Indie Artists, Here’s How to Begin Partnering With Local Brands

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+ Our brand new course with The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Ben Weinman teaches how to make a living in music without making sacrifices. Check out The Business of Uncompromising Art, out now exclusively on Soundfly.

As a DIY musician, one of the most crucial things you must do to create a sustainable career in music, is to find new, creative ways to share and monetize your art.

Without the ability to rest on your laurels with a small, dedicated fanbase (although that will totally help too), you’re going to have to find new avenues for attracting completely new audiences — ideally, who are already primed to get what you do, understand you, and who are eager to hear more.

Marketing your own music is one of the most popular ways to get your music and message out there; things like press, influencer partnerships, playlist spots, advertising, and so on. But there’s another way that’s often overlooked in the indie music scene — especially for artists that are just starting out because you don’t have to spend all that time, energy, and money convincing them that you’re worth listening to. Instead, you get in front of them through a source they already trust, a brand they already love and support.

This is what brand sponserships are made for. While you might think that these partnerships are reserved for huge artists partnering with household names, partnering with other local or indie brands even if you’re a brand new artist is 100% possible. It’s also a lot easier than you think. 

This is how to get started.

Identify Your Brand

First, you need to know what your brand is. We have a whole article on uncovering your brand that you can check out here, but the short version is that you need to know who you are and what you stand for. 

Deciding what your brand is will always be the first step. After all, how else are you going to discover which partnerships make the most sense or get you in front of your ideal fan? You need to know who that is, and that starts with knowing who you are.

So, take your time with this one. Don’t rush it. If you need an example of a bad brand partnership, think back to that time Kendall Jenner caused a stir by appearing in a commercial where she offered a police officer a Pepsi at a protest. That was a disaster; it was considered to be done in poor taste and the fact Kendall Jenner was involved was not a great look for her.

On the other hand, a match made in branding heaven was Lizzo and Fabletics. As someone who has been unapologetic in standing up to body shaming, and has made it her mission to ensure women feel good in their bodies, the partnership made perfect sense. It was a perfect compliment to the message she’d already been sharing with fans through her music. 

In fact, Soundfly’s brand new course with drummer, producer, and social media influencer The Pocket Queen, dives deep into how to develop one’s core brand and pursue a content marketing approach around serving that to a growing fanbase. Check that out here!

The Pocket Queen Soundfly course ad

But, as we said, those are big artists with big brand contracts. The next step is to take your relative potential and look “local” for it. Read on!

Make a List of Local Brands You Admire

This is the fun part! Once you know your brand, start to look at companies, shops, and brands in your area or even beyond that are growing just like you.

If you’re new to brand partnerships, it’s best to start out with some smaller companies that are still in the early stages, especially if that’s where you are as well. Then, as you grow and create more and more opportunities for the brands you work with, you can start to reach out to bigger brands.

So start small. Initially, just start making a list of any local brands you can think of. After that, start searching online for even more ideas. A few places to search:

  • Look on Instagram to sort results by location. You’ll often find brands tagging the city you live in. And sometimes a brand will like one of your photos if you’ve tagged the location (which sends a message, hint hint!).
  • Hashtags are another great way to find and target local or indie brands. #BostonBusiness, #BestofCleveland, #Chicagoindie
  • When you’ve exhausted social media, start to search places in your area by the city or town you’re in with different keywords such as “Boston local coffee shops” or “Burlington thrift store.”
  • Check out local flea markets and street fairs. Even if it’s not in season, you can look up lists of vendors and those that have participated. I know that in Boston, we have at least 30+ local brands at every single one of the markets and it’s a great place to start.
  • Ask around. Your friends and family are probably the best place to start! Make posts on social media asking for people’s favorite indie brand. You may even find some outside your local area!

These are just a few ideas. The more you start thinking about it, the more you’ll see these opportunities popping up!

+ Read more on Flypaper: “4 Steps to Attracting or Asking for Sponsorship as an Artist.”

Tell the Brands Exactly What They Get From Working With You

With brand partnerships, it’s best not to leave too much to the imagination. Keep it short, keep it personalized (detail why you like the brand and think you’d be a great fit to work together), and give specifics on how you see the partnership working. 

The point here is to pique their interest in a project without asking them to spend time developing it. If you leave it up to a partner to figure out how to work with you, odds are they simply won’t have the time to do their research on you and they’ll end up never responding. So, outline what you can offer.

You can suggest that:

  • They use your song in an IG Reel about (topic that aligns with your brand and theirs),
  • You wear their shirt in an upcoming video shoot, and then mention and link to it,
  • You use their product in a music video or post,
  • You donate your time to an upcoming event or auction in exchange for your songs on their event playlist or brochure,
  • You do a performance residency at their space, in return for a product or special being named after you. (For example: a local brewery and one of the beers gets named after your band or one of your songs.)

If you have a stronger following or an existing relationship you can also approach brands about sponsoring an entire tour, a record release show, or some other opportunity where you are provided monetary compensation for their name appearing in front of a wider audience.

So this is something to work towards as well as you grow!

Final Thoughts

Brand partnerships are an incredibly lucrative way for bands to build their brand, and even if you’re new to it, I highly recommend taking the time to just begin to brainstorm different brand partnerships for now, as well as some to work towards over the next year or so.

While they might start off as simply an exchange of postings, they can lead to monetary deals as you grow. In the meantime, you’re building your fanbase and expanding your network, which only means more opportunities.

Don’t forget to think outside the box with these partnerships as well. If you see a brand that makes sense for the audience you’re trying to reach or the message you’re trying to convey, go for it! Over time, you’ll continue to grow, and you’ll be seeing partnerships everywhere you look.

Rev Up Your Creative Engines…

Continue your learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, recording and production, composing, beat making, and more on Soundfly, with artist-led courses by Kimbra, RJD2, Com TruiseKiefer, Ryan Lott, and Ben Weinman’s The Business of Uncompromising Art.

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