But there's an interesting catch-22 that exists in the endorsement world. For the most part, you only get endorsed when you don't need it. Makes you scratch your head a little bit and wonder why the world works this way, because you only really need the helping hand with free and discounted gear when you're dead broke, not when you have fame and fortune.
OK, here's the reality.
Most musicians forget this, but an endorsement is a two way street. The manufacturer has to get as much as of it as the musician, maybe even more, so the question becomes:
1) Do you have a fanbase? No fans, not endorsement, simple enough. There's no benefit for the manufacturer. Now every once in a while a manufacturer might take a fling with someone who they think has a chance to break big, but that still means that there's some industry buzz to even get them interested in the first place.
2) What's the demographic of your fanbase? Even if you have fans, if they're not the ones that the manufacturer is trying to reach, there's no benefit for them to enter into a deal with you. For instance, if you only have 14 year old girls as your fans, Marshall probably doesn't care too much. 14 year old boys may be a different story though.
3) Do you use the gear? If you don't use the gear already, once again you probably don't have a chance at an endorsement deal. If you have 3 years worth of promo photos in which you're playing Yamaha drums or a Telecaster, that's worth some consideration.
The flip side of this is if you have a player who's known for using one brand or model of instrument, and the manufacturer can turn him, that could make a huge difference to the buying public. Think of Slash suddenly playing a Strat. What a bombshell that would be in the guitar world!
4) Why should we endorse you? Imagine your toughest exam in school where you've had to give a oral dissertation. Imagine trying to sell someone something that you care about deeply (some people are only good at selling things they don't care about). That's the type of scrutiny you'll be under if it ever gets to the point of discussing a deal. You're becoming the face of a brand and they have to be sure that you're worthy. It's a lot more important to the manufacturer than it is for you.
5) Who's endorsing who? If the artist is big enough, he's putting his seal of approval on a brand or a product. He's endorsing the product. If you're not yet a household word in the music business and Fender decides to feature you in their advertising, they're endorsing you. They're raising your stature in the business. This is a bet on their part that at some point in your career you'll be big enough to turn around - think John Meyer.
Surprisingly, endorsements aren't what they're cracked up to be. In many cases you don't get preferential treatment unless you're Jeff Beck. Much of the time you actually have to wait to get a new piece of gear until after the dealer demand dies down, and sometimes you can actually get a better deal from Guitar Center than from your manufacturer (especially a Japanese manufacturer, who are very tight on endorsements).
In the end, endorsements aren't worth the time it takes to dream about them. You're better off spending the time writing the song that will make it unnecessary.
Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.