Drum gear endorsements are commonly what young drummers aspire to get when they start their careers. We all see drummers like Stewart Copeland traveling the world and playing Tama drums, and we strive to get similar sorts of deals with whichever companies we love most.
Over the years, I’ve had plenty of back and forth conversations with brand relations managers, and it’s taught me quite a bit about endorsements and how they work.
In this guide, I’m going to explain absolutely everything you need to know. I’ll break down the requirements, elaborate on how to get an endorsement, and I’ll also mention a few myths that many people believe.
- What is a Drum Endorsement?
- Benefits of a Drum Endorsement
- Different Endorsement Tiers
- Cons of a Drum Endorsement
- What is a Drum Sponsorship?
- How to Get Drum Endorsements
- How to Get a Drum Sponsorship
- Myths About Drum Endorsements
What is a Drum Endorsement?
A drum endorsement is when you enter into an exclusive relationship with a drum company. It’s a deal where you get provided gear by the brand, and you give them more exposure in turn.
Let’s use Mike Johnston as an example. He’s a Gretsch artist, meaning he has an endorsement deal with Gretsch Drums. They supply him with drum kits whenever he needs them, and we all see the Gretsch gear that he plays in his lessons and at his clinics.
When he travels from the US to another country to do a clinic, the local Gretsch artist relations person will make sure that he has a good kit to play.
Benefits of a Drum Endorsement
One of the best things about having endorsements is getting heavy support from a brand when you’re out on tour. This is why most drummers with several endorsements are touring drummers. It makes the most sense with what their needs are.
When a drummer travels around the world, they’ll be supplied with gear in whichever country they’re in.
For example, an American drummer may travel to Australia to do a few shows. If they’re a DW artist, they’ll get in contact with the artist and relations manager in Australia to get a DW kit to use instead of shipping a DW kit all the way from the US.
Another great benefit is that you get a lot of support from whichever companies you’re endorsed by. The people running the companies want you to succeed, and they’ll do whatever they can to help you get there.
In doing that, you’re also bringing more exposure to their brand when you bring more attention to yourself. So, it’s a win-win situation.
I remember hearing how when Adam Tuminaro got endorsed by Meinl Cymbals, he was very surprised at how supportive they were in his teaching business, and they did a lot to help him bring more eyes on it.
You’ll often hear of drummers wanting a specific sound from a drum or cymbal, so the brands they endorse often make those products just for them. That sometimes leads to a signature product that gets sold publicly, leading the drummer to earn royalties on the sales.
Different Endorsement Tiers
A full deal is when you get free equipment from a company. This is the kind of endorsement that the biggest drummers in the world have. Think of names like Chad Smith, Mike Portnoy, and Steve Smith.
They have millions of eyes on them, so the companies endorsing them are happy to give them free gear to use whenever they need.
As I mentioned earlier, another type of deal will offer drummers a set of free gear at the beginning. Everything after that will come at a discounted price compared to retail rates.
Discount deals are the main type of endorsements that drummers have. This means that you can buy gear from the company at cost or less instead of paying what you would in a music store.
These kinds of endorsements are easier to get, and they’re great to have if you planned on buying the gear anyway!
Cons of a Drum Endorsement
The biggest downside of having an endorsement is that you need to sign an exclusivity deal. That isn’t such a bad thing for most drummers, but it can work against you at times.
For example, the Ludwig Black Beauty may be your favorite snare drum ever, but you won’t be able to play it publicly if you’ve signed an endorsement deal with Tama. You’ll need to play a Tama snare drum.
Another con is that you may sign a contract with terms that you aren’t actually happy with a few years down the road. You can always re-negotiate, but most drummers have to stick it out until the contract has ended its term.
What is a Drum Sponsorship?
A sponsorship is a bit different from an endorsement. While an endorsement is a mutually beneficial deal, a sponsorship is when a company pays you to advertise their products.
A lot of YouTube drummers do sponsored posts. This is when they get paid to do a review of a particular drum kit or cymbal. It’s a one-time thing, whereas an endorsement has a contract that lasts a certain amount of time.
About a decade ago, being paid to play a specific brand of drums or cymbal was never a thing. However, the rise of social media has seen drum companies adopting this marketing approach, as it puts more eyes on their gear without having to set up longer endorsement deals.
David Raouf is a good example of this. I’ve seen dozens of YouTube videos he posts where he disclaims that the brand of the gear he’s reviewing has sponsored the video.
How to Get Drum Endorsements
The best way of securing an endorsement these days is by having a large following on all the social media platforms. The three biggest ones at the moment are TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.
If drum companies see that thousands of people are watching your content and engaging with you, they’ll be more inclined to set up an endorsement deal with you. They’ll see how members of your audience will be likely to buy their gear after seeing you play it.
