Becoming an endorser of a particular drum manufacturer or company is often regarded as the holy grail of achievements in the eyes of many young drummers.
“If I just get that one sponsorship, I’ll become a successful drummer!”
The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
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The Truth Behind Drum Endorsements
This notion came to mind recently when I was covering Cascio Interstate Music’s 19th annual Drummerfest. After each clinic, the presenting drummers offered a Q&A session with the audience.
One of the audience member’s father inquired to Gerald Heyward, “how do you become a sponsored drummer?”
He was somewhat irked by the question but responded with an incredibly simple answer: play the gear you like to play.
Gerald went on to say that drummers who solely focus on the acquisition of gear or money from deals will never secure them.
He noted not to sign a deal with a company based on free or discounted gear. Make sure you love the product and use it.
I think the daughter and father are or were a little misled in terms of defining drumming success. In the father’s eyes, sponsorships and endorsing products equate to success.
In some industries, yes, but not in music.
Myths About Drumming Endorsements and Sponsorships
There are so many myths and rumors on the internet regarding endorsements and sponsorships.
Let’s tackle those first.
You have to be a famous drummer to land endorsements
There are tons of unknown drummers out there who endorse products from companies we as drummers use every day.
When I was touring, I had a deal with Vic Firth, where I would get sticks at cost rather than paying the full amount.
Sure, I was touring in a band with a major record deal, but I was and am by no mean a famous drummer.
It helped me a bunch, as I was able to buy sticks for the entire duration of the tour and save a few bucks per pair.
You can get gear and equipment for free
While many of the top dogs do get loads of gear for free, the majority still pay some percentage for drums. Don’t expect to land a sponsorship and have kit shipped to your house the next day.
There aren’t many drummers out there getting free gear in today’s music business. The average discount from most drum companies hovers between 50-60% off the list price.
You’re Stuck With A Company Forever
Every endorsement deal comes with a contract. The contract determines how long you will work with said company.
The duration of an agreement can vary, but you’re never tied to a company forever (unless it states that in writing). Read before you sign.
With the notable myths out of the way, let’s dive into how drummers land these deals.
Why Should a Company Sponsor You?
Let’s first define why companies add drummers to their roster. Without naming anyone, we’ll talk about two fictitious drummers — Drummer A and Drummer B.
Drummer A is an incredible drummer who has the technical chops of Simon Phillips, with the groove of Steve Gadd, and the endurance of Neil Peart.
She plays at her storage shed after work every day and has little-to-no online presence and hasn’t ever toured. Despite that, she should be on the stage playing with major acts.
Drummer A wants companies to sponsor her, but no one answers her emails when she inquires.
Drummer B is an average drummer who consistently posts videos of themselves playing along to popular music, as well as documenting their drumming journey.
Drummer B has amassed an incredible following on YouTube and Instagram and continues to work hard each day to promote his image.
Which Drummer Wins the Endorsement?
Brands are much more likely to work with Drummer B over Drummer A.
Drummer B isn’t the most insane and virtuosic drummer, and he even pales in comparison to Drummer A. However, he does have something that Drummer A does not — reach.
When it comes to endorsements, talent and skill are not always necessary.
Types of Drum Endorsements
Because Drummer B worked hard to build a following on the internet, companies are willing to fork out for the potential reach to grow their brands and make more money.
The Free Gear Deal
If Vic Firth, for example, sponsors Drummer B, he might promote a set of drumsticks in each video he uploads from there on out.
In exchange, Vic Firth may send him sticks for free.
The relationship works out for both the artist and the company.
Free gear deals are more frequent with accessories and things that are cheaper to make — drumsticks, heads, dampeners, beaters, etc.
They’re also more frequent among drummers with smaller followings.
The Ambassador Deal
Companies like SJC offer Ambassador Deals. These types of deals include significant discounts on gear like full shell packs, cymbals, and hardware.
SJC’s Ambassador Program is intriguing for many drummers, as they promote you on their social media, provide constant support during your career, and even backline kits for festivals and overseas tours.
Some ambassador programs even offer the ability to earn commissions for products (affiliated). For example, a drum company could provide a unique link to include in YouTube videos.
Whenever someone clicks your link and buys a drum set, you make a commission, usually in the ballpark of 5-15% of the sale.
How To Secure a Drum Endorsement or Sponsorship
If you’re still after the almighty endorsement deal, here’s what you should do.
First, don’t approach companies until you have a story. To be considered, you’ll need to provide the company with value, and else your email will end up in the trash bin.
Start building a following as a drummer. Post clips of yourself playing on Instagram, make YouTube videos, heck, start a drumming blog like I did.
Be consistent and work hard. Growing a following isn’t easy — especially in the world of swiping on smartphones.
When you have a story worth telling, companies will listen. Make a goal for yourself — 10,000 subscribers on YouTube and 10,000 followers on Instagram would be an excellent starting point.
You may even find that as you grow, companies will naturally begin to reach out to you about endorsement!
Landing an endorsement deal seems to be on the minds of many drummers worldwide. While shiny objects are lovely, they should never be the focus of your drumming career.
Instead, focus on your playing and building your brand as a drummer. As stated, companies are more likely to reach out to you when the time is right.
Do you endorse any drum products? How has your experience been so far? I’d love to hear from you down below in the comments.
Thanks, once again, for reading.