It’s kind of the dream, isn’t it? You’re playing stadium tours, meeting with thousands of new fans a night and rocking free gear while getting paid by your favorite companies to play their instruments or wear their shirts.
But what if I told you that you don’t have to be a mega-star to land a sponsorship deal? That even as an indie artist with a modest following, you could create sponsorship opportunities and begin to build those relationships and even make a little money as you grow your career?
How to Land Sponsorships:
1. Make sure you stand out
Having a solid brand and identity is going to come in handy just about everywhere you look in the music industry, but when it comes to sponsorships this is especially true. You may think being very middle of the road, and pleasing to everyone is a benefit because you’ll attract more people, but the opposite is actually true.
Brands want an artist that has a clear and defined brand that aligns with their own. So for example if you’re trying to get the attention of an environmentally conscious water bottle company for your next tour, but you’ve never shown any signs of being aware of those things on your social media, in your songs, or in the messages you send out into the world, it’s not likely they’re going to notice you or see you as a fit if you pitch them.
Then again, if you’ve made every tour you’ve done as environmentally friendly as possible and shared it all with a branded hashtag, as well as shared articles about how fans can make a difference and reduce waste, and are continually sharing your thoughts on social media, well then, that makes their decision a lot easier.
2. Think outside the box
While it might be great to land something major like an instrument or clothing sponsorship, don’t overlook the smaller opportunities that allow room for growth. For instance, maybe you’re putting on a Halloween release show, and you’ve made a point of addressing your sweet tooth all over social media, even creating the hashtag #SweetTreatsonTour when you hit the road. (Side note, can someone please do a dessert tour on their next tour?)
If so, then that might be a great time to approach the local bakery and see if they want to sponsor the show with cupcakes for attendees to munch on.
Sponsorships don’t always have to be huge or long-standing deals—they can be one-offs and can be with local or smaller companies. They should always be with companies who will see the benefit as much as you, so keep that in mind and always think outside the box.
3. Tell them what you want
Have you ever heard that old saying about how, if you want something you have to make it as easy as possible for the person on the other end to say yes? This is true just as much in sponsorship opportunities as anywhere else. Don’t just pitch someone and say “I’d love to work together, what do you think?” Give them specific ideas (2-3) to work with and tell them why they’d be a fit.
“We’d love to partner with Lily’s Cupcakes for the sponsoring of our show on (date). As a longtime fan of your bakery, we believe this would be a great fit because we know our attendees will love your cupcakes as much as we do, and we want to show them what they’re missing by making sure they’re going to you for all their future sweet treat needs and cake orders.”
4. EPK + Social media tuneup
We touched on this above, but you really need to make sure when they look at you—your website, your socials, your videos—they get a crystal clear idea of who you are and have the best chance of liking what they see. That means you have professional photos, a strong bio, and perhaps most importantly for sponsorships, a compelling and engaging social media presence that tells them people that are paying attention, and if they entrust you with their product, people are going to not only care, but buy.
Some helpful links:
5. Approach companies you can grow with
It can be tempting to immediately approach the Converse’s of the world for sponsorships, but especially for your first few deals, there’s a ton of value in working with smaller companies. First, they are honestly just more likely to respond and express interest in featuring you. You may have incredible talent, but a big part of sponsorships is about that company getting in front of your audience, so if you’re still working on growing your audience, it’s not realistic to expect major sponsorship deals right away.
Second, pairing up with companies who are in the same lifestage as you is a smart way to grow together. Don’t forget, as they grow you’ll have access to bigger opportunities (and having built that loyalty from the start, perhaps more of them). Likewise, as you grow and continue to support them, they’re not likely to forget you were there for them in the beginning.
Getting sponsorships can be career-changing—but you always want to make sure they’re the right sponsorships and at the right time in your career. Take your time, find your fit, and have fun. This is going to be so awesome for you. ✌️