The Art of the Endorsement Deal

Everyone knows that endorsement deals are what keep artists and musicians on the road. There is no way to possibly replace and repair everything that breaks and malfunctions on the road independently unless you’re independently wealthy as well. I was on FIRE to get some endorsement deals….not only to help with broken gear, but it is so helpful to have companies behind you to gain attention as an artist. They put your pictures in magazines and have you there to sign autographs and it really helps establish you as someone who is worth watching. I knew this…and I wanted this! So I set out to make it happen! 

I knew there was only one place that you could make these endorsement dreams come true and that was Winter NAMM (National Association of Musical Merchants) in Anaheim, California. Now all I had to do was get to California! But how? As if a portal opened with the magic answers,  John Greene from Easyrider Events sent me an email asking me to join them on the entire West Coast tour, which included Pomona, California! I was so excited!!! I started crafting my spell of witchcraft of how I would approach these companies and what I would say. I practiced in the mirror…as if trying to sell it to myself. I flashed back to moments when I would accidentally walk in on my Dad standing in the barn talking to himself like a crazy person while trying to talk to an invisible buyer about a horse we had for sale. When I felt like I was convinced that I deserved it, I printed up all kinds of material and created these individual press kits in perfect little packages that I was super proud of and slammed them in a small suitcase so I could rock and ROLL through the convention center. Not wanting to be greedy, I made a list of the companies I currently was using and needed in my corner so I could make the most of the day since it takes up like 3 convention center rooms and because of my ADD nature, I am easily distr…..omg…what was that? You know what I mean. 

Being the first time I’ve ever traveled to the West Coast, I severely underestimated how much time would be spent driving, booking hotels, fueling up the van, and all during which I couldn’t send emails or respond to messages on my phone. I was WAY behind on everything I needed to be ahead on, but that suitcase remained in the backseat ready for action when the time was right. It was the only thing I had together. I was onstage at the Pomona Easyrider Bike Show when 2 people arrived that I knew had to be in a rock band. You just kinda know when you see them, you know? During our break, they came up to say hello and dropped a HUGE bomb on me!

“Are you guys going to NAMM while you’re in town” they asked.  Of course I was! I was so ready! They showed me their badges they had gotten from their endorsement companies they already had. Turns out, NAMM wasn’t open to the public and the only way you could get in was with one of these magic badges from a company that already endorsed you!! What?? Are you serious?? I thought I was going to fall over dead right there. But then, that tiny little section of my brain that is always trying to find a way out of this kicked in and I asked a very bold question. Can I rent your badge for like an hour during NAMM and then meet you back outside to deliver back to its rightful owners? I thought for sure they would say ABSOLUTELY NOT, but much to my surprise they said YES! 

The next day I was standing in our meeting spot waiting to see their familiar faces with money in hand like a NAMM badge drug dealer. I needed my fix to get high on endorsements. Suddenly I caught sight of those familiar faces and ran to meet them by the door. I gave them $25 and took on a new identity and with suitcase in hand, I ran for the door. I had 1 hour to make this happen. I had already gotten a map of the companies in the convention center so I knew where to find them. I ran to the first one and asked to speak with the Artist Relations person. I gathered their business cards and information and then presented this perfectly packaged press kit to them only to have them hold their hands up in protest and say “Don’t give me any of that shit! I can’t keep track of that this week. Just send it to me next week or something after I get back into the office”. But….but…it was so beautiful. It was perfect.  Oh well, time to suck it up and run to the next one. 

My “speech” got better and better each time. I was way more efficient because I was running out of rental time with this badge. I reached every dealer I wanted to see and gathered their cards and information about the products and like a marathon runner who had just crossed the finish line, I handed over my rented badge to the owners, wiped the sweat off my face and thanked them for their help and watched as they strolled casually back inside with their $30 plate of bok choy from the food truck line up outside.  I couldn’t wait to start following up a week later and was sure that they would remember that sweat soaked girl with the suitcase and perfectly packaged press kits that nobody wanted. I was such an amateur, but I was sure I left a lasting impression. I was so wrong. 

What I didn’t realize about NAMM was that everyone drinks….like a lot. Nobody really remembers anything about the week once it’s over and the entire reason they want you to wait a week after they get back to the office is so they have enough time for the hangover to subside and they feel semi-human again. At that point, nearly anyone could call their office and claim to have met them during NAMM and they would have to believe them because they simply don’t remember.  I found myself making blank phone calls to blank memories and because there was no shiny press kit in front of them, there was no way to know anything about me. I did the best thing I could think of and that was get an address to mail a shiny perfect press kit to them. I never heard back from a single person. 

But, anyone who knows me also knows that I am a relentless fool that refuses to give up. Many times the lack of interest in me causes me to go to greater extremes to make sure they don’t forget this time. That can sometimes be detrimental to my reputation, which is what I was about to do. I knew it and I did it anyway.  So….you wanna play with the big boys, I thought to myself, then you’re gonna have to drink like the big boys. 

I wasn’t a drinker. I hadn’t had a drink in 10 years. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I do have German blood, so I should be able to train, right? Most people train for a 5k run, or a half-marathon, or tour season. I was training for drinking stamina and I had a plan. And what a plan it was….

For the first time in several years, they decided to host a Nashville Summer NAMM and I was going to be there.  I was able to buy a badge on  their  “open to the public” day and I was armed and ready. I put on my most painful stiletto shoes and my cute capri jeans and black corset with leather jacket and set out to light the town on fire. I knew what I had to do and I was focused. I immediately hit if off with one of the artist relations guys from a company I was interested in, but every time we discussed endorsement deals, he would change the subject. That’s okay, I got his attention and I was working my deal.  He invited another friend over from another company that I was interested in as well and I got nervous because this guy was much more serious. He was all business and he could smell something wasn’t right. I was afraid he was going to blow my deal, so I offered to take them all out for drinks on the town as a good faith gesture. They both agreed and when the doors closed to the convention center, the doors opened to every Broadway bar on the strip. 

The first stop was completely casual and we each had a shot of Jagermeister to get warmed up. A few minutes of that band, and we bounced to the next one. By the time we did our 2nd Jagermeister shot, I could see they were getting warmed up and I made the one guy an offer that he couldn’t turn down. It was more like a challenge, but he jumped in with both feet. We were going to do a shot of Jagermeister at every bar on Broadway all the way down one side and up the next and whoever was standing at the end was the winner. If it was him…well…he got free drinks on the town for the night. If it was me, I got an endorsement deal. We shook on it. I think he thought he had me because I was wearing these ridiculous heels and just staying upright would be a challenge as it was. Off we went…3 shots, 4 shots, 5 shots. We were both feeling the buzz hard by now and the 2nd endorsement guy was coming out of his shell. He was just as cranked as we were. I lucked out and found some friends at one of the bars and told them about my little challenge. They were very excited to see how it would end.  We gained a fan club that followed us from bar to bar waiting to see the train wreck. 

Finally we reached the end of the row and I looked over at my present company and realized I had this in the bag. I called them a cab and they stumbled in and fell across the seat, one of them without his wallet because it had been lost somewhere along the way and I strutted myself down Broadway in total control until they were gone and then BLAM! I was instantly hammered drunk. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t see. I managed to find a friend only by the way they smelled. I know, real classy huh?  They helped me back to my house and I made them swear to secrecy about my condition. 

The next day I pulled myself together to make one phone call to my new endorsement company artist rep to see how his hangover was going. He sounded terrible.  He missed his flight out that morning and was nursing his hangover. I told him how excited I was to be a new artist with the company and he admitted defeat by telling me he would send over the endorsement agreement next week. I had done it! I broken open the gates!  And like a dam full of water just looking for a way to escape, one endorsement turned into 2 and then 3 and suddenly when I saw people from these events, they remembered me! No more slaving over press kits and borrowing of NAMM badges. I was legitimate. And that, my friends is the art of the endorsement deal!