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Effective Use Of Street Teams
By Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited
(more articles from this author)
2004-12-31
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The marketing of music for independent labels has become considerably more difficult during the last few years due to increased competition and because the major labels have driven up the cost and reduced access to most general and music media.

So what's an indie label with limited resources to do?

Well, one of the best methods is to form and make considerable use of street teams. They are a great way to get your music to the most likely consumer, but the majors are even now appropriating this marketing aid as well.

I was surprised to read an article in the NY Times of November 8 that was headlined "Proctor & Gamble Now Promoting Music." The web version of Proctor & Gamble Now Promoting Music (free subscription required) is titled "The Next Hit Song? Ask P&G" It's the same piece -- just a different title.

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The gist of the article is that the EMI Group has retained Proctor & Gamble to "test and distribute new music through a special division that uses a network of teenagers to promote products. As part of the arrangement, EMI's record labels plan to send early copies of forthcoming CDs and promotional materials like stickers to the network's young members in an effort to build word-of-mouth publicity. Music executives also expect to survey the network members to determine which of an artist's new singles should be promoted to radio programmers or video channels.

"The network, run by a company unit called Tremor, includes more than 200,000 teenagers and young adults and has pushed products for a variety of outside clients in addition to P&G's own lines, which include cosmetics, shampoos and other consumer goods. The company says its network's members even helped choose the T-shirt design for the punk-leaning Warped Tour.

"Still, Tremor does not have nearly as much experience marketing music, particularly compared with the coterie of small firms that specialize in 'street' marketing for the music industry."

What is a street team you might ask?

A street team is a group of devoted fans and volunteers that work together to spread the word about their favorite music or artist. A street team tries to increase a band or artist's presence in a local community and on the Internet, and aids in increasing music sales. A person joining such a team will have access to the source for the latest official music, videos, pictures, breaking news, etc. He or she may receive free promotional items like stickers, magnets, buttons, advance music, concert tickets or backstage passes, just for doing the things that fans do naturally -- like requesting songs at radio, requesting music videos, posting flyers at local hangouts, creating a buzz on the Internet, and sending emails to friends and family. In short, they increase an artist's visibility.

Street teams can be useful for labels with repertoire that warrants the concept -- which tends to be alternative rock, hip-hop, rap, and such. They're like fan clubs, consisting of friends or lovers of the artist's music who are willing to help out. They may promote, market, and sell records on high school or college campuses or elsewhere in their hometowns. Or they might put up flyers that help promote artist performances. They could also pass out promotional CDs and "fluff" at concerts of similar musicians. Fluff consists of such free materials as stickers, patches, and other inexpensive promotional items that the label supplies to team members.

The teams work at the direction and coordination of someone on your marketing staff, and may be located throughout the country if you're striving for a national marketing campaign. Street team members are not usually paid, although they might receive a modest commission. They do it for the fun and experience, and for free CDs, concert tickets, clothing such as T-shirts, advance "inside" information, and the satisfaction of being involved in something personally worthwhile.

You can get people interested in joining your street team effort by posting a notice on your web site or other appropriate Internet newsgroup. For example, in July 2001, a message was posted in the Lost Highway Yahoo! Newsgroup about Lucinda Williams' newest release, persuading her fans to get conversations going in various other newsgroups and message forums. Also e-cards promoting the CD were made available to fans to send to their friends. Each participant in this street effort was requested to initiate ten contacts on the topic and to forward their postings to a Lost Highway moderator as proof of their work. A group of winners was selected at random and given free tickets to Lucinda Williams' next performances. The total cost to the label was a few tickets and a bit of effort.

Some street team members help artists get concert bookings in their hometowns, and when the artist is performing there they let their friends know about the gigs, put up posters and distribute flyers, and help sell CDs at the venue. They frequently get attendees email addresses for news of future performances by the artist or other artists from the label. This assists in the label's attempt at viral marketing.

Team members might also participate in special label or artist chat rooms and message boards. They are the secret weapon in the battle against boring or out-of-place advertising campaigns thought up by people out of touch with what's really happening in youth culture. Street teams originally came about as a way for fans to promote their favorite recording artists, particularly ones who didn't have big labels marketing for them. Now, marketing and advertising agencies have begun to realize that hiring street teams is one of the most effective forms of youth marketing available.

Street team members may receive weekly newsletters with all the information they might need including the latest news about the artist including performance dates and local performances, plus multimedia links for photos and music. Street teams are not paid for their services, but they might get free CDs, artists' autographs, and other freebies such as T-shirts, posters, stickers, etc., and more important, be put on the guest list for shows at which the artist is performing.

Labels should also do special things, particularly for team members who've worked particularly hard. Artists might mention their names at the end of a performance, or do other things to praise them and make them feel they've contributed to the overall effort.

Team members also have a responsibility to the label and the artists to be friendly, helpful, but businesslike. They shouldn't post stickers or posters on other people's stores or signs or do something illegal that might result in fines, or worse.

You can form your own street team by placing a box on your web site soliciting team participation, or by hiring firms specializing in the building, maintaining, and supervising of team activity. I suggest, however, that you get your feet wet by starting and managing your very own street team. This keeps your costs down and gives you the opportunity to get a sense on how it functions and to increase your "hands on" experience.

Increase your label's marketing effectiveness by forming a street team campaign for the next artist whose performance and music warrant it.

Reprinted with permission from Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved. Adapted from "Manage for Success," Newsletter #43, November 2004. For more information and to contact the author, and to sign up for the authorís newsletter, click on the authorís name at the top of the page.


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