I had the opportunity to speak with musician & entrepreneur Simon Tam regarding tips on how indie and emerging hip-hop artists can secure sponsorships and endorsements. Simon Tam is President and Founder of Last Stop Booking, author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, and performs in dance rock band The Slants. Check out what Simon had to say about crowdfunding, the importance of following up and more! Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at www.laststopbooking.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @SimonTheTam
1.) At what stage, should an indie/emerging hip-hop artist consider seeking out sponsorship opportunities and/or endorsements?
I believe that an indie artist should begin working on creating partnerships from the very beginning of their career. Now, that doesn't mean that they need to begin asking and sending out proposal packets or anything...but it does mean that they need to be aware of their target audience, learn how to build that audience, and find out what motivates them. Don't just use social media to promote oneself, use it to build interactions and engagement - that's the kind of thing that sponsors like to see. It doesn't mater if you have 100,000 fans if none of them interact with you. Even if you only have 1,000 fans but you have high levels of engagement, content, and interaction, you'd be a much better prospect. From the very beginning, begin cultivating contacts by building relationships with people who might be able to help one day. This can be from friends, family, or even fans....you never know who knows somebody and who might be interested in working with you one day.
2.) What tips would you give indie/emerging hip-hop artists for researching and targeting specific sponsorship opportunities?
It's all about understanding your target audience. Too often, we focus on the companies that we like: they're big, they seem to have money or power, they're sponsoring other acts, etc. However, we need to focus on our fans. Potential sponsors want to know that your fan base is their target audience as well. Therefore, get as much data as possible - demographics, behaviors, common interests, etc. You can use fan surveys to find out the kinds of things that they enjoy (also great for developing a plan to have great merchandise) or you can use Facebook's Page Manager to see what other "likes" your followers share. That is a great starting point because those companies know you have a special relationship with their potential customers.
3.) What are some tips for creating an effective sponsorship proposal?
The most effective sponsorship proposal is one that is catered to your prospect in every way possible. In other words, don't have stock language that seems generic. Find out what motivates the potential sponsor: target audience, unique niche, your markets that they want to reach, etc. Do your homework first and create something that reflects their company. Focus on their return to investment: everything in the packet should answer the question of what they will benefit from sponsoring you.
4.) What are your thoughts on artists using crowdfunding for album/mixtape projects? What are some tips for setting up a crowdfunding campaign?
I think crowdfunding is a great way to fund projects, however, it's important that artists approach it the right way. First, people need to stop viewing those who contribute as donors. They're not. They're investors. They're investing into your art and expect some kind of payoff as a return for their investment (usually music or products). So treat them like V.I.P investors. That changes everything: how you approach them, how you ask, how you follow up throughout the campaign. Like sponsors, you don't begin a campaign at the launch of your kickstarter or IndieGoGo project, it starts when you begin building that relationship up with your fans. If it is one of trust and transparency from the start, they'll be more likely to help. Recently, I did an interview about this with Entrepreneur on Fire with a specific emphasis on music funding (it's part of a series of ten interviews). You can get more information/thoughts on that here: http://bit.ly/X6BXNf
5.) How should artists go about identifying the sponsorship/endorsement point of contact?
There's a number of things that I recommend for this: start with who you know already (both in terms of companies or contacts) and ask them. You can also use Linkedin, the company website, Hoover's, Datamonitor, or other business resources. It's usually the marketing department or business inquiries line but sometimes they have a dedicated sponsorship staff person as well. In my book, How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, I have an entire section that walks you through the process.
*What are some tips for effectively following up with the contact?
Number one: just do it. Over 99% of artists do not follow up in anyway and fall through the cracks. Following up will immediately set you apart from the beginning. Second, always give them a reason to continue the conversation (even if they say no the first time): ask them questions on when would be a better time to follow up, see if they're willing to meet for lunch or coffee (your treat), offer to give their staff free copies of your CD, ask if they know anyone else who would be a good fit, etc. With every piece of communication that you ever send in, you want to make sure you're building that relationship and that they get something of value from the interactions, otherwise you'll just be seen as an annoyance, a gold digger, and it makes the relationship seem one-sided.