A few days ago, I wrote the first part of this topic. And a few people (like Jason) were a little bit...umm... anxious to get to the second part, AKA, the good news. So let's get to the things you can do to increase your chances of getting a deal: 1. Target the right partners. Good news! Almost no one reads my blog. So they're still selling it like it's 1999, baby! They are just looking to put someone's logo on their website and cash a big check. They're offering the same old crap and corporate brand managers aren't buying it. So if you're smart and creative, you might have a shot. Know yourself and what you have to offer. Target partners that can actually benefit from what you have to offer. If you sold 3,000 CDs, chasing Pepsi is not a good use of your time. But Keen shoes might be.
2. Ask for and offer the right stuff. Do your research. Find out about the company and their customers. If you want Keen shoes, take pictures of people wearing Keens at your shows or talking about it, and you, on video. Money is tight, especially for small companies. So think of it as barter and cash is an unexpected bonus. Sure, you might only get free shoes and placement on their website, but if it that partnership can get you in their ads or mailings and in front of their customers and you're listeners are Keen kinda' people, that might sell 300 extra CDs for you (a 10% bump) or help bump your numbers at shows. Ask them to print posters for you in exchange for having their logo on them. They might pay for a photo shoot. Or give you shoes and bags to give out as prizes through your website. Offer them performances. Appearances. Free digital copies of your record (the whole thing!).
3. Keep it simple and get your foot in the door. Offer them a complete deal that makes it easy for them to say yes. Make it easy to track and prepare to show them tangible results (I emailed X number of people three times, I put this banner up on stage at every show, I distributed X thousand posters in X number of cities with your name on them.) The best partnerships grow over time. So get the deal done now and if you do a good job and treat them right, it can grow into something bigger.
4. Ask for help, but be smart about it. There are people and organizations out there that can help you. That might be your PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) or a label or publisher or a local media outlet. But remember that everyone is asking them for help. So you have to reframe the discussion. Go in with a list of who you're trying to get to and what you want to offer. Listen to those people when they tell you what does and doesn't get a response. Again, do the work and make it easy for them to help you. Otherwise, you are just another person on their list that wants something and has the same stuff to offer. Being a small independent artist looking for sponsorship is like selling a condo in a hi-rise. All the units look pretty much the same from the outside. So you better find something interesting and unique or else no one is gonna buy.
5. Keep trying and know that it's not easy for anyone, at any level. Even big artists that sell hundreds of thousands of records have trouble getting deals done. And in some ways, it's actually harder at that level because there are more people involved and more money involved. Those giant tour sponsorships are brutal and involve a lot of stuff you would never know existed.
6. Maybe most importantly, a deal may not be the right thing for you. Sponsoring you says something about a brand. But it also says something about you. Don't take money just because it's there. Know who you are and who you're audience is. If you have doubts, turn down a deal. A little money isn't worth your credibility as an artist. And any deal can potentially preclude you from bigger deals later on in that category. And best of all, turning down a deal, especially a good one, can do wonders for your rep. In many cases, it can actually get you other deals. As the old saying goes, the easiest way to find a job is to have one.
So it's not all great news. But I think it is good news and it's realistic.