Dave Ellefson Interview. Blessed he did this for me.  He was rad working with when at Peavey, but now he obviously has some bigger things on his plate.

On your website, you have a section devoted to gear (http://www.davidellefson.com/gear/gear.aspx).  How did you ‘settle’ on those products?
I use products that enhance my tone and help me put the most into my music and performances. Everything from strings and straps to basses and amplifiers are part of my professional life.  All of these are integral to my music career.

When you were just getting into playing and achieving a certain amount of success, was there an endorsement you coveted? Did you get it?  If so, how did it happen?
Endorsements are funny beast because when you are broke, coming up the ranks and can’t afford anything, it’s difficult to get certain companies on board with you. Then, when you sell a ton of records and have some cash everyone wants to give you things for free to get their logos on your stage!

So, for me I’ve found it best to pursue the endorsements from companies that are truly the ones who make the gear I REALLY want to use. It’s easy to start taking free stuff when people offer it, but I think an artist has to be honest and ask oneself ‘would I play this if I had to pay for it?’  For me, that is a matter of the heart.

At the same time, certain companies offer great artist and tour support around the world, which can create a terrific partnership to promote both the artist and the company’s brand. To me, this is an ideal and mutually beneficial endorsement for both sides.

You’ve spent a good amount of time on both sides of the aisle – the sought after AR rep at Peavey and the coveted musician.  What sort of things did you learn while doing AR that you were able to use to your own advantage to make smart deals for your self?  What things did you notice that musicians did wrong that would hurt their chances of getting a deal?  What can they do right?
I loved doing AR. I realized that most of my life as a musician up to that point was really about marketing as much as it was about music. Everything we do as artists is about selling our products; songs, live shows, videos, merchandise, etc.  So, the transition over to Artist Relations was much the same. Internally, AR is just an arm of the marketing department within a corporation.

I’ve had so much experience on the artist side that it allowed me to be understanding of their needs while maintaining the goals and objectives set forth by the company. AR is really a fine line of getting the artist into products that work for them and at the same time marketing products that the company desires to align with artist promotions.

As for any musician’s shortcomings, the one I saw most was really borne of inexperience. Many of the younger bands coming up the ranks get a bit euphoric when companies send free gear to them. By that I mean they may not have the experience and foresight to realize that endorsements are part of a mutual relationship between themselves and a company’s products.  That is key, because all business relies on building relationships within the industry they represent. The truth is, nothing is free in this business because all companies are really looking for a commitment from artists to align their products to so they can cross promote them together, which is why they send the gear out to try in the first place! In most cases, gear is sent out for endorsement consideration and the ethical thing to do is send it back if you they are not going to come on board as an official endorsee.  At the very least, a response to the company to indicate intention as an artist is key if you hope to develop long term relationships. From there, the company can decide if the gear is to stay with the artist or if they may want to have it recalled back to headquarters.

I think sometimes artists are afraid of that confrontation. It really is OK to say “maybe, but not now” because many times in my career I’ve tried gear that just wasn’t suitable at that time but became the perfect fit a couple years later. I find it best to keep all doors open in this business and that really only requires honest communication in all of our dealings with people inside our industry.

You have instructional videos and signature products in addition you do clinics and appearances.  What are some things that successful musician can do to perhaps put extra money in their pockets and build a name of their own outside of the band?  What’s the best way to go about doing that?
These are the things that start to come to artists as they build a name for themselves but they can also be part of that same building process, too. It’s kind of a ‘chicken or the egg’ issue.

I will say that endorsements or sponsorships can help aid artists in moving these things forward, especially because those affiliations can expand an artist’s exposure into other sectors they may not be able to reach simply as a recording and touring artist. I think it comes down to aligning and affiliating with companies who are focused on building their brands with artist appeal tied into their marketing campaigns.

How has the world of endorsements changed over the years?  How has social networking had an impact?  Are you a devoted social networker?
The basics of endorsements are still much the same as always in that musicians are always in need of tour support and companies still see the value of artist affiliation to build their brands with their customers.  As record sales and subsequent royalties dwindle in our business, artists are continually looking for ways to subsidize their income to offset costs, especially when touring.

On the company side, artists should realize that many up and coming brands prefer artist affiliation as part of their market awareness. However, companies who are well established may not need to be as generous with artist marketing. This can be a deciding factor when pursuing endorsements by artists, as it is certainly a factor when companies pursue certain artists to affiliate with their brands.

As for social networking, I think that facet is just a fact of our existence at this point in time. If you are a professional, and marketing yourself is part of your career, then you should be visible on social networking sites. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the entertainment business. Some artists have built for themselves great careers simply because they utilized social networks to build their awareness and favor with their fans.

Do you have any new Dave Ellefson products or releases we can anticipate?
Currently, I have new signature bass guitar products rolling out from Jackson (www.jacksonguitars.com) and those will be the focus for the next few months. Part of my partnership with them is to help create and develop additional bass guitar products, too.

There are also my new SIT Strings signature bass strings available now, as well. Information is available at www.sitstrings.com.


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