[ The Money Side of Lifeā„¢ ]

Taking it to the Streets: Getting in on the Street Team Marketing Buzz

By Michelle Taylor on July 31st, 2005 •

Whether or not you realize it, street teams are everywhere. Also dubbed "guerilla," "viral," and "grassroots," this method of marketing is making an impact–and not just on the streets. While the concept has been around for some time, it is evolving into an increasingly mainstream means of promoting music and products with online street teams and hosting parties popping up everywhere. Not only does this mean increased exposure and sales for music labels and products, but it also proves valuable for street team members looking to break into the music and marketing industries.

Rap and Hip-Hop Origin

Street teams were primarily an underground phenomenon for quite some time, with origin in the promotion of independent rap and hip-hop labels. Through word-of-mouth campaigns, teams of primarily volunteers (fans and even the musicians themselves) would head out to urban areas and pass out demos, posters, and other merchandise, promoting the label. Flyers for concerts would be posted throughout urban areas. Local record stores and club DJs would be given tracks to play - all with the purpose of bringing exposure to the artist(s). This generated music sales and increased fan base at a minimal cost to the label.

Cohesive units, street teams selectively promoted their labels to targeted locations and individuals. Recognizing the significance of peer-to-peer marketing, street teams were comprised mainly of young adults spreading the word about new labels to their friends by campaigning in their urban neighborhoods.

Evolution of the Street Team

Ron Voss quickly realized the potential of this marketing concept when he worked as an intern for Mammoth Records. If street teams worked with independent hip-hop and rap labels, Voss knew it could work in the promotion of alternative music, which was becoming increasingly popular in the early '90s. In 1995, Voss founded Hi Frequency Marketing, a firm that promotes independent alternative labels. Boasting projects which include Limp Bizkit, Buckcherry, and the movie, "The Wedding Singer," Hi Frequency has evolved from a grass-roots music marketing company into a highly successful youth marketing agency.

Melissa Giles did the same thing. Taking her experience as a street promoter for Def Jam Records and recognizing the lack of events and activities celebrating her diverse background (British and Venezuelan descent), the Miami native started Misto Marketing and Management, her own all-female street marketing team and PR firm. Giles recognized the demand for female promoters and a niche in filling the needs of Urban Latinos (U.S. born 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation Hispanics embracing traditional Latino culture while simultaneously accepting their urban upbringing, speaking English and listening to more than traditional Hispanic music). This group has tremendous purchasing power - over an estimated $300 billion - but is often neglected by marketers. Giles has successfully attended to this niche, also founding the Soulfrito Urban Latin Music Festival in Miami.

Not only have street teams been successfully pivotal for various genres of independent music promotion, street teams are becoming increasingly commonplace in the promotion of products as well. Red Bull certainly got its wings from street team marketing and many products are following suit. Car manufacturer Scion implemented street teams in its promotion of vehicles targeted toward younger generations, giving out merchandise vouchers and a CD sampler for a quick trip around the block in one of its cars and the completion of a consumer survey. The CD sampler featured independent labels and the voucher was for a nearby clothing store - all working in conjunction through the street team.

Street teams are no longer just taking it to the streets. The Internet has revolutionized this marketing concept considerably. Online marketers utilize chat rooms, blogs, message boards and email to spread the word about independent music labels and products without fans ever having to leave their homes.

Getting In

There are several different ways you can participate in street team marketing. If you think street team marketing is something you would be interested in, here are some important considerations to help get you started:

1. Believe in the product. The excitement generated by street teams is due largely to the team's genuine enthusiasm for the music label or product they are promoting. The best promoters are fans. Street team participants are strongly encouraged to work on endorsing those musicians and products they listen to and support themselves.
2. Research. Often, artists and recording labels will have links on their websites inviting fans to join their street teams. You can also check out street team marketing agencies, such as I Squad at isquad.net, and Street Attack Marketing at www.streetattack.com.
3. Compensation. Most street teams offer little to no financial compensation, particularly those that promote independent music labels online. However, they do offer merchandise and other incentives for your time. There are paid positions and internships but those can be more difficult to secure. Remember, most street team marketers are working for the experience and potential establishment of connections.
4. Measurable Results. When working with a street team, try to secure promotions in which your efforts can be measured. Online street team marketers often receive points toward free merchandise per emails and correspondence sent out promoting a particular label. If your efforts can be measured, your success can be more easily quantified for potential job opportunities in the future.
5. Entrepreneurship. The concept of street team marketing relies on entrepreneurial people. Like Voss and Giles, with diligence and awareness, you can turn your street marketing experience into a career - spinning it off into your own marketing agency or by earning coveted positions in the music industry. The key is to recognize opportunity, establish connections, and set yourself apart from the many other promoters out there.

The Bottom Line

Street team promoting doesn't have to be a career for you. Many members of street teams are fans that simply enjoy supporting their favorite artists. However, if you are looking to break through barriers to the music industry or gain some marketing experience, street teams are an exciting way.