The Ableton Cookbook, Brought to You By Halliburton

James Taylor-Giant Steps

The other day, I sat down with the homie James Taylor to talk about my second favorite subject: Cash Money. James is what we in the biz call “a baws” (like Rick Ross): he’s the General Manager at the Beauty Bar here in Austin and is the don of his own company, Giant Steps Productions, which is a one-stop shop for management, booking and publicity for a grip of local acts.

We sat down to have a beer(s) and debrief about a presentation that he gave recently about novel ways to make some money in this business that we call: Music. I’m going to put up a few of his insights over the next week or so, but let’s begin with James’ ideas regarding getting sponsored as a musician.

Most bands (and musical acts in general) do not take enough advantage of sponsorship opportunities that are available to them. James pointed out that, while most of us think of sponsorship as an all or nothing affair, this is not the case. Between getting a free MPC in the shape of your face from Akai and paying your own way by hawking your mother’s decorative plates, there’s a spectrum of options. James pointed out that almost all businesses have at least some budget for marketing, which they would love to spend on putting a banner up at the Trance night that you hold in your basement. And, if you secure a couple of these sponsorships, then you’ll be able to fund as many things as if you’d gotten a big sponsorship from Red Bull.

The question is, What should you spend the sponsorship money on? Because, let’s face it: very few sponsorships are going to just ship you 50 gold bullion (too few, really).

Transportation: James told me of a few bands that paid for their trip to SXSW by wrapping their van in a sticker from a local business. Bonus points if this company is something that you actually use/endorse. Double bonus points if this company is a strip club.

Food: James didn’t mention this, but I have some friends in bands who have gotten their food paid for by a local business. The most notable (notorious?) version of this is the deal with the devil that Taco Bell makes with many bands, giving them free Taco Bell while they are on tour. NOTE: The Ableton Cookbook does not condone eating only Taco Bell for a month.

Secondary Supplies: I don’t know about you, but I probably spend a couple hundred dollars a year on weird things like cords, adaptors, etc. Why not ask a local electronics supply store to give these to you in exchange for putting their name on your website, banners, etc.?

But who should you approach about these sponsorships and with what information? Who you should approach will vary from company to company. Smaller businesses can be just one person, but larger companies will have an actual marketing department. Whatever you do, spend some time on ye olde Google and try to figure out who the right contact person is in that organization. Email bombing the accounting department of Scion A/V probably won’t get you anywhere.

When you approach these people, though, remember that you are offering them a chance at exposure to your audience. So, if you can, bring information about how many people come to your website, how many come to your shows, where you’ve played before, how many Tumblr followers you have, how good you are at Skyrim, etc. The last two are optional. This information will come in handy in a variety of situations, so keep it somewhere accessible.

While this kind of sponsorship isn’t actually “making money” in the sense of poeple sending you checks, it will help you cover costs, which will allow you to keep a bigger cut of whatever t-shirts, thongs and lunchboxes you sell at your shows. And, because you’ll be focusing on your local businesses, you’ll be helping the local economy and all that jazz.

Do you guys have any other questions or stories about sponsorships?

3 Responses to “The Ableton Cookbook, Brought to You By Halliburton”

  1. Neeevaaar May 23, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    My business plan involves hitting up local forward-thinking small businesses with a demo and press kit for sponsorships and to play shows at the establishments themselves in exchange for shoes, clothing, food, drinks, gear, records – whutebbers mang. Rather than approach them with all my two fans, I’m aiming for events that the stores themselves are throwing – anniversaries, brand introductions, parties, etc… – and using it as a vehicle for sponsorship and building a fan base. We’ll see…

    • Anthony May 23, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

      That’s a really good idea. Just be sure that people who wander into the stores, etc., can IMMEDIATELY find out who you are. So many times I’ve been at events, liked the DJ, tried to find out who it was for 10 minutes and then gave up. Not sure how to do this without being too disruptive/douchey, but this seems like the key.

      • Neeevaaar May 25, 2012 at 5:18 am #

        Thanks for the pointer. Maybe I’ll just periodically play clips of some sexy nighttime lady reciting my alias over whatever’s playing. Or I could do the thing where you get all your friends to endorse you under their cool lame aliases. Hmm. Business cards it is.

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