A few weeks back Zildjian's John DeChristopher dispelled a few endorsement myths – no, it's really not all free gear as soon as you've played your first gig, you know. To give you more of an insight into the whos, hows and whys of endorsement deals we quizzed Mapex's Artist Relations gurus Otto Choi and Joe Hibbs on the ins and outs of their endorsement scheme.
How does the artist relations program work at Mapex?
"There are three tiers of Mapex endorsement:
"Local Key Endorsement (Key Endorser special cost) The investigation and background information about that player is more accessible by the A/R person in that region. We do not want to take the glamour and excitement out of the possibility of someone being endorsed but in reality to gain an endorsement arrangement is in some ways like applying for a high position in an international company. There are always many opportunities available but it is all based on what the player has to offer at that present time, or what the company may see for that player in the future.
"National Key Endorsers. The endorser's influence and popularity is on a greater scale meaning their range and amount of influence is beyond the local level. The National Key Endorser arrangement can vary and should not be seen as an automatic arrangement where the endorser gets all the free gear he wants. But the company does recognise the endorser has a growing talent and his musical situation(s) is developing.
"International Artist. This arrangement equates to the influence and reputation an artist has developed over the years, an influence that transcends music taste and musical styles. The artist notoriety and popularity is global. The activities of this artist are so great and fast the company supports him with the instruments he needs on a global basis
"In each of these categories there has to be a relationship, from the company side a relationship based on recognising there is a level of talent, a level of dedication, and a level desire to be teamed up with Mapex. From the player's side a relationship based on the companies genuine interests toward his musical and drumming efforts, the companies willingness to provide him with 'tools of his trade' at a reasonable arrangement, and the basic desire to be a partner with the company."
What do you look for in a new endorsee? Are there any specific criteria you follow when evaluating an individual?
"The most important and most relative point is the player must be interested in the company (Mapex) and he must understand what an endorsement means and the responsibilities that come along with it. They must know that an endorsement is not an entitlement it is a relationship that is earned.
"Secondly he must be a good player (drummer), and hopefully would show signs of being a good musician. If the player is not in a band then they must have some impact or strong connection / influence into their immediate musical community, they must be connected. If they are in a band then the band must have some position in the music community. Must be playing shows, must be touring, must have some active record deal."
Should drummers send in a portfolio and, if so, what should they include?
"Yes, submission of a portfolio is absolutely essential. The more information a player can submit to a company right from the outset the better the chance the company has to really know who this player, not only from a drumming / musician point but also on the personal level. Once again the company must know the person behind the drums and the person away from the kit. DVDs, CDs, tour dates, reviews from your students (if a teacher), the number of students and the successes the students have had (if a teacher), all other endorsement companies and the arrangements (cost, no charge). And if you truly want to be with Mapex and if the first submission doesn't work, keep trying!"
How important is it for an individual to already be using your company's product before they contact you?
"The desire to be with a certain company no matter what the arrangement is the most pure and sincere platform for the relationship. At the end of the day you will be playing the gear you really like, the gear that makes you feel the most comfortable, and the gear that makes you sound your best. Isn't that what it is all about?"
A major misconception is that an endorsement instantly means free gear. What's the reality?
"An endorsement means that a player is lending his name, influence, and name power to a company for one reason only, to sell more drums! From a company side it means that a company is lending not only its name (which has international recognition) but its support of resources in order to assist that player in pursuing his dream, playing the drums and making music. The fact is both parties have to be understanding and flexible about what is possible as it relates to what gear might cost, what gear might be free, and the other services that might or might not be available."
On average how many people approach you each year to enquire about endorsements?
"Mapex being an internationally established brand receives inquiries from all parts of the world every day. The numbers are in the thousands."
What do you expect in return from an artist that successfully secures an endorsement?
"There must be a certain level of frankness and honesty with each other about why the parties are creating this relationship. From the player's side he or she wants to be successful in the business called music and a good, honest, supportive relationship with an international musical instrument company can be very beneficial. From the company side we want players who understand the company objective is to sell the great equipment the company makes. A very big part of the player's responsibility is to help and support the company on this level. Just as a player in a band wants to sell records, the company wants to sell drum sets. There is a lot of common ground the two parties share."
Is there any other advice you can offer up-and-coming drummers looking to build a relationship with Mapex?
"Be the best at what you see yourself being. If the goal is to be a great teacher concentrate on being a great teacher. Study it, live it, breathe it and in the end you will be a great teacher and you will have all of the rewards that brings, including an endorsement or support from a company who believes in what you are doing. If from that very beginning your choice was Mapex then guaranteed that will happen on some level. The same theory holds for being a great rock player, blues player, hip hop player, you must work at it, you must get the word out, and you must have others supporting you and those others must believe in what you are doing. If they do not believe then you have not worked hard enough to make them believe."