Many of us associate famous musicians with their instrument and the instrument’s builder. That powerful imagery has become a marketing tool that has beneficially served both the artist and the instrument builder.
But as a teacher, we have the power to influence a great number of people as well.
For years, I played Ibanez Soundgear basses, Ovation acoustic electric guitars, and Les Paul style guitars. After a year or two, my beginner students would start moving on from their starter instruments. There was an unusually high percentage of Ibanez Soundgear basses and Ovation acoustic electrics in the mix of new purchases.
Later on, I acquired a Gibson SG and switched to playing Spector and LightWave basses. Not surprisingly, the next batch of students tended to gravitate to SG style guitars (made by a wide variety of builders…Samick, Epiphone, and even Ibanez) and a few Spector basses entered the mix.
My personal tastes then shifted again. A Washburn N2 has now been competing with the SG for the “favored guitar” position for a few years now. A handful of my students now say they are saving for their own N2 guitars.
One store I work at started selling Digitech multieffects units. These were starter multieffects units priced around $120 or so. The store manager put one unit in my studio for me to use. I’m just guessing, but there must be 40 or 50 kids who have now purchased that same multieffects unit at the same store, just because I was able to demo concepts with it during lessons.
Teachers are people of interest to manufacturers. We influence people directly. And that makes us eligible for product endorsements with companies. We are role models, and the fact we have preferences in choosing an instrument consititues an endorsement, even if we do not have some kind of arrangement with the company that makes the product. Our students pay attention to our choices, and will gravitate towards playing what we play.
But why would a teacher want or need an endorsement? And why would you want to go through the trouble of getting endorsements? First off, people will see you as a more credible musician. A few years ago, I was trying my hand at chord melody bass, and I was uploading YouTube videos of my work. I had a decent amount of hits. I had also purchased a LightWave fretless bass that needed some repairs. I had to make some calls to the company to get the repairs started. Fortunately, my YouTube videos were online and they were a great way to view my work, even though the videos featured my Ibanez Soundgear bass. To the company, I became a person of interest…a working musician and educator who was exploring a newer genre of bass playing. One thing led to another, and through a series of phone calls, emails, and a meeting, I ended up getting an endorsement with LightWave.
When I got my endorsement with LightWave, I was still the same player I was before I had gotten the endorsement. However, I did notice many folks now perceived me in a different way, which was interesting to observe. My students were proudly “heralding” the endorsement…even telling the local salespeople at our Guitar Center. I now had players from all over the world emailing me with some frequency. They would ask me questions about the bass and my opinion on it as a working bassist. I was still the same player. I just now had an endorsement.
The reality is, most people do judge us by our associations. This is the measure that most will judge our talent by and determine it’s worth. It’s not fair, but unfortunately it is true. So knowing this, you can choose to make these associations work for you. Endorsements can give your name a greater level of respect and weight.
Endorsements can also save you money, especially on products that you frequently use (in my case this would include strings, picks, tuners, cables, and even cases). And remember that if a product is purchased frequently (like strings) the company will probably have more profit dollars to put into their endorsement programs. Endorsements will usually have a sliding scale of how much they will discount their product. Just remember that the less you pay, the more you should expect to be a “team player” for the company that supplies you with their product. In the case of LightWave, I posted several videos of myself playing the bass, and I answered a lot of emails from people on my own time. I even recorded clips of songs that I played on that bass and sent them out via email to folks.
Another artist I know commented that he loved his basses so much, he paid out of pocket to have his company’s banner shipped to the event he was playing at, just so it could be displayed. That’s a team player!
Which brings me to my next point; when pursuing an endorsement, make sure you go after endorsements for products you love. It is obvious the artist I mentioned above LOVES his instrument and the company that supports him if he is willing to pay to have his personal banner shipped to an event. If you love the product, your enthusiasm is going to show, which benefits everyone involved.
In my next blog: how to go about getting an endorsement.