Interview with Tish Ciravolo, Founder and President of Daisy Rock Guitars by Nikki O’Neill
Landing an endorsement contract with a music manufacturer can seem like the ultimate badge of honor to many musicians… it shows that you’re either a really good player or that you’ve achieved some level of recognition. It’s important to know that endorsements don’t always equal free gear, but that they always imply a mutual business relationship, with expectations and ethical codes of conduct that both sides have to honor.
The most common way to request an endorsement is to submit a press kit to the company’s artist representative (“artist rep”). The press kit – which can be a physical package or an electronic version (“EPK”) – should include a one-page letter explaining why you’re seeking an endorsement with the company, plus a brief and current bullet-point list of your greatest accomplishments, positive reviews, recording history and gig schedule. Depending on your career status or level of accomplishments, the company can grant you an artist agreement with various levels of discount rates on products, or – if you’ve made it big - a full-on endorsement with free gear and ability to replace it if something breaks down when you’re on that cross-country tour.
Haven’t won any major drum-off battles or reached the level of national touring yet? Don’t despair. There are lots of ways to get the word out about your musical abilities and to build recognition - as long as you’re willing to think outside of the box and act like an entrepreneur. Yours truly landed a first endorsement with a respected electric guitar company after starting a private teaching business called Women’s School Of Rock, which lead to teaching the first university-level group guitar class on famous female guitarists in the U.S., which then in turn lead to paid trips to Sweden to be a guest clinician at an all-female rock college. My students would see the guitars I played and the gear I used in my seminars on amps and effects pedals, ask questions… and some ended up buying the same things. I also wrote educational articles for musician magazines and websites… all of these activities created visibility and made me a good spokesperson for the gear I used.
Another great way to introduce yourself to artist reps is to go to the NAMM conventions, which take place twice a year every winter and summer (www.namm.com). Since the NAMM shows aren’t open to the general public, you have to know somebody at a music manufacturing company or a music store who can request a badge for you so you can get in. If you happen to know an artist who has an endorsement, you could ask him or her to talk to the artist rep and put in a good word for you before you send them your press kit. Just make sure you genuinely like the products and aren’t just out for free stuff – companies spot that right away.
Another effective approach is to start out requesting an endorsement for something smaller, like picks, cases or strings. That’s usually a lot easier to get than to start with the $10,000.00 top-of-the-line instrument. Once you have your first endorsement deal, it often gets easier to get another one for another type of product, such as strings and then pickups and finally guitars.
One music manufacturer that is getting plenty of media interest and endorsement requests from artists is Daisy Rock Guitars in Van Nuys, California.
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Tish Ciravolo, Founder and President of Daisy Rock Guitars
OnlineRock talked to Daisy Rock’s founder and president, Tish Ciravolo – a bass player who paid her musical dues on the LA punk and hair metal scenes of the 80’s. She got her vision of a female-friendly guitar company when one of her daughters made a drawing of a daisy. Grabbing a pen and adding a guitar neck to the daisy, Tish had an epiphany. Today, Daisy Rock guitars and basses are sold in 26 countries, and are endorsed by everybody from Avril Lavigne, The Bangles, Mylin, Butthole Surfers and Japanese shredder heroine Eita. Another huge Daisy Rock fan is perhaps the greatest macho guitar god of them all: Jimmy Page…
How many artists approach you with endorsement requests every year, and how many actually get endorsements?
Daisy Rock gets hundreds... HUNDREDS of endorsement requests each year, and we're so thankful that there's all that interest in our guitars and basses, and also in what we're doing socially for girls and women in the music realm. I think that just tells us that we really hit on something special, and that there are a lot of people who want to be a part of the girl empowerment mission that we feel so strongly about!
We try to do something with every request. Even if it doesn’t end up in an endorsement, there may be some kind of promotion that we can team up on, or something else that we can do to help each other. Of course, we get our share of people who are just looking for free gear, and that's not cool - there's more to it than that. But a lot of the girls - and surprisingly, guys approach us too - they're very talented and actively gigging and promoting their music hard, so a pretty high percentage do get endorsements and we feel very good about that.
What are the most common reasons an artist asks for an endorsement with Daisy Rock?
Artists seeking endorsement have either heard about our company and mission, or they’ve heard about our guitars either by seeing them or playing them first hand. I wish I could count how many times I've heard that our guitars just "fit" girls better… I'm talking about the thinner necks for smaller hands and the lighter weight materials. We keep hearing over and over that our guitars just "feel" better than whatever they've been playing before Daisy Rock. Being a Daisy Rock endorsed artist means not only promoting our guitars, but also representing women in the music industry on stage, in the community, and in their everyday life.
What do you take into consideration with an artist before you give them an endorsement?
