How to Get Sponsored as a Musician
To get sponsored as a musician, one should build up a strong resume, have a good social media presence, reach out to sponsors, have a reliable plan to pitch, be open to new ideas, and know his or her audience. It’s also important to know how to differentiate between different types of sponsorships.
In this article, I will list the different types of sponsorships musicians can find, share a few tips on how to get sponsored as a musician, and evaluate whether being sponsored is right for you or not. I will also focus on the advantages and disadvantages of getting sponsored and on the importance of watching out for unfair deals.
Different Types of Sponsorship and endorsements as a musician
1. Financial Sponsorship
Financial sponsorship is the most well-known type of sponsorship for musicians. It consists of the financial support given by a brand or organization to an artist or band for promotional reasons. The brands and organizations provide musicians with direct payments or payments for music-related expenses in exchange for being linked to the musician’s work.
Anytime you see a band performing live with a Red Bull banner or anytime you see a musician in an ad, it’s most likely due to financial sponsorship.
2. Value-In-Kind Sponsorship
The expression “value-in-kind sponsorship” comes from the marketing world. In music, it refers to sponsorship deals in which sponsors give musicians products and services for free. In some cases, artists and bands are contractually obligated to use such products and services publicly as part of the deal. In other cases, sponsors simply give away their goods in hope of having them featured somewhere.
The most classic and common example of value-in-kind sponsorships in music is when artists receive music gear from their sponsors. The sheer fact that a famous drummer, for example, uses a specific brand of cymbals for playing live is good for such a brand.
3. Promotional Partnerships
In music, a promotional partnership occurs when an artist or band acts as an ambassador for a brand or organization. It’s different from financial sponsorships and value-in-kind sponsorships because it’s not only long-term but also active across multiple platforms. Some promotional partnerships include both financial payments and product/service giveaways.
If a musician accepts a promotional partnership with a brand like Nike, for example, then he or she may be expected to wear at least one Nike product in each of his/her live performances, attend Nike-related galas and events, or talk positively of Nike in interviews. Promotional partnerships are also great in terms of networking.
4. Media Sponsorship
In a media sponsorship, artists and bands don’t get paid in money, goods, or services, but rather promotion. In most cases, media sponsorships are promotion-per-promotion exchanges, helping both outlets and musicians to get to a wider audience and increase their reputation.
Media sponsorships can be somewhat elaborate (like when a magazine makes a special “Band of the Month” issue) or very run-of-the-mill (like when a magazine makes an album review). A pre-agreement between the media outlet and the musicians is for that reason not always necessary for this kind of sponsorship to exist.
Tips to Get Sponsored as a Musician
1. Build up your resume first
In the music business, cutting corners isn’t the way to go. Before even trying to find sponsors, musicians first need to do their job – i.e., make some quality music, build a decent fanbase, and play as many gigs as possible.
No brand or organization will ever agree to sponsor a musician with zero releases; so, musicians need to prove their worth first and only then try to get sponsored. musicians with a high reputation won’t have any trouble finding high-quality sponsorship deals.
2. Have a strong social media presence
Brands and organizations sponsor musicians because they want to be heard and seen. And what better place for that to happen than the ad-frenzy universe of social media? Musicians don’t have to be online influencers to make it into the big league, but having as many followers on social media as possible sure helps them to get sponsored.
Social media, like music, is nothing but a medium. If you don’t think social media is good enough for you to promote your conscious hip-hop project (for example), think again! You can create and promote any kind of content on the web, so make sure to create interesting posts and stories that complement your music.
3. Reach out to sponsors
It’s an old sin among artists: sitting down forever and waiting for someone to notice their craft. The music industry is incredibly competitive, so it takes some guts to climb the ladder of success. By reaching out to sponsors instead of waiting for deal invitations to come, musicians have a much better chance of getting sponsored.
This is how easy getting sponsored can be: a fellow musician once told me that he received a bunch of products from Native Instruments after sending an email to the brand with a video of himself performing with a Maschine MKII. Native Instruments found his work interesting and decided to sponsor him so he could continue using their gear.
This strategy, of course, won’t work 100% of the time, but it goes to show that a mere email can sometimes be enough to attract the interest of a big brand such as Native Instruments.
