So you went to the studio, laid down those lyrics like the boss that you are and now have your ‘bess track’ in hand. Ladies and Gentlemen this is the ONE, if you know what I mean! No simple shopping to radio stations and passing it to yuh DJ friends, no siree you going pass first, second and third base and making it all the way, to FINALLY making that MUSIC VIDEO! Wait! What you thought I was talking about?! This is not that kinda blog!!!
Right, so back to that music video that you fantasized about when you were supposed to be prepping for S.E.A. You know the same one you choreographed when you were in every school Mayfair dancehall! You have the track, (and we assuming here you did your due diligence like the music professional you are and have a signed split agreement with your studio producer but that’s a whole other story!). The concept of the video is burned into your mind, you have your friend who is a stylist on standby, you even have your crew casted, location scouted and script printed. Then it happens…the one thing you didn’t account for in all those school days spent dreaming, you find out the real cost of production and boy… that might as well be a down-payment on a car!
What to do?! What to do?! You and your bank account well acquainted with the lack of 0s after the first digit. You don’t want any lecture from your relatives on ‘why yuh doh forget this music business and do something more lucrative, look how you asking to borrow money’ so you definitely keeping your trap closed and not asking them to help you out. Then there it is…the golden word that is on the lips of 99.99% of all creatives ‘SPONSORSHIP’.
With Sponsorship funding in mind you’re ready to go and post up on your socials all those inspirational ‘Who God Bless, Let No Man Curse’ graphics, because surely you are ‘God’s favourite chile’ and ‘He will provide, just have to have some faith’. Corporate sponsorship or grant funding is about to fall into your lap any day now and that music video is going to be Grammy and Oscar nominated by the time you’re done with it!
Well, hold up! Before your fanbase starts thinking that you’re about to startup a Church, let’s remember that phrase ‘God helps those who helps themselves’ and best believe securing sponsorship is not for the faint of heart my friend, it is for those who put in the work. Wanna know a secret? Most grant applications fail because applicants didn’t read the submission requirements thoroughly. There I said it, and don’t get vex and roll your eyes. Keep reading on to increase your chances of getting your music business project funded through corporate sponsorship or grant funding, whether it be our hypothetical music video, assistance with touring, or purchasing studio equipment. There is a sponsorship opportunity for almost anything (legal that is) under the sun. We just have to know how to navigate the system, follow the 7 rules of sponsorship below to get yourself sorted.
Rule #1 Who am I? – Brand Identity
No! I am not getting philosophical here, before we even begin to look up available grants or companies to approach for corporate sponsorship, we need to establish as medical professionals say ‘our baseline’. In this case, I’m talking about your brand. Love it or hate it, the reality is that as a music industry professional you are a product. Your values, image, music, content, beliefs, interests all factor into you as a brand. We live in an ever-increasing digitally driven world, everything and everyone is a brand that can be curated. Are you an artiste that is big on environmentalism and this translates into your music and eco- activism? Or are your interests more aligned with the beauty industry and make-up artistry? Why does this matter? Simple, because before you go out for corporate sponsorship you need to know who you are as a brand and what your brand can offer as well as what your principles are. As the senior-aged folks say, there is no such thing as ‘a free lunch’, and I’m here to tell you, that includes corporate sponsorship!
So, if after doing a brand assessment you realize, ‘hey my brand seems muddled, my social media channels are fragmented, my messaging is all over the place, I’m still using a personal account instead of a business page, I don’t know the demographic info of my fanbase, my visual style as an artiste is chaotic, my bio has not been updated in several trips around the sun, I have no EPK (Electronic Press Kit) and I can’t exactly describe my brand.’ Then you know, there’s a lot to work on so let’s hit pause and get these crucial building blocks into place. Tip: Now, there is the usual DIY Artist branding articles you can access online and implement and alternatively there are music industry branding and PR professionals that you can contact to build this out for you such as TOVA Group, L3 Creative, and other companies.
Rule #2: What Makes you so special? – USP (Unique Selling Point)
Once you have your brand established. You need to know your worth and I’m not talking about how much your granny loves you, although I’m sure it’s a whole lot. You need to know what makes your brand special, what makes you stand out from everyone else. What makes your fans your fans? What is so unique about your music that fans want to continue to grow with you and support your endeavours? What makes you stand-outfrom other artistes or producers in similar genres. Tip: Once you can identify your unique selling point, you’re another step closer to begin looking to pursue corporate sponsorship or apply for grant funding.
Rule #3: It takes 2 hands to clap – What’s your Investment Pitch?
Just because you now have your brand in gear with a new bio that tells the whole world what makes you special, your EPK organized and your social media channels aligned, it does not mean you can just call up a company for sponsorship. Want to know why? Because when a company has over 300 sponsorship requests to review, they need a really good reason why they should choose to invest in you over the other 299 applicants. And there it is my friend; you now have to sell yourself as a product that will actually benefit the company that will provide you with sponsorship. That’s why you need to have a complete understanding of your brand and what you can bring to the table. For example, if you are environmentally-conscious and against using disposable plastic water bottles and this is part of your brand identity, you should not send in a sponsorship request to a company that sells single-use plastic water bottles. While you might be happy to take the funding and get that music video produced, they may have terms and conditions that may require you to promote their products.
