Don’t call up a company thinking you’re going to get an endorsement before you’ve had any real exposure or experience. You have to be with a band, proven with high visibility, done a lot of playing, and so you have real credentials. Then you shouldn’t try to endorse a product unless you really love it. I’ve had guys call up here and say, “What kind of deal have you got on endorsements?” I ask if they’ve heard our heads and they say, “No, but if the deal is good I’ll endorse them.” We’re not playing that game; if you don’t like our products, if you’re not going to love the sound you’re going to get, we’d rather not been involved with you because you really shouldn’t play a product you don’t really like. It’s not being honest with yourself of anybody else and it won’t lead to good things. So you get the reputation of being a guy that jumps from company to company – which we have quite a few of these days.
WHAT CAN YOU OFFER?
Now once that’s said, you want to say to the company, “What can I do for you guys?” It has to be a two-way street. All we ask is that the guy use our products, that he lets the people know what he plays, and if they’re going to do a big promotion or be highlighted somewhere and if it’s convenient, let the people know what products they’re playing and be loyal. And we try to do the same thing. We work with the endorser.
FREE IS NOT A COMMON WORD
Now, there are not very many people who get free drumheads or free anything – money’s just too tight. The other thing is there are so many endorsers. I’ve got it broken down into three categories. One is the super drummer like a Louie Bellson or Buddy Rich or some genius player; he’s going to be famous no matter who he plays with. Then you have the drummer who might be the drummer with Marilyn Manson or The Beatles or somebody like that; the guy’s not a super player but he’s very visible and for the most part very musical. Then the third category is the drummer who plays and teaches; he’s an accomplished player and he’s got a lot of playing experience but teaches young people and he’s the guy that usually gets overlooked by the companies. So we try to have a mixture of those three categories ’cause I think that rewards each guy based on what he’s achieved.
I got to tell you there’s a lot of great drummers and musicians. As a guy who’s played for years I got to tell you there are more good young drummers today than ever before. They can play more stuff than guys from my era could. Their feet are better; they can play more grooves. So this idea that drummers aren’t as good as they were years ago, doesn’t hold water. There are a lot of great drummers out there, young ones that are so creative. And I think it’s good when you run into young drummers who are aware of the history … who say “I’ve heard Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Max Roach, Art Blakey. I’ve heard their recordings and know what they’re like.” Learning the history and having respect for the guys who preceded you is always good. I think respecting the creativity of the younger person is equally valid.
IT’S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS
So the main thing about getting an endorsement, you want to get an agreement with a company that you can be comfortable with for a long time—they’ll provide you with artist’s price. But you don’t want to contact the company too early ’cause if you contact them and you get turned down they’ll probably remember you. If you re-apply later, they’ll say, “Didn’t this guy apply before?” And don’t use one company against another. I had a guy call up and say, “I had an offer from such-and-such-a-drum company; what’s your offer?” I said, “We’re not going to make an offer; we’re not in that game. We only want to work with people that want to work with us.”
If you pay attention to some of those concepts, when you feel that you’ve got credentials enough that it merits it then try to develop a good working relationship and get to know the people there – that’s one thing.
Roy Burns was a world renown teacher, studio musician and co-founder of Aquarian Drumheads