4. Have a plan and pitch
Musicians have a reputation, especially in the business world. Some people (and some executives in particular) find them too hard to deal with, too distracted and lazy, or too unpredictable to be trusted. So, it’s up to us musicians to show future sponsors that we have it all figured out and that we’re not buying into that outdated “carefree rockstar” stereotype.
If you’re trying to get your music sponsored, build a strong business plan first, learn and practice a convincing pitch, and show your future sponsors why they won’t regret partnering with you.
5. Be open to ideas
When an engineer, police officer, or waiter makes some changes to his routine in order to get a raise, nobody ever calls him a “sellout.” But when musicians do something unusual because they’re being sponsored by a brand or organization, they’re suddenly criticized for being “a part of the machine.”
My point here is that even anti-capitalist punk bands need to make ends meet. Being open to ideas, even if some make you feel uncomfortable, is part of trying to find new, valuable sponsorship deals. Make sure you’re getting a fair reward for whatever you’re doing, but keep an open mind and stop thinking about getting sponsored as “selling out.”
6. Know your sponsors
Context is everything. Before reaching out to new sponsors and drawing out a sponsorship plan, it’s important to know who your ideal sponsors are. Try to find deals with brands and organizations that can relate to your music.
If you’re playing in a garage rock band, for example, you’ll have a better chance of getting sponsored by Vans than by Chanel. And if you’re just starting and your music is only known locally, then you should probably talk with some local businesses before trying to catch the eye of McDonald’s.
In other words, you should study your market, learn about what your fans like, and only then select which brands and organizations to approach.
Advantages of being sponsored
– Getting a direct benefit: The most obvious advantage of being sponsored is getting the direct benefit that comes with a sponsorship deal, be it financial support, free gear, or a feature in a popular media outlet.
– Reaching out to more people: Brands and organizations sponsor musicians because they want to get to more people, but some sponsorship deals can also help artists to be recognized. When a top indie artist appears in a mainstream TV commercial, for example, he or she will become more famous.
– Finding new strategic partners: With any sponsorship deal comes a new strategic partner that can be “taken advantage” of. Some big brands and organizations don’t mind listening to the needs of sponsored artists and doing their best to make them happy. Smaller sponsors can sometimes prove to be useful allies, loyal collaborators, and even good friends.
Disadvantages of being sponsored
– Not all deals are fair deals: Sometimes, powerful brands and organizations may take advantage of musicians and convince them to sign unfair deals. Make sure to be as informed as possible and get professional legal advice to avoid making this mistake.
– Unnecessary pressure: Being a musician is pressuring enough: there are the expectations of the fans, the record-label deadlines, the pressure to perform live, and so on. With so much going on, it can be tough for artists to deal with yet another layer of pressure coming from a sponsor. Luckily, most sponsors are reasonable with their demands.
– Sponsors can be unethical: One of the gravest dangers of signing a sponsorship deal is that, sometimes, brands and organizations behave unethically. One day you’re celebrating a new partnership with a big corporation, and the next day that same corporation is making the news because of fraud, human rights abuse, or another scandal. Being associated with such a brand or organization can hurt an artist’s reputation indefinitely.
Are sponsored musicians owned by the sponsoring brands?
While some sponsorship deals are more demanding than others, it’s up to artists to know what they are getting into. Think about what you are comfortable doing and make sure you’re not taking on too much responsibility just for getting sponsored. For non-contractual endorsements (such as when brands just send artists free gear), musicians aren’t obligated to promote a brand’s products or services.
Does being sponsored mean you made it?
It all depends on what you mean by “making it,” but getting sponsored isn’t exactly any musician’s dream – so, no! Getting sponsored means you’re being rewarded for all of your hard work and that you’re on the right path, but won’t land you a Grammy Award or put you on the “Album of the Year” list. While finding sponsors is an important part of a musician’s work, it should not be perceived as the ultimate sign of success in music.
No, getting sponsored isn’t what being a musician is all about. But it’s part of it. Signing a major deal with Amazon or Coca-Cola won’t replace a musician’s need for creating great music and building a loyal fanbase, but it can help artists to get through, find better working conditions, and expand their horizons.
But does your music project need a sponsor? Not exactly. You should definitely try to get sponsored if your goal is to be a number-one Billboard artist, but it’s not mandatory to do so in case you’re trying to be the world’s next top indie act. It’s all about knowing what your needs as a musician are and having a solid plan to make it to the top of the music industry.