By now you will have concrete knowledge of your fan base and how you expect to engage with them and increase your audience size. Think of how this can be used to your advantage when approaching companies, brand ambassadorship via your audience/fanbase and can be leveraged as collateral. Tip: If you remember nothing else, remember this, you are a product. Corporations and organizations invest in products and expect to get a return on their investment (ROI).
Rule #4: Let’s have Some Game: Keep it Professional
Remember earlier I said that applications usually fail because people don’t read the submission guidelines? Think of it as going to a fete and your friend introduces you to the person of your dreams and you are already having visions of the wedding, before you even begin to engage them in a small-talk and offer them a drink, you know you pumping any and all info you can get from your friend on the future love of your life. Same goes for your sponsorship goal! Put yourself ahead of the pack from the start by reading through the guidelines thoroughly and getting all the necessary documents in order. Sounds simple, and trust me, just by doing this you’re off to a great start. And, whatever you do, please so not submit a ‘selfie’ when a photo is requested, invest in a professional headshot.
What’s also really important, is that in most if not all grant applications there will be a section for you to respond on why you are seeking grant funding and companies you are approaching for corporate sponsorship will want to know as well. Let’s stay grounded in reality here! If your project costs $75,000.00 and this is the amount you are seeking to have sponsored, be sure to state the total, and explain how you estimated this cost. A line budget accompanied by legitimate quotations for services can be extremely helpful. Think of it this way, if a friend asked to borrow from you $75,000.00, wouldn’t you want to know why he wants this amount, and how he is going to spend it and most importantly how he intends to pay you back? These same questions must be satisfied by your potential sponsors, after all, they will have boards, entities or shareholders that they must account to on how they awarded sponsorship funding. So, let’s keep it professional and not embarrass ourselves by sending in a sponsorship or grant proposal requesting funding that is the size of the national budget, with no explanation or breakdown of how the money will be spent on the project you are seeking to fund and offering no benefits to the sponsor. Tip: Make sure to do your homework on your project costs in advance of applying for sponsorship and that your brand aligns with the sponsor so that what you offer would be of value to them.
Rule #5 Timing is Everything – Submitting Sponsorship Proposals Within Fiscal Deadlines
Sometimes there may not be an official publicized open call for grant funding for your particular project. Instead, you have to seek sponsorship funding or corporate funding, (that is funding outside of a formal grant system), do your research and raise your awareness on which companies authentically align with your brand and develop your sponsorship proposal and approach them.
Like everything in life, timing is everything. Want to provide company employees with a good laugh? Send in your sponsorship proposal a month from the proposed start of your project. Keeping it real, part of your research should involve finding out to the best of your ability when a company’s financial year begins and plan ahead to submit your sponsorship proposal before the new fiscal cycle begins. Fiscal (financial) years do not run on the same timeline as the calendar year. This will allow the organization to include your sponsorship proposal in their budget planning. If you end up submitting a sponsorship proposal in the middle or towards the end of an organization’s financial year, you may have had the perfect project for them to sponsor but they allocated funding to other projects. It becomes a case of you snooze you lose! Tip: Government: Ministry and Public Sector State Companies and Agencies financial year starts on 1stOctober and ends 30th September. Budget plans for the next financial year are submitted as early as February. It would be in your best interest to plan at least a year in advance if submitting requests to these entities.
Rule #6 Put the money where your mouth is – Meeting Sponsorship Deliverables
Alright, you submitted your sponsorship proposal and now you out liming and hear that email ‘ping’ on your phone, your Spidey sense kicks in and you decide to check your inbox. There it is….an expression of interest from the potential sponsor company or grant committee on your project and a request to meet! And of course, you rolled on up and met with the team and you walked with a copy of your application, budget and any new updates on the project. At that meeting, you agreed to promote the company to your fanbase, have product placement in your music video, committed to perform at their upcoming corporate events, display their branding on your professional website and everything you could think of. You secured the deal! But before you look to chip down the road into the proverbial sunset and get your music video produced, bear this in mind; you need to make a concerted effort to deliver on all your sponsorship promises or grant deliverables.Tip: If for any reason, you cannot deliver on what you promised your sponsors or fulfill grant obligations, contact them as soon as possible and make every effort to work with them to seek an alternative. You really don’t want to damage your brand as a music industry professional by having a reputation for not following through on your commitments. Not only can they legally request funding back for breach of contract but you will find yourself quickly blacklisted. And we all know how fast and wide news of a bacchanal travels!
Rule #7 Go tell it to the Mountains – Accountability
Remember earlier we had the scenario of your friend asking you to borrow money, how one of the first questions you would ask is what they need it for? Well, you definitely want to account to your sponsor on how their money was spent. Tip: Not only do you report back to them when the project is completed but you should touch base with them as you hit project milestones. Show them how you succeeded in making your project a reality with the funding that was provided. In other words, you didn’t take the people money and throw a boat cruise party and called it a day!
Final Words of Advice
As a Caribbean based creative, you have to be proactive in searching for grant sponsorship. Here are some Caribbean Grant providers to keep an eye on. Tip: Sign up for newsletters to always get the latest updates from these organizations: