggle constantly so bad that the deal may not be good, or you have an opportunity to help them build their business- which can greatly help you in the end. Are they going to use you for your contacts or skills and not help you at all? Deal breaker.
Constant contact with these companies ensures that both sides are being taken care of in the relationship, and it may actually mean more work for you. In the music industry, it's often that the guy who gets called first is the one whose name is in your mind more constantly.
What happens if they don't accept me as an endorser?
That's completely fine. Maybe you aren't the right fit for their needs. Maybe they have a full artist roster and their current artist roster is taking care of everything they need. Maybe the cost of taking on a new endorser doesn't fit their business model at the time. Keep the relationship with them, and ask them if you can keep them updated on your career from time to time. At some point down the line, you may fit into what they need. In my own personal experience, there's a company that I wanted to be an endorser for, and I wasn't accepted until 6 years later. It turned out to be one of the best endorsements I have!
What happens if I stop loving the product or another product begins to work for me better?
Take your time and don't make hasty decisions. You could just be having a rough period with your own playing! If it actually turns out that you may need to change products and you've kept a good relationship, the company will understand that you may need to find a new product to fit your needs. Sometimes your tastes change and the company that you've been with forever doesn't make a product that suits your needs. Sometimes you have to move to a new product because the old product becomes difficult to play. Some guitar necks can feel like they hurt your hands over time because your body physically changes. That's OK.
For some further reference, here is an article I wrote that has been republished a number of times, concerning endorsements.