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Endorsements - A Power Tool For Musicians?
By Aaron Minsky a.k.a. Von Cello
(more articles from this author)
2000-11-06
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Someone recently asked me if obtaining endorsements would help to further his music career. I could have said yes or no and left it at that. Instead, I answered with the following story: As a teenage rock guitarist searching for a new sound, I got the idea that something really new would be to play rock cello! Seeking first rate classical credentials, I received a Masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music. Then I joined a top professional orchestra. Soon, though, I returned to my original goal of inventing a rock style of cello playing. Since there was no method available to study, I decided to teach myself by writing my own set of cello etudes. I told colleagues about my new method. Some were interested, but many said things like, "Why are you wasting your time with that," or, "Rock cello is a ridiculous idea," or even, "You're nuts!" Then Oxford University Press decided to publish the book and all of a sudden those same people were saying things like, "I'm impressed. You must be quite a composer for a company like Oxford to publish you!"

I remember feeling a little angry when I got those comments. I was the same person I had been before Oxford came along. I realized something very valuable, however, most people judge you not by how talented you are, but by whom you are associated with. This is an unfortunate reality, but in a way it makes sense. After all, most people can't really judge talent, and that is why they rely on others to tell them who is talented. They do the same with most things. From fashion to religion, most people need to be told what to do.

Being an Oxford composer opened many doors for me, but when it came time to move into the rock world, the Oxford connection didn't seem to have the same clout. Many rock people didn't know about Oxford. After all, Oxford never put out a hit record!

My move into corporate endorsements happened accidentally. I was playing my home made blue electric cello with a big band. The trombonist, of all people, approached me and said that Yamaha had just come out with an electric cello and had put up a picture and specs on the internet. When I got home I checked it out and was very impressed. I contacted Yamaha to tell them I was interested in the cello. They, in turn, checked me out on the internet. Several phone calls, letters and meetings later, I became a Yamaha Artist!

I figured the Yamaha endorsement would gain me some respect in the popular music industry. For one thing, they make products that are industry standards, for another, artists such as Elton John were also Yamaha Artists. I think it helped. Soon I had endorsement deals with Gallien-Krueger, PegHeds, and D'Addario Strings. All of the attention led to my being included in Who's Who In America! (Now, hopefully, this will lead to other things.)

For those who are interested in obtaining endorsement deals here's some advice: 1. Don't sell out. Only endorse products that you believe in. 2. When approaching a professional corporation, be professional too. 3. Show all contracts to an attorney. Having no deal is better than having a bad deal. 4. Be a team player. They are helping you, and you should help them.

Now as to the question that started this whole article, I still can't give an unequivocal yes or no. Getting endorsements can help establish an artist in some ways, but they are only a part of a larger picture. In the end it is your music and your attitude which will determine your career... And if you find that you can't get endorsements, don't worry: you are the same person with or without them.


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