A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur on Fire. He was launching a new podcast series called “The Great Business Experiment: Kickstarter.” It featured interviews with ten successful Kickstarter campaigns to talk about what worked, what was learned, and what can be done for the future.
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If you were presented with the opportunity to pitch your band directly to the Chief A&R representative for Capital Records, what would you say? If there was a venture capitalist looking to invest into the dreams of one band, how would you convince them to choose you? If your favorite band was in town and looking for an opener, what would you tell the promoter about your act?
Being able to pitch your band is one of the most important steps in being able to book shows, secure sponsorships, get a booking agent/manager, receive press, and even to getting on a label. It’s also one of the areas that I see independent musicians struggling with the most. Even though I have a disclaimer on LastStopBooking.com that we are not accepting submissions, I still receive about 50-100 EPK submissions and query letters per week. 90% of these sound the same: the band describes themselves as having “great music,” and they almost always say they are different than other artists because they are “hardworking.”
It’s rare that you go to a festival in this day and age that isn’t presented by some corporate sponsor who proudly drapes their brand on every imaginable piece of the festival. That’s not all, you can of course count on there being a number of other sponsors handing out free swag and creating these larger than life experiences for you to be a part of. It’s all become part of the festival experience . But at what cost?
The bigger the festival, the more extravagant the sponsorship partners. After attending Budweiser’s Lollapalooza in 2008 in Chicago and many years of Van’s Warped Tours, Virgin Festivals, Sirius Satellite Radio’s North by Northeast, Molson Canadian’s Canadian Music Weeks etc. etc. I’ve become accustomed (if not a bit obsessed) at watching how these corporate partners continue to out-do one another with their on-site presence and forward thinking campaigns.
While conducting music business industry panels across the country, I’m often asked one question more than anything else: “How do I get an endorsement?” Other variations include “How do I get a sponsor?” or “How do I get free stuff?”
My philosophy is that if this is your point of view, you’re probably already doomed. Sponsors (whether music instrument companies, beer, or clothes, etc.) don’t care about what they can do for you. They care about what you can do for them – or rather, what you can do together. So to begin with, you have to switch the mentality from “What can I gain from this?” to “What can we gain from this relationship?” Below are a few things that I recommend in your approach:
Ask, straight up: There’s a saying that “the answer is always no until you ask.” In the music industry, there are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who wait for things to happen, and those who wonder “what the heck just happened?” Don’t wait for an opportunity. Create it by initiating contact, networking, or asking the right questions that will get you a lead, information on how to get a sponsor, etc. Don’t be afraid in emailing, calling, or scheduling an appointment to do an in-person presentation on why they should sponsor you. That being said…
The Approach: Find a way to be unique, succinct, and intriguing with your ini