Is being a sponsored artist a good idea?

I’ve been asked a lot lately about partnerships, interviews and collaborations. Usually the conversation arises because an artist has been offered something, and they want to know if it’s a good idea or not. I’ve had this discussion with 3 people just over the last few days. 3 different artists, 3 different offers. My answer to all of them was the same, so posting here for discussion.

Here are my thoughts, FWIW.

  • Any partnership must benefit both sides. Often artists discuss offers they’ve received with me, and I find myself scratching my head and wondering what’s in it for them. Many times it feels like a publicity opportunity for the brand, manufacturer, artist collab etc, but with no obvious payback for the artist. So ask yourself… what do you get out of it? Free supplies is not enough of a reason when it’s your hard-won reputation on the line.
  • Does the partner have the same values as you? If it’s a collab between two people for example, does that person conduct their business and public dealings in a similar way to how you conduct your own? Collabs with toxic people with a loose mouth and a social media following is not a good look. Seen this more than once.
  • Is it a great product? Obviously relevant to product manufacturer type partnerships, did you actually buy and use the product before you were offered a brand ambassadorship? Are you happy to recommend the product to industry colleagues? With proven brands like FYT, Bishop etc, this probably isn’t a concern, but I’ve seen some collabs that were more than a little dubious.
  • Is it divisive? I’ve seen examples where an otherwise cohesive community were asked to effectively choose sides. Nothing wrong with that in theory, but it gets a little ugly when it gets out of hand.
  • Is it a fad or a whim? Are you happy to commit to this partnership long term, or are you just enjoying the moment? Is the brand or collective also committed long term?
  • Is this good for your personal brand? If being sponsored or part of a collaborative is going to elevate the perception that others have of you or your company, that’s a good thing. But is the brand the right one for the bigger picture of who you are and where you’re going?
  • Is it a distraction? Your business plan should be paramount. Don’t let anyone sidetrack you unless the sidetrack is truly worth putting other plans on go-slow or pause.
  • Will this partnership result in more clients or more trainees? This is the acid test that most partnership opportunities fail. Do your paying customers care?

It may seem that I’m against partnerships. I’m not. In fact, our entire business is built on collaboration and partnering up. Under the right circumstances, partnerships can be hugely beneficial and provide opportunities to grow within new teams of like-minded people. Partnerships are also a natural by-product of any growing or maturing industry. They’re a necessary part of our development.

But let’s not forget, SMP is still very young. The short space of time the modern version of SMP has been around is just a blip in the long term picture. We haven’t even started to go mainstream yet. We have our entire careers ahead of us. As such, the industry is still figuring out what a successful partnership or collaboration should look like, how it should be structured, and how it is best executed. No one has all the answers at this stage.

IMO, the bottom line is this…. if a partnership opportunity ADDS VALUE to your business, puts MORE CLIENTS in your chair, or is good for your personal BRAND or REPUTATION, and it does so without drama, craziness and an imbalance of benefit, then do it. If not, then consider what you’re doing very carefully.