First, let’s be clear about this: in an endorsement deal, the artist endorses the product or brand. The product or brand doesn’t endorse the artist. If an artist claims to be “endorsed by” a company, that is incorrect word usage.
An endorsement deal means that an artist agrees to be publicly associated with a product or brand, presumably because the company thinks that will encourage more people to purchase their products. In return, the artist generally receives some kind of compensation, which often takes the shape of free or discounted products. The contract might specify some requirements for the artist to fulfill, such as having their name and image used in advertising, appearing at the company’s publicity events, or plugging products on social media.
Sometimes musicians seem to place undue importance on endorsement deals, regarding them as some kind of earned award for excellence. (While companies generally are most interested in forming endorsement deals with fine players, the bottom line is about moving products, so they may also form deals with artists who are popular or influential for other reasons.) Those who have endorsement deals sometimes trumpet those deals as top career accomplishments, and those who don’t sometimes go to considerable lengths to curry favor with brands.
Endorsement deals should be beneficial to the artist and to the company, bringing attention to good products while supporting an artist’s real work of making music. It is awkward and embarrassing when artists collect endorsement deals to be flashed around like so much gaudy jewelry, or beg companies to notice them. If the first line of your professional biography starts like “Supertone artist Bret Pimentel…” then you might have confused your endorsement for a more substantial achievement.
For musicians, endorsements aren’t going to pay your bills or build your name—those things come from doing solid work. Keep your focus on connecting with your audience. Your favorite brands just provide the tools to help you get there.