[Editos Note: This article was written by Angela Mastrogiacomo.]
How many times have you thought “if only I could secure that sponsorship, it would get me one step closer to being considered a legitimate artist?” or “If I could just land that partnership, I know we could do incredible things together and really grow our fan bases/presence/market?”
So much of the music industry is contingent upon our relationships with other people. Everything from the shows we play to the fans we make to the press we receive all comes down to our interactions with other people. We know this and yet, we continue to overlook one crucial and incredibly exciting piece of the puzzle: brand partnerships.
Depending on your brand and what stage of career you’re in depends on the type of partnership you’ll be seeking—but regardless of where you’re at, odds are there is an opportunity for you.
Now, to differentiate, what’s the difference between a sponsorship and a partnership? Well, a sponsorship (at least the kind most of us think of) entails a company giving you free product in exchange for exposure to your audience.
A partnership on the other hand, is usually a more involved, collaborative process in which brand and artist come together for a more hands-on exchange that can open you up to an entirely new world of opportunities, fans, and experiences.
Not to mention, there’s a good chance it can lead to increased revenue. As we quoted in last year’s article on Brand Sponsorship and Endorsement Agreements For Artists (a two-part series) “sponsorship spending on music tours, festivals and venues is expected to total $1.54 billion in 2017,” which is an increase of “4.8 percent from 2016.” Even if you’re not at the point where you’re receiving direct payment for these endorsements just yet, getting started and growing your fan base through smaller partnerships can only help you get to that point over time.
What kind of opportunities should you look for?
While it can be tempting to go for the gigantic sponsorship opportunities straight away, there’s something to be said for growing with other companies who are in the same life stage as you. For instance, rather than going for a partnership at a huge company, go for a local, or online store that’s still gaining traction, but passionate about the same things as you are.
This industry is all about the relationships you build and there’s no better way to foster those than by growing together and truly supporting one another’s journeys.
Remember, assuming you’re an emerging artist yourself, it not only makes sense to partner with an emerging brand (plus, they’re the ones most likely to respond), but it’s an opportunity to get a feel for that side of the industry without the pressure of a huge conglomerate. It also allows you more freedom in your agreement, which means more opportunity for exploration, and experimentation that can really benefit your impact on fans in the long term.
What are the brands looking for?
Of course, one of the most important things to consider is what the brands themselves are looking for when deciding if a partnership is the right move. While you may be super stoked at the prospect of a new set of drum sticks or a new pair of shoes to wear in all your promo photos and at your live shows, it has to also make sense for the brand that’s offering you that product or monetary investment. For most, this is a long term partnership, so it has to make sense for their brand and product well into the coming months/years.
A couple questions you’ll want to ask yourself:
What do you want from them? (Product? Money? Opportunity?)
What are they going to get out of it? (What’s your fan engagement like? What’s your live show draw? How are your mailing list opens?)
Be realistic but don’t sell yourself short.
When making these decisions, brands are going to look for bands whose numbers and reach make sense for their own numbers and reach, but they’ll also be looking at if your brands align. For example, a t-shirt company that sells animal rights clothing and prides itself on donating half its profits to PETA is probably not going to partner with anyone who isn’t a vegan/vegetarian, because it simply wouldn’t be the right fit—regardless of how great your numbers are.
Keep this in mind as you’re looking for partners. It isn’t enough to just love their product on a personal level, it has to make sense for your band ethos, and directly align with the message you’re trying to put into the world. (Side note: This is just one more reason that developing and conveying a strong artist brand is so important!)
How do you approach these partnerships?
Now that you know who you’re targeting and what you’re going to say, how do you actually get in touch with and facilitate these relationships?
Know what you’re offering when you approach them. For instance, if you know you want to work with a local music festival you’re playing at, don’t just reach out and say “Hey I’m a band, I want to partner up, what do you think?” Get creative and paint them a very clear picture of what this partnership would look like and what they can expect out of it.
IE “We’d love to provide X bottles of water for Festival and in exchange we’ll put our band name/set time on the water label.” (This is a real example of something I saw Glass Mansions do at Launch Music Festival years back—it’s still one of the most creative partnerships I’ve seen).
Keep it clear and concise, and don’t forget to include all your information. If you have an EPK or One Sheet (you should), include that so that the can check out who you are and determine if it’s the right fit. Don’t harass them, but don’t be afraid to follow up. Partnerships are all about finding the right fit, so if someone doesn’t respond or doesn’t see the value just yet, try not to take it personally. The right fit is out there, and if you stay clear headed about it, you’ll know when you come across it.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Substream, New Noise, and more. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine.