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Do Popular Musicians and Bands Get their Equipment for Free?

Do Popular Musicians and Bands Get their Equipment for Free?

I sat there excitedly on the backstage for the Rolling Stones concert to which I had delivered equipment and was attending. Able to see behind the scenes, I watched as Keith broke the string, on, as he called it “da white guitar,” then danced over to the side of the stage and tossed his guitar to a man waiting to toss him back another one; he didn’t miss a beat.

Wow, as I saw several White Les Paul guitars standing on a rack, does he buy all those guitars? I delivered one to him that day, but I thought he needed an extra guitar, not knowing he had many already.

Do stars like him have to buy their equipment or is that the perk of being a musician that they get their equipment for free? Well, the answer may surprise you; it is Yes and No. So, what are the perks of being a famous musician? Do they buy their equipment, or do they get it for free?

Some of the Equipment is Leased

A band helding a concert with a large crowd.

Hitting the road is tough for a big production. Sometimes, equipment is sent several days or months ahead of the band for overseas concerts. So, with many big venues, the piles of speakers you see, the great sound systems are generally owned by the venue and leased to the band.

Though most of the instruments or small equipment, like favorite instruments, foot phasers, and smaller personal speakers, are owned by the band.

An interesting point is that, as impressive as all the giant speakers look that you see behind the bands, most of them are a hoax. They do look amazing, though! Geddy Lee, the vocalist, and bassist for the Canadian rock band Rush, proved that point with his goofy washers, dryers, and chicken rotisseries set up behind him instead of the fake speakers.

He utilized speakerless amps and ear-monitors that ran off the venue’s PA system; he did not need any speakers on-stage.

So, some of the equipment is owned by the band and frequently bought by the band (we will get to more of that later), and other equipment is owned by the venue and leased to the band. So, how does the band get free stuff?

Sponsorships & Endorsements for Musicians

A photo of a microphone on a studio.With the move from record sales to digital media, bands need innovative ways to make money. So, they have sponsorships. Sponsorship is an endorsement or business deal with the band, primarily for money, but it can have other perks.

Some familiar sponsorships are Beyonce, with Pepsi making over 50 million dollars, and 50 Cent was pulled out of bankruptcy after being shot nine times and dropped from major record companies. His deal with Vitamin Water saved his crushed dreams with is said to have been about a 60 to 100 million dollar endorsement. More recent through December 2021 was the Mariah Carey Menu free item from McDonald’s and Rapper Megan Thee Stallion, Hottie Sauce with Popeyes.

Then we have others, such as Levi’s jeans, Doritos, and Campbell’s soup all jumping on the sponsorship wagon – a win for both the musicians and the label, reaching millions who want to be like “That Star.”

Individual Instrument Endorsements

A woman posing infront of camera at the guitar shop.Gone are the 1980s and 90’s, where record sales boomed, music stores and guitar companies had more money than they knew what to do with, so now individuals are endorsed, and sometimes they get free stuff. That seldom means new instruments, but more like discounts or smaller items like guitar strings.

According to Orange amps, the crux of their endorsements is special artist pricing, priority tech support, and the artist who gets it is usually well thought out.

The endorsements tend to involve an individual band member, not the entire band. A cymbal company might endorse a drummer. Gibson supports famous guitarists with their signature lines. Of course, we all know the Les Paul Gibson guitar, Eric Clapton’s Fender Stratocaster; then we have countryman Hunter Hayes with his Cutlass guitar.

I am sure they got theirs for free, but initially, it may have been a well-thought-out design purchased by the artist. Endorsements also tend to have a greater risk as the general public can pursue claims if the endorsement claims prove to be a fault, so artists want to be aligned and use the product they are endorsing.

Musicians Owning Instruments

A rock band enjoying on the stage photo.

All instruments are purchased initially by the now-famous musicians. The media shows stories of a shy Mick Taylor going into a music store and buying a Les Paul from Keith Richards before being part of the Stones. Then we have Keith’s Fender Telecaster built by that guitar rebuilder, Eric Clapton, and gifted to him.

The Rolling Stones, a true legend, mark 60 years as a band in 2022, and Keith states he has owned at least 3000 guitars; some bought, some gifted, and some traded throughout his legendary career.

Other interesting stories include some inexpensive purchases. Eddie Van Halen was known to play the Teisco guitar even after attaining fame. He bought the first one for $70.00 and a traded drum set once he decided to be a guitar player. Many stories highlight the famous musician purchasing their instruments and equipment.

Though, what about the famous musicians, do they get their equipment for free? I think the article in Drum magazine sums it up quite nicely. Most bands go after endorsements and look for the free stuff.

It should not be free stuff we get, but what product do we as musicians endorse? One of Drum Magazine’s favorite observations is that once the musician can buy whatever he wants, he gets it free.