Effective Use Of Street Teams
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.
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.
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"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
"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
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
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
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,
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
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"
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.