The best example I can think of with this is Zack Graybeal. He started posting YouTube videos in 2020, and a few years later has been able to secure high-end endorsement deals with Meinl and Dixon due to his large audience.
Play Drums in Front of Large Crowds
This is the traditional way of getting an endorsement deal. I also think it’s the main reason that drummers should get these sorts of deals.
If you’re touring with a band and playing shows with big crowds, drum companies will like seeing their gear being used on stages.
It kind of ties in with social media, though, as they’ll typically want you to post about the gear that you’re using.
The reason I think that this is the best reason to have an endorsement is that cymbals and drum parts break. Drummers with deals will get sent replacement parts when they’re out on the road, whereas drummers posting social media content won’t break their gear as often.
When I was touring and regularly cracking cymbals, having an endorsement deal would have saved me so much money over buying new cymbals constantly.
Love the Gear Before Getting Endorsed
One big thing I’ve learned about drum companies over the years is that they want all of their artists to be in love with their products. If you’re not already playing Zildjian cymbals before approaching them for an endorsement, they’re not likely to accept you into their artist roster.
You have to use and love the gear first before wanting to get it for free or at cost. This is something that all famous drummers will tell you.
The only people this doesn’t apply to are the massively famous drummers. In that case, all the drum brands are happy to quickly accept them due to the following that they bring with them.
For example, I’d need to show my appreciation for Paiste cymbals before approaching the brand for an endorsement, but Chad Smith was quickly added to their roster even though he had been using Sabian cymbals for decades before that.
Approach Companies About Endorsing You
Once you’ve ticked all the boxes that I mentioned above, it’s time to approach the company that you want to get an endorsement deal with.
In the past, you’d need to have some sort of connection to get in touch with an artist relations manager. Drummers that are already endorsed would often recommend people they knew to them.
While that can still happen, you can easily find a contact on most of the brands’ websites. Brands like Meinl and Vic Firth even have endorsement deal forms that you can fill in and send.
I should also mention that if your social media following is big enough, it’s common for drum brands to approach you first. That’s often the best-case scenario, as you’ll have more persuasive power when setting up a deal.
How to Get a Drum Sponsorship
Big social media pages are the prime target for product campaigns from brands. If you have thousands of followers and great engagement, it’s likely that a few drum brands will get hold of you and offer payment for potential videos where you highlight their products.
This doesn’t happen too much with bigger brands like Tama, Sabian, and Yamaha, etc. However, it’s not impossible for this to happen.
With that said, you’ll get this a lot with small drum brands. I’ve seen so many YouTubers do videos about Donner drum kits, and it’s because Donner has sponsored them or given them free kits to make those videos.
Pitch Ideas to Drum Companies
You can also approach companies yourself with ideas on how you can market their products. Again, big brands like Pearl or Zildjian aren’t likely to accept these ideas, so you should target smaller drum or cymbal companies.
If you own a snare drum from a small local drum manufacturer, you could pitch an idea where you show that snare to your audience and then the company can pay you.
A good example is El Estepario Siberiano. He’s done plenty of work with Varus Drums. Most people didn’t know of this brand before, but he’s shown their drums to millions of people across all of his social channels.
Myths About Drum Endorsements
Here are three myths that are commonly thrown around in the drum community. Please note that none of these are true, for the most part.
Endorsements Mean Free Stuff
In most cases, gear is NOT free. If you have an endorsement deal with drum gear companies, they’re likely to sell you drums with a huge discount.
In the cases where gear is free from a cymbal company, you may get one set of cymbals, but you’ll get a discount when you buy any more than that.
Only the biggest and most popular drummers get a certain amount of free gear per year. I remember hearing Mike Johnston talk about how most of DW’s artist budget went to Neil Peart when he was playing with Rush. He was big enough to get anything he wanted from the company.
You Have to Be Famous
While being famous helps, you don’t need a massive audience to get a good endorsement deal. I’ve heard of quite a few drummers getting stick endorsements, even though they only play around their state or town.
You just have to have something of value to offer the company so that they benefit from the relationship you have with them.
You Have to Be Exclusive
Many people believe that you can’t use other gear once you have an endorsement deal. While that can be true at times, it all depends on what contract you’ve created.
Let’s go back to Mike Johnston. He’s a Gretsch artist, but he uses drum hardware from DW. Gretsch does offer good hardware, but he’s made a contract where he’s been allowed to use DW hardware, which he prefers.
I think it’s important to remember that endorsement deals aren’t the main prize for a drumming career. While they can certainly be helpful, it’s also great to have the freedom to play whatever you want to.
I’d mainly recommend getting an endorsement deal if you play gigs frequently, as getting replacement parts can be very expensive!