I’ve written a whole series of blogs on How to Get a Sponsor for your band, tour, etc. In the end, it boils down to being able to creating mutually beneficial partnerships.
Here are some other ways you can approach sponsorship and create more opportunities for you and your partners:
- Create new sponsorship opportunities out of existing inventory. People rarely want to spend large amounts of money on new inventory, especially for a new investment. In addition, it’s a healthy practice for any business to clear out existing inventory. Perhaps you can come up with a new idea to highlight older (but favorite) products from your sponsor. You can also view “inventory” not just as a collection of product, but available services or skills as well. What could create new opportunities without risking a large investment?
- Creating unique programs that sponsors can own. Innovative businesses don’t like a “one size fits all” approach. If you come up with ideas that are specific to their target audience and makes sense for their brand (as opposed to just a “menu” of options), they’ll be more likely to invest into your project. Always show the return on investment for their business.
- Make it easy. The benefit to a tiered (or menu) style of sponsorship is that it makes it easy to select different amounts in terms of dollars, services, or goods. However, it doesn’t mean that this can’t be personalized. If you make it as easy as possible (simple agreement, payment method, method of measuring return on investment, etc.), you’ll get better results.
- Reposition your brand from their point of view. If you were a Marketing Director or business owner at X company, what would you like to see? In every proposal and communication shared, highlight how you will reach their target audience, highlight their brand, get them more for their money. Sponsorship programs often bring in a much higher return on investment than buying ads (that’s why they’ve endured for so long), you just have to prove how you will be effective for them. Sometimes, that means describing your music differently. Other times, it requires more an entire overhaul of your press kit.
Sometimes we’re so fixed on our own ideas that we forget to position them and view them in someone else’s light. Before you make the actual pitch, you could always get ideas/input from people outside of your band. Actually, proofreading is always a good idea.
And if you ever have questions or want someone to help you create a sponsorship packet, drop me a line.
I’d like to believe that the two recent controversial bills, SOPA and PIPA, were stopped because they were poorly written but the real reason had to do with the power of messaging and branding.
Let’s face it: bad laws are passed everyday. In 2009-2010, Congress passed 8,970 bills alone. Most of the time, things go by unnoticed. SOPA and PIPA had great intentions (even praised by their strongest opponents) to deter piracy but their problem had to do with messaging. Both bills had been making steady progress for months with bi-partisan support and hardly any opposition. However, during the last several weeks, things exploded online when major Internet companies such as Google, Wikipedia, and Facebook got involved. A lot of things were said about the bill that weren’t true…but by then, it didn’t matter. People were buying the new story: SOPA and PIPA would “break the Internet.”
This is what they did wrong from a marketing perspective:
- They didn’t share the stories of those affected by piracy. Some of the bill’s biggest supporters, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), vouched their support but the messaging came from their executive staff. They didn’t tell the story of the thousands of workers affected by piracy: film hands, aspiring writers, the struggling artist. People launched attacks against the entertainment industry’s wealthy while ignoring the possibility that multi-billion dollar Internet companies probably have their own lobbyists influencing legislation as well. People don’t mind hating a big corporation but it’s hard to dismiss the power of a single story.
- They Communicated in the Wrong Places. Nearly all of the messaging supporting SOPA were featured on industry sites (such as ASCAP and BMI) but that information wasn’t being shared much outside of that. On the other hand, anti-SOPA/PIPA messaging prominently featured on social media and Internet sites (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.), making it easy to spread quickly and effectively.
- They Focused on the Wrong Message. People don’t care about industries or companies, they care about themselves. When the entertainment industry talks about lost revenue or lost jobs, eyes glaze over (they’re tired of hearing that tale). It’s why piracy continues to rise. On the other hand, hen someone hears “the Internet will break” or that they could lose their favorite social media site, they begin to listen and more importantly, want to take action.
- The Brand Suffered but They Didn’t React. The bill supporters assumed that people would use reason and read the bills themselves (especially as they got updated throughout the process) but in reality, most people didn’t care enough to follow. They had one poor impression and it was enough. In the customer service industry, if manage negative touch-points aren’t managed, customers are lost. By then, it’s too little, too late. Many of the bill’s supporters began jumping ship simply because they didn’t want to be associated with SOPA or PIPA.
Even if the bills undergo major overhaul, I doubt they’ll get the support that they need. My recommendation would be to change the name (the brand) and begin with fresh messaging, highlighting the stories of the people who would be affected by its passage. Have independent artists reach out to their fans, show case budding directors and fashion designers. Show that it was more than the entertainment industry who had a stake. Share the a real story that people could relate to and spread.
Most of the bill sponsors involved never expected such a strong reaction since major laws are nearly ignored everyday. However, when you mess with the largest supply and delivery information services in the world, expect some sort of retaliation. In the end, it’s just business. But remember, a lot of spending, just like voting, is emotional and not necessarily rational. The story or idea that spreads and sticks is the one that wins.
In a word, nothing.
Just because a certain construct of the music business appears to be fading, it doesn’t mean that more people are listening to music than ever. Major players in industries come and go but it doesn’t mean that the respective arts or businesses will die. Just today, photography pioneer and film company, Koday, declared bankruptcy, but more people are taking photos than ever and photoraphy businesses are still doing well despite the rise in “semi-pro” photographers.
People are giving Adele credit for “saving the music industry” through the first rise in album sales since 2004 (though it wasn’t a massive bump) but they’re ignoring the fact that there are plenty of independent musicians who are making a living through other means such as playing live, merchandise sales, licensing, etc. Just because the “industry” isn’t selling as many records doesn’t mean that you won’t.
