There are so many rumors in the music business regarding endorsements that young drummers don’t know what to believe. There are stories about drummers receiving thousands of dollars for agreeing to play a certain drumset.

It can be confusing and disappointing to go to a concert and see your favorite drummer using equipment he doesn’t endorse. For example, he might be using a different pedal, snare drum or cymbal than the ads proclaim. Who is at fault, the artist or the company? It’s hard to say because each situation is different.

Bob McKee is an excellent drummer and teacher living and working in Cleveland, Ohio. Many years ago, Bob helped to field test Rogers Drums. At that time, Rogers was owned by the H. S. Grossman Company, also located in Cleveland.

On the cover of the Rogers catalog at that time was a picture of Bob McKee taken as he was playing a drumset. The picture was taken from the back, sort of over Bob’s shoulder. In other words, you could not see his face.

While traveling and doing clinics, I ran into many young drummers who asked, “Do you know who is on the cover of the Rogers catalog?” In most instances, before I had time to reply, the drummer would say, “That’s my teacher,” or “That’s my friend.”

In every instance the name given was never Bob McKee. In order to impress the student, the teacher or friend had told them, “This is me on the cover.” Since the face was not shown, a number of people used this trick to impress others. Actually, it was more than a trick. It was a lie! The moral is: don’t believe everything you hear.

Another trick to impress young drummers is to proclaim, ” I get all of my equipment free.” In most instances the drummer doing the bragging has bought and paid for the equipment, even though a company may be running an ad featuring him.

Endorsements

Most companies will provide a big-name artist with free equipment in return for advertising the artist with their equipment. Usually, the companies that are interested in improving their products will ask the artist to field test equipment before it is manufactured and offered to the public. This practice serves the artist, the company and the consumer because the result is better equipment.

Some companies just want to use the artist’s name and couldn’t care less about improving the product, just as long as it sells. It is this group of companies that is experiencing the greatest difficulty in the present economy. However, I should add that most companies do want honest feedback and do want to make good products.

Artists

Most artists feel that the publicity obtained by an endorsement is valuable to their career. Others see it as a status symbol. “I have really arrived; I am getting a lot of publicity.” There is some truth to this. Companies want to advertise artists who have established themselves.

However, an ad will not make you a star. You have to do that yourself. Your reputation is based upon how well you play, with whom and how much exposure the group gets on records, concerts, TV, etc.

Artists who become publicity hounds and endorse virtually anything just to get their picture in a magazine do everyone a disservice. When the artist loses credibility, his endorsement means nothing. His endorsement could even hurt a product.

The only way to tell if an artist is true to himself and the equipment he uses is his track record. If he tends to stay with a certain product for a long period of time, he must really like the product. If he continually uses the same equipment on tour that he advertises, then one could assume he believes in the product.

Business

Sometimes an artist will leave a company because of the management. Large corporations are, as a rule, the most difficult for the artist to deal with. Giant corpo rations that buy music companies unfortunately have a record of alienating artists, cheapening their products and raising prices.

The communications breakdown occurs when a company elects people to high positions who are not sensitive to music and musicians. All they care about is profit. These companies come off as unfeeling, stupid and arrogant. And indeed, they often are just that.

The companies who do well year after year have key people in management who like music, musicians and the music business.

The Other Side of the Story

Some unscrupulous artists will promise anything just to get as much free equipment as possible. There are genuine horror stories about artists selling equipment that they were given for their own personal use.

I have actually seen more than one artist endorsing two different drumsets in the same magazine. This hurts all of us.

The worst one of all is when an artist says, “I don’t really like this stuff all that much, but they pay me to use it.”

When companies have been burned in this way, they tend to have less faith in artist endorsements and in musicians in general.

Two-Way Street

When entering into an agreement with a company, it is important to discover the company’s reputation for dealing with artists. Ask questions and talk to artists who have had experience with the company. Talk to the people in the company and ask them what their program is. Talk to the local drumshop and get their view of the company. Talk to a lawyer if you feel it would be helpful.

Make sure that you really do like the equipment and intend to use it. Don’t sign up just to get your picture in a magazine. Develop a reputation for being truthful and for keeping your agreements.

Remember, it takes years to develop a really good reputation and only minutes to develop a bad one—and bad news travels fast.

Changes

Times, music and equipment are always changing. In corporations the management changes every few years. The artist may also be changing. He may be in a different musical situation and honestly require new and/or different equipment. He may hear a new instrument and decide that he prefers it over what he has been using. These are all valid reasons for changing companies and products.

Integrity

If you decide to leave a company, for whatever reason, do it with style. Write a letter to the company and explain that you have decided to play another product. If you have any products “on-loan,” offer to return them. Thank the company for providing you with advertising, products and for supporting your career.

Whenever you leave a company (or a band), there will be someone who says something bad about you. People like to blame the other guy to save face.

However, if you consistently operate in an ethical manner, things will work out for you. You will be respected as a person, as an artist and as an endorser. You will also have respect for yourself.