Sponsorships from non music related brands are like licensing. One of those things that you know can be a reliable source of income but which most people view as basically impossible to get. This is, unfortunately, fairly accurate. The music industry has a lot of people trying to find the limited amount of money on offer. While it certainly makes sense for certain brands to want to sponsor artists it’s an entirely different question to find out whether or not they will actually go out and sponsor you. This is for a variety of reasons, many of which are outside of your control. There’s a reason you don’t see a ton of bands going out there with a million sponsorships, but it is my belief that with a little creativity and hard work then you can start to find products that will want to endorse you and maybe even give you a little bit of money in order to be associated with your brand. I know that sounds over the top but believe you me – it is very possible.
I think the key thing that most people don’t realize is that you need to have fairly precise targeting when reaching out for sponsors. You want to be targeting lifestyle brands that want to be associated with what you have to offer. A lot of more staid clothing brands, corporations, or more ‘conventional life’ oriented products are going to have no interest in working with you. You need to look at companies that are run by creatives and exist within some form of creative sector. Now this isn’t always obvious – after all, some sectors, like for example hot sauce, are surprisingly friendly to bands. That being said, a general rule of thumb is that you want to target brands whose target demographic mirrors yours. I know that can be hard to determine sometimes so think of it this way, you want to be targeting companies who sell stuff that you and your fans use and are interested in. This is why it’s so useful to, for example, hit up skate companies, a wide variety of music fans also like skating and those companies have started to generate very real income.
Now here’s the shitty part – pretty much none of this is usually accessible to local bands. At least not money and nice free shit. I don’t care how influential your are in your local scene, unless literally everyone under the age of 30 in your town knows about your band then no local companies are realistically going to be interested. Remember – you need to offer something of concrete value. Folks aren’t just handing out free money! However, if you are a band who tour quite a bit and are starting to get some serious social media numbers then finding companies who want to affiliate with you one way or another can be a lot easier, especially if you offer to use their logos on your backdrop, on your van as part of a wrap, or just about anywhere else. I know that this can feel like selling out, but in my eyes if the companies you are working with are following the same ideals that you and your fans do than what are you doing but creating a stronger network for everyone to be a part of? It makes the brand affiliation part of a bolder future.
To make this happen though you need to have a variety of options. If your variety is big enough than even local level bands can start to find some hope. If, for example you ask for a local fashion company to print some shirts off for you with their logo on it you are much more likely to get a positive response than if you were to ask that company for $200 (Approximately the cost of 50 shirts) so you could rep their logo on tour. If you are at the point that you are going on tour and are hoping for a little money from sponsors then you can’t just offer van wraps since those are pricey. You need to be willing to carry free samples, have smaller banners around your merch stand or perhaps something as simple as stickers available. I know that these things sometimes sound tricky and overwhelming, but in my eyes they can serve as an easy way to get a few extra bucks in your pocket.
I think the key here is approaching companies in the spirit of collaboration. Maybe they won’t like any of the ideas you had for sponsorship, but the odds are there is at least one music head at the company in question who has a cool idea of how they might want to associate a band with their brand. Even if the opportunity doesn’t fit with your band for whatever reason you can always pass the opportunity on to one of your peers. Remember -what goes around comes around so if you have the opportunity to hook up one of your homies you can be sure tat somewhere down the line they will do the same for you. Also remember that you need to be flexible because the kinds of companies that are big enough to give serious sponsorships to bands are often also pretty far removed from that world. You need to act as a friendly guide and who knows, maybe they will start supporting other bands too!
When it comes down to it – the music industry isn’t a friendly place so perhaps it makes sense that a lot of the salvation that we find comes from reaching out to other industries who might end up being far more sympathetic to our cause than the money grubbing labels and shady figures who define so much of our world. There is a lot of room for cross collaboration – and these days when more people listen to independent music than ever before it seems to me that there is no reason not to go out and try and make personalized pitches to hundreds of potential sponsors. After all – you have nothing to lose and a whole load of friends to make and connections to gain. If that’s not motivation enough for you, remember that there could be a whole lot of money in this also.