There are a few ways to make sure you get to open for a major artist in town:
- Develop a consistent reputation with promoters in your area that you can pack out whatever venues you play. Part of getting this great buzz about your music is getting into local press or radio stations (usually with the help of a publicist), being proactive about promoting your shows, and demonstrating that you’d make a good fit for the show.
- Buy your way in. Either you’ll be asked to sell a minimum number of tickets (and pay the difference if you are short) or pay the performer up front.
- Enter a random contest that you have no control over (sometimes local promoters or radio stations have a contest for local artists to enter), but the results usually have to do deal with option #1 (how much of a buzz do you have).
The first option takes time, energy, and hard work. In the process, you’ll gain the respect of the local music industry. You’ll build true fans that will come to other shows, buy your merchandise, and support your career. It’s the equivalent of a business building solid, regular customers. If the act you’re opening for likes you, you’ll be invited to do future shows with them and they’ll probably encraouge their fans to support you.
The second option requires money. You won’t gain respect in the industry (most managers, booking agents, and labels smell a “buy on” act a mile away). You might make new fans if people show up to the concert early (many people skip the opening acts), are paying attention, and you blow them away. These fans might or might not buy your merchandise and the probably won’t come to your future shows unless you really developed a rapport with them. The band you’re opening up for probably won’t watch you and doesn’t really care about you.
It’s odd: people are so reluctant when they encounter “pay to play” models from promoters yet they’re so desperate that they’ll throw thousands of dollars down in order to open for a touring band they admire. The pay off usually isn’t there. I’d only recommend it if you weren’t losing money on the deal (you’ll have no problems selling all of the tickets). Same thing goes for people who “buy” friends on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or Myspace (there are companies that sell a “like” service); one look at any of act’s pages and you can tell that there is no true engagement. Your time, money, and energy would be better spent elsewhere.
I forgot to mention a fourth option: be the promoter yourself. Rent a venue, book the band, put yourself on the bill. I’ve done it myself a few times, I know other promoters and bands who do this. If you know how to run a show, it’s a lot different than when you’re at someone’s mercy for the terms.
I believe that good information should be spread and even though I do booking for bands, I’m not afraid to share, step-by-step, how I go about this process. That’s what this music blog is all about, partnering up with artists to take the next step. I hope this helps your music career.
This is a more concise version of an earlier post which you can read here. I recommend you read that one too.
Once you’ve decided that you want to and are able to tour (and you’ve figured out the why’s), it’s time to plan the how, when, and where’s. This is what I do.
- Decide on a Date Range. I strongly recommend that you plan, at minimum, 4-6 months in advance. Booking a tour requires months of contacting, follow-up work, and filling in gaps. Some venues book at least 6 months out in advance, some only one month at a time. You’ll also need plenty of time to market, promote, and contact local press.
- Choose Your Tour Route. Decide the general direction where you’d like to go. Chances are that you will probably have to make adjustments along the way. Some cities are easier to book than others. Decide how much you want to drive per day (I recommend spacing venues out 50-400 miles apart, depending on the region). and if you want any days off. Big cities have more venues to choose from but often times require a “pay to play” option or will hardly pay you at all. Smaller towns outside of the city tend to pay more and are sometimes easier to book. I also recommend sticking to major highways (such as booking along I-5).
- Begin Contacting Venues. Start by looking for venues along your tour route. Websites like Indie on the Move, byofl.org, and onlinegigs.com are free, searchable databases. You can also buy more details (and sometimes reliable) information from Billboard Music (they offer a touring guide for about $20), The Indie Venue Bible (about $100), and more. Most promoters prefer email. Some still use Myspace, some use the phone, some have their own contact form. Whatever it is, find out their preference and stick to it. Don’t use one generic message or method (nobody like spam) and answering the question on their mind: How will you make the venue money? How will you bring people in the door? No venue cares about how “good” your show is if you’ll be playing for an empty room. Nearly every venue would rather hire the crappy local band that can sell the place out over a touring, professional band that can’t even get their guest list to show up.
- Follow Up With the Venues. Most promoters are inundated with messages and are constantly juggling dates, bands, rentals, and other events. Get a confirmation, make sure you are on their website. Check in to see if they want posters mailed to them, see if there are local media contacts you should be following up with. If a promoter gave you a “hold,” find out what you need to make it a confirmed show. Follow-up again one more time before you leave for tour.
- If You Have Gaps…and chances are, you will…have a back-up plan. If a show doesn’t pan out and if want to fill the date, start thinking creatively. You can contact nearby towns, check Craigslist to see if someone wants live music for their party or corporate event. If you’re out of venues, try doing a search on Yelp or Google Maps for live music. Contact local radio stations, record shops, bookstores, skate shops, church groups, roller skate arenas, restaurants, malls, any place where you might make a good fit. Hot Topic used to allow touring bands to do an acoustic set (some stores still do). Ask your friends/fans in the area if they want to do a house party. Or, begin contacting all of the venues you already reached out to and see if something opened up. Get in touch with bands in the area to see if they can help do a gig-swap.
The most important thing to remember is that this takes patience, consistency, follow-up, and a little bit of salesmanship. Keep at it everyday. Set up an appointment with yourself to contact venues, promoters, etc. for at least 1-2 hours per day (and more as you get closer). Never miss that appointment.
If you are consistent and tour often, you’ll begin building relationships with promoters and it becomes easier and easier. Then who knows? Maybe you’ll begin booking for other bands. That’s how I got started.
Just got back in from doing a tour in Eatsern Europe playing for the troops. If you’re interested in reading about the experience, you can check out my personal blog at http://aslantedview.tumblr.com
Regular blogging and notes will be resuming here shortly.