An Endorsement In Name Only

An Endorsement In Name Only

Much has changed during the nearly quarter century we've spent publishing DRUM! Magazine. Looking back, DW was still an upstart custom drum maker when we published our first issue. Travis Barker was a 16-year-old kid playing (instead of wearing) tattoos with his high school marching band. No one had heard a blastbeat, tweeted a message, or taken online drum lessons.

Even endorsements were different. In 1991, when we published our first issue, nearly every drum and percussion company had a long list of endorsers.

Back then, like today, most companies offered several levels of endorsements — from drummers who paid wholesale prices to others who got free gear to the elite few who received fat checks for licensing the use of their names and likenesses.

All three categories still exist, although the gold rush seems to have ebbed. Following the great recession, and the subsequent contraction of the drum industry, endorsement deals are harder to come by as companies tightened their criteria commensurate to their belts. To be considered viable, today's endorser must have enough gravitational pull to elevate a brand in the minds of potential customers.

This is true everywhere except in one unusual and still embryonic corner of the market, where a few cymbal companies set up shop on the Internet to sell directly to drummers, bypassing distributors and retailers altogether. At least in a couple cases, it seems pretty easy to get an "endorsement." Just buy some cymbals and the company adds your name to its list of artists. No muss, no fuss.

But is that really an endorsement? Sign with a major brand and you can expect to get some level of tour support, promotion in print ads and catalogs, posters in drum shops, and even clinic tours. But you get little more than a bargain price from one of these online cymbal brands, which dangle the lure of an endorsement to close the deal.

Okay — maybe there's nothing wrong with that. If you like their cymbals and enjoy the bragging rights of being an endorser, who am I to rain on your parade?

But do you really know who's on the other end of that transaction? I'm aware of at least one instance in which many drummers were promised endorsements but never received the cymbals they paid for. It wasn't long before the company's web site disappeared, phone lines went dead, and the owners vanished into cyberspace with the cash. Full disclosure — these same thieves even ripped us off after failing to pay for a couple full-page ads. Now, I don't want to tarnish all the legitimate small cymbal companies out there. Some offer endorsements because they are sincerely interested in your genre, or in identifying young drummers with promising careers. But others offer endorsements merely to move merchandise.

Do yourself a favor. Next time you see a great price from an online-only cymbal company that doesn't have a familiar name, do a little research to see whether the offer is a good deal, or something you need to investigate further.

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