for years i helped organize or solely put together fundraiser concerts for amnesty international. it was my way of participating in a cause i considered worthwhile because i find meetings and group discussions tedious and mostly a waste of my time. a yearly practical activity was how i felt i was most useful; i had strong ties to both restauranteurs and professional musicians, and i used my connections for the promotion of something beneficial, human rights.
the events themselves were not huge – three bands, a dj, info stand selling t's, a few hundred people –, but basics are the same whether you're doing a big event or a small one. some things are essential, that is.
every year i started the concert planning meeting with a list of tasks and stressed the order of doing things. i was often found annoyingly arrogant for pointing out that group members were not to run to their friends and promise them gigs nor were they to call anyone before we had a location agreement. although i was called a bitch for acting patronizingly, i knew better: my list was based on past mistakes that happened when people were overly excited about doing good.
at the time i thought the incapability to hold oneself down for the requisite time was a feature of ngo youth: excited about saving the world without a second to waste. i also blamed the inability to realize that people who had something to offer – whether it was products, their artistry or time – had to select where and to whom they'd donate it, on youth and single-minded optimism. even if my fellow amnesty activists felt human rights and the concert was the coolest thing on the planet at the time, not everyone necessarily shared their conviction.
judging from discussions of late with friends i have come to realize that this haphazard pomposity was not left behind at ngo level. musicians, representatives of cosmetics companies and those in the business of alcohol are approached all the time and asked for collaboration in a myriad of projects. some of the stories i hear are unbelievable and, incredibly, well-known brands are not exempt from acting amateurishly.
it seems simple enough: you want stuff, they want visibility, right? well, yes, but there's more to building a successful sponsor deal. therefore, i want to share some pieces of wisdom when in search of sponsors...
here's a check list:
one, have a complete proposal. throwing a great idea is nothing but a waste of time to sponsors. and they are busy people.
-fully develop your idea before approaching anyone. the amount of requests people send that only state that "this is an incredible opportunity for you to portray your talent or promote your product to international/interesting people" is overwhelming. the baffling part is that the claim is completely vacuous unless there is an actual planned event with a list of planned invitations. in case this sounds self-evident, the reason i am pointing it out is because there often is none of those when people start approaching sponsors and performers. seriously, you cannot really think that a request stating "incredible" without any feasible meat around it would convince anyone, now did you?
two, have a date and venue first – unless you have free access to venues which most of us in need of sponsorship do not.
-musicians and companies need a date before making a commitment. plan a date that's reasonable for realization. for example, fiscal years do influence the amount of funds corporations have for sponsorship, tour dates determine where bands are, etc. timing your requests indicates you have the decency to find out who you're dealing with.
three, do calculate. determine your expectations according to your position.
-if you cannot offer any compensation, you cannot expect a full concert from your favorite band. if you want samples of products, know the number you require before asking. if you want alcohol, have a plan for the amount of people and the length of service. do not ask for a vague "collaboration": you may think that it's a cunning way to lure a company to pay or give more than you first imagined, but your clever thoughts are unfortunately unfounded. they've got marketing budgets and they're not going to accidentally throw a huge amount of money at you if you cannot even determine what you need nor have the balls to be frank about it.
four, be reasonable. ask for what you need, make an agreement and stick to it.
-do not expect a company to pay for your event unless that is what you explicitly asked and agreed on. do not come adding items to the bill because you think a large company can afford it better than you – if you agreed on 3 free beers per invitee, do not add cleaning costs or napkins. (yeah, i thought this was self-evident, but apparently i was clueless...) make sure the band has everything you agreed on – a missing backline is pretty hard to come across in a matter of minutes.
five, be humble.
-even if human rights is the most important cause for you, it might not be for someone else. musicians try to make their living in music and if they agreed to perform pro bono every time someone asked, they'd play hardly any actual gigs. if your event feels like the coolest party in town, the company you're asking for liquids may not agree to get you and your fifty friends drunk just because you deem it fun. giving out gift bags may be the rave, but full-size shampoos cost enough to require a reasoning beyond "my guests liking shampoo and you getting free promotion by making them happy".
six, be open to suggestions and restrictions.
-the musician may have a new album coming out and may want to try playing new songs instead of hits – pro bono means they decide. the brewery may want to promote a new product or requires a bartender to be present. the cosmetics company may suggest a guidance corner at your event. listen to them, but do not expect them to plan your event for you (see point one above).
seven, act respectful. whatever you receive, always present it in a respectful way.
-do not comment loudly on your performers if they fail to play exactly what you wanted. do not throw free bottles of hairspray around the room or have vodka bottles on a dirty table with smashed fruit next to a passed out host. these days the pics and comments will make it to the company. needless to say, that is the end of your sponsor deal.
eight, be grateful.
-it is true your event provided visibility to your sponsors. it is deceptively delicious to believe you gave them a huge benefit and that they should thank you for free promotion. unfortunately, that is only the partial picture and many deals are not as lucrative as we as event organizers might like to think. therefore, if you cannot send an invitation to a representative of the company, send a short report, some pics and a thank you note afterwards. it's hugely embarrassing if the main sponsor shows up at your event through friends who are invited. for bands, make sure the backstage is fully stocked. i remember having trouble explaining to my fellow amnesty enthusiasts that bands expect some alcohol backstage no matter what is in their usual raiders. it's just polite to have soda and snacks. and beer.
with this list you should be good to go. the word of mouth is a terrible or a wonderful tool – depending on how everything went – but there's tons you can influence by just being respectful.
anything you might want to add? another perspective?