I have an affectionate feeling when the subject of street teams is brought up. This grassroots strategy changed the direction of my passion tremendously. My sophomore year of college brought together the completion of a childhood dream–studying abroad in the UK.
I came back to the States a new person. I grew more social, openly discussed niche interests, and wanting to be more involved in the music scene. My college (now university) has a campus activities board. I applied and was hired as the Entertainment chair. What did that mean?
I attended the awesome conference that is NACA–networking with performers and agents alike. Raining Jane (awesome female band to check out) was a group I clicked with. I still have the canvas bag they handed out as well as Mona’s old business card. Unlike my introverted nature, I found myself picking the brain of a music agent. Learning what brought him into the industry and why he enjoys what he does.
In the position, I was able to help book talent coming to the college. Intimidating at first, but very exciting. Helping with setup/take down for musicians gave me the chance to understand an aspect of tour life. Not to mention a free workout from the heavy cases. I learned about contract riders, selling merch and brainstorming promotional ideas with a lack of funds. It also started my first opportunity of using social media in a work setting.
A year or two down the line, I had been taking German classes and discovered Tokio Hotel. This was where the street teams and I interacted. Fanactions? Team contests? What was this awesomeness? I joined the U.S. street team to see what it was all about.
I remember getting a pile of stickers in the mail. I couldn’t stop grinning. There were instructions and I was running all over campus posting anything where I could. It didn’t take long for me to be known as “that girl” around campus. I had multiple ear piercings and emerald green hair–no lie, I’ve got photos. Myspace was still a hotspot for discovering bands (still is, in my opinion). Look up myspace.com/animedancer87 on the wayback machine to see the mix of artists I was following/promoting.
I’ll never forget the day I became a street team leader. Andie and I wrote each other at the exact same time. Him, inquiring about my interest in helping to promote in the States. Me, explaining that I never ran a team, but was willing to attempt it. For roughly two/three years, I ran the U.S. street team for SAI (they later became known as Junction Skies before disbanding), a Swedish alternative rock band. Even crazier, I never met the band until two years after having helped.
And I didn’t just do work on the side for bands, I incorporated them into my education. Presentations (including my senior year case study), homework assignments, etc.–I spread the word. There were times I let professors know I was running a few minutes late because I was researching/completing an email to a radio station. While SAI was the band I spent the longest time with, I did the same for a couple of other bands before going on hiatus from burnout.
If you can’t tell, I was intense about utilizing street teams. As the SNS boom was really getting more mainstream, musicians suddenly had a new direct outlet to fans. The music industry’s still adjusting, but the grassroots avenue really helps the unsigned artists. Do I miss it? Sure. There’s a great sense of community when you do it right. But it’s intense.
If you are going to use street teams, know why you’re doing it. Street team members are fans who don’t want to just buy your music (nothing wrong with that, by the way). These are volunteers willing to spend hours getting your name out there simply because they believe in you. They will reach out to the media, other potential fans, venues, etc. for free. FREE.
I spent three years running street teams while on an 18-credit load and working two jobs. I never earned a dime. But I earned industry experience, wonderful friends and the discovery of a lifelong passion–helping the foundation of the music industry stay alive. Because without musicians and fans, there wouldn’t be an industry.
Have you ever been in a street team and/or used one? If so, what was your experience like?