Decide What You Need
The type of event you are planning has a lot to do with where you should look for concert sponsorship. If you're planning a strictly local event, then you have a strong case to go to a local business to make your cases. If you're looking for help on an entire tour, then you need a sponsor who can benefit from being seen in all the places you're going - think regional or national business.
The amount of money you need also makes a difference. Asking the local bakery to sponsor your gig to the tune of $2 million isn't likely to get you very far. There are other reasons why knowing how much money you need matters - read on.
Make a Plan
Whenever you're asking for money to fund a music project, the key point to remember is that you need to know exactly how much money you need and why - and the answer is not, "as much as possible." Do a budget for your concert or tour, figure out exactly how much money you need and what you need it for. Not only is this process instructive for you, but being able to talk knowledgeably about the financials of your project is an important part of convincing sponsors to take a chance on you.
Know What You're Offering
Remember, this isn't all about someone giving you money. You are offering a branding opportunity here, so you have to spend some time thinking about why potential sponsors should get on board with you. What kind of advertising and branding can you offer? Signage on the stage? The company's name all of the show promotional materials ("Presented by..")? Handing out coupons or samples to the audiences? Be ready to discuss these things so you're ready to make your case.
You should also be ready to negotiate. What are your boundaries? If the company wants to pick the opening act, make a presentation on stage or use your music in their advertising, for instance, in exchange for their sponsorship, are you willing to accept those terms? Know what is on the table and off before you make you make your pitch.
Contact the Right Person
Before you approach your potential sponsors, do your homework. Your first assignment is to find out who you should take to at the company about sponsorships.
Depending on who you are approaching, you may find this task is easier said than done. Large companies, particularly alcoholic beverage companies, for examples, are often so used to these requests that you can find specific instructions for making a sponsorship bid on their website. It is important to follow their procedures, even if you feel like their rules restrict the way you envisioned making your pitch. These rules are in place to help the company effectively deal with requests, and if you don't stick to them, your request will likely be destined for "delete."
With smaller companies, start with the PR and marketing department. For very small, local businesses without "departments" as such, start with the owner and/or manager. Read more below on making your first approach.
Hold Up Your End of the Bargain
If you want sponsorship, you want to keep sponsorship, and you want to get sponsorship again, then follow through, from soup to nuts. For instance:
- Respond to all requests for information from your sponsor promptly.
- Stay on top of the planning process (if you have a manager, this is a job for them). This means not only making sure that your planning is coming along but also staying connected with your sponsor to make sure all of their materials and such are on track for on-time delivery.
- Ensure that all advertising, marketing and signage adheres to the sponsorship deal.
Not sure where to find a sponsor? Ask around. Venues can be a great source of information on this front - in fact, the booker at the venue might have a standing relationship with sponsors, such as an alcoholic beverage company they contact on your behalf to sponsor an open bar for your gig in exchange for some branding. Agents and promoters are also excellent info sources. Last but definitely not least are musicians. Notice that a local band has a sponsored show or tour coming up? Ask them how they got it done.
Look at arena tours of major artists. There is almost always a big league sponsor on board. You might not land that same sponsor for your small club tour, but the companies you see attached to larger tours are clues for your to follow. Check out their websites - you'll almost certainly find information about applying for sponsorship, including the requirements. You may find that the company is willing to sponsor smaller scale shows. Companies accustomed to music sponsorship also sometimes run contests that award smaller acts with big money sponsorship. Take some time to get to know the usual suspects and keep them on your radar.
Consider the Source
Sponsorship almost always comes at some kind of cost, but is the price tag worth it? Knowing your audience is critical to making your music career work, and sponsorship is an excellent case in point. What will your fans tolerate from you? Your beer sponsorship might turn off some fans of your Christian rock band while your megastore sponsorship might send the indie kids running for the hills. Think carefully about companies with clear political and religious affiliations, and remember that alcohol and tobacco can be controversial in some circles. You're linking your name to this sponsor, so make sure that you're building a relationship that you are comfortable with and can justify.
Be Ready to Sell Your Idea
While sponsorship might be old hat to some big companies, the local mom and pop shop you're eying as a partner for your local gig might never have even considered the possibility. You might have to sell the entire idea to them - what you want, what you're offering, why it would be good for you both. Be prepared to convince them that sponsorship is a winning idea, and be ready to show them the road map to making it happen. This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship, but you might have to take the lead on the courtship.
Money is ALWAYS an issue in the music industry. Learn more about how you can manage your cash in Money and Music 101. There, you will find info about funding sources, preparing funding applications and business plans, and how to spend the money once you do get it.