By: Peter D. Singh Jr.

This is one of the most pointed intersections of music and business. To market their brands and products, businesses link with users that can introduce or bolster their recognition. Artists in the olden days of Ancient Greece had patrons, and this modern model works much the same way. Models, influencers, actors, athletes, teams, bands, and entertainers of all sorts can enter into these symbiotic relationships with companies for promotion and platform. Here, we will provide some guidance for both sides to know what they’re getting into and the sorts of aims and pitfalls they should look out for.

Let’s take the example of a professional guitar player that could consider partnerships with suppliers from head to toe, including in-ear monitors, strings, picks, pickups, capos, tuners, fret wraps, straps, cables, effects pedals, amps, mics, and profilers, not to mention recording equipment or lifestyle products like attire and tech, or even food and drink. The instruments and accessories an artist uses present opportunities for relationships that can be mutually beneficial by leveraging influence and exposure.

A sponsor is a brand that provides talent with gear, discounts, or platforms, and the talent gives the brand its reach and vote of confidence by displaying the logo or otherwise showing off. An endorsement is the reciprocal or flip side where the talent provides the brand with a vote of confidence and affiliation. Anyone that admires or aspires to the look or sound of the talent can then trace a connection to the business and buy what they use to emulate.

Here are some things to think through for both sides.

  • What’s the deal? This could range from discounts to free gear, to money, to any combination of those things. Does the brand want product placement, glowing recommendations or reviews, social media posts, signage, liner credits, events like clinics and conventions, personal appearances, demonstration videos, or something else? Aligning these expectations helps maximize the value for everyone.
  • Transparency is key. FCC guidelines require a post to have #ad if it is sponsored, meaning the user is getting any sort of kickback or compensation for it. Steps like this also lend some legitimacy to the relationship and engender some sense of authenticity and trust with the audience. Both the business and the ambassador should make sure that the influence isn’t undue or subversive, but disclosed.
  • Will the brand impose any morals or standards of conduct? Controversy, whether from words or deeds, can impact not only the person that makes the statement or does the thing, but any connections could be considered guilty by association in the court of public opinion. Creative people may not want to restrict or constrain the ways they can express themselves. This creates a tension with the brand’s interest in mass appeal and avoiding alienation of any piece of the market.
  • Similarly, exclusivity or non-exclusivity can be a big deal. Using one paint brush can help to define your style, but that can be limiting on the other hand. Do you have confidence that this one provider can give you everything you’re looking for? If a brand is insisting on an exclusive deal, that’s a great opportunity to push for a signature model with all the features that are important to you, or something you can live with for a long time. This is important not only during the term/duration of the affiliation, but afterwards. A spokesperson that once asked “can you hear me now?” touting Verizon’s coverage switched to Sprint years later and blew some minds by drawing direct comparisons 🤯.

Ultimately, the art is the aim. Talent should use the tools that best suit the medium and best serve the vision. If they’re able to find something that does that and a backer that’s willing to provide support, that’s all the better, but the first step is discovering what to use and how. You can look to those you look up to, experiment with whatever you can find, or take the highest bid, but ensure that you don’t distract yourself or compromise too much. Find your sound and your base, then let the brands find you.

Headquartered in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, Fourscore Business Law serves entrepreneurs and businesses in the Triangle, throughout the Southeast and in Silicon Valley / San Francisco. We also represent venture capital funds and other investors who invest in companies throughout the U.S. The idea of delivering maximum impact in a simple and succinct manner is what we’re calling the Fourscore Principle. And that is what Fourscore Business Law is based on. Our clients operate in a broad range of industries including tech, IoT, consumer products, B2B services and more. Questions? Shoot us an email or give us a call at (919) 307-5356. Your first call is on us.