The main characteristics we seek in an artist is that they are playing out regularly, have a CD recorded in a recording or home studio, have a growing fan base, great web exposure, and have a passion about our guitars.
What’s a typical workday for your artist rep (Jessica Murillo)?
Our artist rep not only handles communicating with all endorsed artists, but also markets and promotes each artist in order to help each artist succeed the best they can. Anything from writing artist press releases, posting news bulletins on www.daisyrock.com, maintaining social networking through MySpace and YouTube, and pairing artists with guitars could be included in a typical work day for our artist rep.
What can Daisy Rock endorsed artists expect from her and the company?
Artists can expect monthly newsletter updates with everything going on at Daisy Rock, and they can work with our artist rep to keep information and promotions creative and current.
And what are your expectations of your endorsed artists?
One of the major expectations of an endorsed artist is to be playing or seen with their Daisy Rock at every opportunity. This includes live shows and appearances, photo spreads, and the like. Having our logo and banner displayed on their website, as well as keeping Daisy Rock up-to-date with the latest artist news are also important expectations.
Every music manufacturer runs into so called "gear whores," who use products by any and every company they can get free gear from - disrespecting the agreements and relationships they have with their endorsers. Do you encounter a lot of these artists, and how do you deal with them?
We do encounter artists that come to us solely to get a free guitar, but we try to do our research as well and see if other endorsement deals are in place before offering a Daisy Rock endorsement out. Just a piece of advice, and I say this in hopes to help artists out there... don't ask for endorsement simply for a free guitar. And definitely don't ask multiple companies for free guitars. The industry we're in is pretty small, and word spreads fast when we see this happening, and then nobody will want to deal with you. It's just not worth it.
Tell us more about how you go about finding artists, what events you create and how you and your artists help promote each other.
One of the live events that we've created for our artists is our Pretty ‘n Punk showcase that we've held at the Key Club in Hollywood for the last two years. We've ran several online artist contests in conjunction with SonicBids, Atlantic Record, CMT, and Curly Grrlz Skateboards. We also held our own local artist search two years ago and featured the winner at the first Pretty 'n Punk showcase.
You have a number of celebrity musicians who support Daisy Rock, including Heart, Dolly Parton, The Bangles, The Donnas, Wanda Jackson, Miley Cyrus and Avril Lavigne. How do you find each other and work together?
Most of the time, they find us! And that's very cool - we have so much respect for these artists and they could play any guitar they want - it's very satisfying to see them choose Daisy Rock!
Each one of these artists has a cool story about how we met, but I'll try and just pick one to tell here. Wanda Jackson was pretty interesting - she was our first artist endorsement! I still can't believe it - Wanda is the QUEEN of Rockabilly, and has been playing guitar and been a true inspiration to women everywhere since her days with Elvis Presley. Wanda Jackson is the REAL DEAL and after years and years of playing the guitar, before Daisy Rock was even a glimmer in my eye, she had to put the instrument down because it was hurting her hands to keep playing. Then she found Daisy Rock Guitars, and the slimmer neck allowed her to play again. So she plays her Daisy Rock Pixie Acoustic, or her Daisy Rock Wildwood Artist Acoustic/Electric guitar every night, and still tours and plays all over the world.
Each and every night, Wanda tells her audience about why she loves her Daisy Rock guitar, and why she is proud to be associated with our company, and it truly brings a tear to my eye every time. To see Wanda get up there and do her thing, it just gives me chills. And to know that somehow, we're a part of this, is just an incredible honor.
Courtney Love was one of the first to rave about Daisy Rock, wasn’t she?
How did you two meet?
I met her at the RockrGrl Conference in Seattle developed by Carla DeSantis. It was just after I launched Daisy Rock, and I only had a couple of prototype guitars - just one model of each to put in this very small booth at the conference. But, the reaction from all the artists was amazing! Everyone thought the idea was courageous and got into it. Courtney saw it, and during her question and answer session at the closing ceremonies, she told the crowd that it was really cool and about time someone made guitars for girls. She just totally got it – instantly. And that felt great. Courtney signed that very first Daisy Guitar and it's on display now in NAMM's Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, CA, as the world's very first girl guitar.
The Bangles' Daisy Rock Signature Model
Do you make signature guitars for celebrity artists?
We do. Our first signature model was the Bangles guitar - it was released at the 2008 January NAMM show and is a very cool retro kind of guitar with some modern twists. We worked with Vicki (Peterson) and Susanna (Hoffs) and asked them what they wanted, and sparks started flying. We all sat around on the floor, surrounded by guitars and amps, and started drawing ideas on a big piece of paper and talking with each other about what we like about necks, colors, pick guards, pickups, tuners, strings, just everything! It was a lot of fun and I think we made a killer guitar as a result.
