Endorsements – A Power Tool For Musicians?

Viewpoints: Member to Member

Volume CI, No. 1January, 2001

Von Cello

Several columns by 802 members, offering advice on topics they have developed expertise in, have appeared in Allegro during the past year. The topics included: how to vest in the AFM pension plan, how to pursue music studies in Lehman College’s unique program, and how to avoid being evicted from your apartment. We welcome members’ contributions. Please call Allegro to discuss topics you would like to write on (212-245-4802, ext. 179).

Someone recently asked me if obtaining endorsements would help to further his music career. 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.

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,” which hopefully 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.

802 member Von Cello (Aaron Minsky) wrote an article on internet distribution for the April Allegro. See his web site at: for further information.