How to Get an Endorsement Deal for Your BandEndorsement Deals for Independent Artists

HELPFULAW FOR THE INDIE ARTIST is a legal advice column on matters pertaining to the music industry.  If you have a suggestion for a future article that you would like to submit to our columnist, entertainment attorney and indie artist Christiane Cargill Kinney, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below or send them to her at You can also follow her on Twitter @musicalredhead for more helpful indie-artist tips.

I had the honor of being a mentor at SXSW this year, and it was a wonderful experience.  Mentoring at SX is a lot like speed-dating; six people block 10 minutes of your time to pick your brain as an industry expert.  The range of people and questions I got during those 60 minutes varied a lot, and few were directly related to legal issues.  Still, there were certain questions that came up multiple times, so I thought it would be worthwhile to break form this month and share my 10 minutes worth of advice on these hot topics with the #indierevolution.  (And also to brag that I got to go to SXSW).

Here is part 1 in this 3-part series…

How Do I Go About Seeking An Endorsement Deal (or, as Jaded Fans Call It, Selling Out)?

The most common question I was asked was how artists should pursue endorsement opportunities. My specific advice on how to seek endorsement deals will vary depending on the genre and style of music, the look and feel of the artist, audience demographic, and where and how frequently the artist performs live.  However, there are some general pieces of advice that work across the board.

1. Search for brands that support music.

Google is your best friend (not the brand; the search engine).  Search for brands that support and align themselves with other DIY artists.  When you attend music conferences, look at the brands supporting those conferences. Get an overall idea of the brands who are most receptive to the conversation.

2. Know what you bring to the table.

The main (and perhaps only) question a company/brand wants to know is what you can do for them.  Put yourself in the company’s shoes. Speak their language. Walk in with a pie chart of your fan base by demographic and geographic location with your annual touring, merch and music sales numbers to show them how sponsoring you can equal major dollars in their pocket and you will blow their mind.  Of course, you don’t have to go in with pie charts, but have answers to the questions they will ask you, so you can put them at ease that their marketing dollars are being well spent to expand their brand to a larger audience – your fans.  Most importantly, be honest about it; just like a girl who pads her bra, if you start padding the numbers, you’re sure to get caught just as you’re about to seal the deal.

3. Look for a good fit. 

This is where genre, style, and message come into play.  Find a cool company that matches your band’s vibe.  Look at what these companies are already doing to sell their product, and see if you match their pre-existing formula.  If not, perhaps you have a pitch outside of their existing formula that might improve their sales.  Then find someone in the marketing department and see if you can make a love connection.

Legal Issues Related to Endorsement Deals

These deals are relatively straight forward, but make sure the terms are clearly defined so you can uphold your end of the bargain. As Samuel Goldwyn once said, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it is written on.”  Most companies will spell out certain restrictions on how, when, and where you are to use their company name and logo, when to display company banners, etc.  They will put it in writing to protect themselves, so make sure you read and follow their terms to keep your sponsors happy!

If you have a certain number of shows and appearances you must make on behalf of the company each year, make sure you don’t overextend your time where it’s not feasible to fulfill your part of the agreement.

Also, when exploring multiple sponsorship deals, you need to make sure they aren’t going to compete or conflict.  Generally, you can only have one endorsement deal for each type of product, e.g., one beverage, one clothing line, one instrument, etc.  Remember, you only have so much space to showcase your sponsors, so don’t end up like an old biker with too many ex-girlfriend’s names tattooed up his arm.

So, here’s the quick recap:

  • When exploring endorsement deals, look for a company that is in alignment with what you do, then look for opportunities for synergy.  Review the terms of the agreement so you know when and how you are to use their brand name and logo, and make sure you can easily fulfill your end of the deal without becoming overextended.  As a general rule, you can’t take on sponsorship deals from companies offering competing products, so don’t expect to get free gear from 10 different guitar manufacturers; it doesn’t work that way.

Here’s the quick quick recap:

Find a similar company, & be clear on your contract.

Here’s the quick quick quick recap (yep, this is called beating a dead horse):

Clear contract, be smart, and get sound advice.

Wow; when you sum it all up, that’s my exact same advice for hiring circus performers.

And now, here’s some not so quick fine print.

© 2013 Christiane Cargill Kinney.  All rights reserved.  This Blog contains information of a general nature that is not intended to be legal advice and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice.  Any reader of this Blog who has legal matters involving information addressed in this Blog should consult with an experienced entertainment attorney.  This Blog does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader of this Blog. This Blog contains no warranties or representations that the information contained herein is true or accurate in all respects or that it is the most current or complete information on the subject matter covered. Do you need a quick quick quick quick recap?  Oops, ran out of room, so sorry.  Christiane Cargill Kinney is a Partner and Chair of the Entertainment Industry Team of LeClairRyan, LLP.

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