Rumor has it that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page fell in love with your guitars… can you give us the story?
I met Jimmy Page at a dinner event for Guitar World magazine a few years ago. He's great - he talked to me in length about how his daughters all play Daisy Rock Guitars. JIMMY FREAKIN' PAGE! That goes in my personal highlights reel. And then my business partner, Ron Manus, flew to London and met with Jimmy, Robert, and John-Paul Jones and gave them all guitars to check out. It was really cool to hear stories about Jimmy showing a Daisy Rock bass to John Paul Jones and explaining the thin neck and why it's so cool for girls. We even sent Robert an extra guitar later, because there was some fight over who was going to get the sexy red sparkle Retro-H De-Luxe model, and we all want everyone in that camp to be happy and get along!
How does a guitar company inspire women and girls to play?
Obviously, they can't be too lured by guitar magazine ads with bikini-clad chicks straddling guitars. Many don't even read these magazines, and they feel awkward going into guitar stores as well... What Daisy Rock has done to inspire women is really to find that unique niche in the market and then maximize it. Think of the way a pair of jeans are cut differently for men and women - we have added all the right curves, the sleek and lightweight body, and dozens of finishes from super feminine to ultra rocker. What we really want to be is the place where a female of any age and any level of playing can come and pick up the guitar that best fits her needs and personality.
So how do we communicate this niche that we provide? Anywhere we can! For the teens, popular magazines and websites featuring hit stars help us get our point across - take for example Demi Lovato who will be featured on the cover of the September issue of BOP holding a Debutante Heartbreaker, or our recent People magazine campaign with artist Mylin and Fing'rs Edge nail company to win guitar packs, trips to Hollywood and more.
For the adults, we really try to help the interest and the image by displaying key women in the industry who are both talented and respected. For example, we work a lot with Lisa Loeb and E.G. Daily, and we recently designed a guitar with the Bangles. I think what it comes down to bottom line is that we want Daisy Rock to be more than just a guitar; we want it to be a lifestyle of female empowerment!
Daisy Rock has grown substantially since you exhibited your guitars and basses in a tiny booth at the NAMM show in 2001. You frequently appear on major network shows like CNN and The Today Show. How does a guitar company get their brand out and expand in order to survive in today’s music and media climate? And what are your different strategies for adult vs. kid musicians?
I think in such a rapidly-growing industry as we have today, Daisy Rock really has to get their image out there in as many different mediums as possible while remaining true to our image and our mission of empowering girls. Of course, it's a lot easier said than done, but because Daisy Rock has such a distinct and devoted following, the number of opportunities seems to have just skyrocketed as the company has grown.
Television appearances, such as CNN, The Today Show, and KTLA are just a few of the fun things we do to spread the word about the company, but we also have our guitars featured on hit shows such as According to Jim, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Dr. 90210, and the Real Housewives of Orange County. And that's just one aspect.
As far as print, Daisy Rock appears in a variety of newspaper and magazines - from mainstream news, like our recent article in the Boston Herald, to industry trade magazines featuring me talking about the industry, to teen contests and photo shoots.
Daisy Rock is also involved in various events: for example we will sponsor X-Games for the second year in a row this summer; we just sponsored Make Music Pasadena, part of a chain of 300 music festivals across the world, and we even put on our own Pretty 'n Punk showcase featuring our Daisy Rock endorsed artists at the Key Club on the Sunset Strip every year.
One final component is all of our sponsorships and charities that we support; this year we sponsored over 10 different girls rock camps across the U.S. and Canada, and we are consistently giving back to the community by helping with efforts for breast cancer and anything related to children's education. So essentially, wherever a female might find herself, be it watching TV, picking up a magazine, at an event or concert, or just out in the community, we want to make sure that Daisy Rock is there!
Last question: if an artist wants to be endorsed by you, how do they go about it? Who do they contact and what do they have to submit?
If any artist is seeking endorsement, then they can send an electronic press kit to firstname.lastname@example.org, or can send one through physical mail to: Attn: Artist Relations 16320 Roscoe Blvd., Suite 100 * Van Nuys, CA 91406
Nikki O’Neill is a singer, songwriter and guitar player in Los Angeles. She’s the front person for the Nikki O’Neill Band – a soul and rock band gigging frequently at clubs and festivals in LA and Chicago.
She is interviewed in Sue Foley’s upcoming book “Guitar Woman,” which features a who’s-who list of great players like Jennifer Batten, Me’shell Ndegeocello, Nancy Wilson and more.
Her first endorsement was with G&L Guitars. Today, she is endorsed by Daisy Rock Guitars, Kustom amps and Seymour Duncan pickups.