As music lovers, we have heard the term “Street Team” several times. Musician-centric street teams are groups of evangelists for a specific artist or band. The goal of the street team is to boost the public profile of an artist or a band that might be relatively obscure to the “terrestrial radio defined” mainstream. Street teams could also be associated with promoting newer (but ignored) material by veteran artists.
The efforts of street teams are praiseworthy but how many of them are actually effective? Very few are. They have the drive but they lack the vision or the strategy. At Radio Crème Brulee, we are reached out to by many street team representatives of several artists and bands. While we love their enthusiasm when introducing a band unknown to us, we are a little underwhelmed at times by their lack of direction. Hence, we have outlined a few rules that we hope they can leverage as they carve out their strategy to give their favorite artists or bands a promotional push. The rules are as follows:
RULE 1: Understand where your artist fits into the commercial sphere.
For better or for worse, songs with hook-laden melodies and strong choruses tend to have the highest chances of commercial success. It does not matter what sub-genre of pop/rock the artist belongs to. Hence, if your artist has a sonic vibe that demonstrates immense musical talent but does not create music that is commercially viable, expectations need to be adjusted and typical commercial avenues should be avoided in outreach efforts. The occasional artist that falls in this pool might enjoy success but the likelihood of that happening is low. Typical commercial avenues include terrestrial radio, internet radio, and high-traffic pop music blogs.
Rules 2 and beyond apply to street teams for artists and bands that have incredible commercial potential with the adequate level of promotion.
RULE 2: Reach out to broadcast radio outlets.
Unfortunately, with the fall of MTV and music video channels in general in the late 90s, terrestrial radio (at least in the US) has the largest “share of voice” for listeners across the globe. In the US (the single largest consumer market for popular music), terrestrial radio has a 94% “share of voice”. Prior to 1996, getting your favorite artists heard on the radio was quite trivial in the US. All you had to do was call your local station or send a CD to your local DJ. That is exactly how bands like Roxette and Bon Jovi shot to fame and success in the US – and as a consequence, achieved worldwide fame. Ever since deregulation in the radio industry was authorized and the ownership of radio stations was in the hands of 4 companies, sending CDs to local stations and DJs became pointless. Playlist programming became centralized (i.e. each of the 4 radio companies defined a common playlist for ALL stations that they own). The “music selection” price of a DJ’s job was snatched away. That might have more than a little to do with why in the US, you hear the same 10 songs every hours on the radio in ANY part of the country. This problem is not nearly as magnified in the UK, Europe, and other parts of the world.
While sending CDs to your local radio station might be a good idea, if you are in the US, the list of stations should be restricted to those that are either independently owned or college-owned. These stations together constitute around 20% of the stations in the US. CDs sent to any other stations will end up in a trash can since the DJ cannot play the CD even if he or she wants to. It takes minimal effort to find out which of your local radio stations are college-owned or independent. This problem is starting to proliferate in the UK but its scale is not nearly bad as it is in the US. Other major music markets such as France and Germany do not have this problem – at least not on any significant scale.
Some of you that have listened to our radio station might wonder why we (an internet radio station) are suggesting that you send CDs to terrestrial radio stations. Aren’t they the competition? Yes, but 50% of music listening happens in the car and almost all of it is via terrestrial radio. Terrestrial radio is entrenched in our lives by being the only audio entertainment in cars besides our own music.
RULE 3: Reach out to blogs that cover the category of music that your artist falls into.
Reaching out to bloggers is an art. Running a music blog is a labor of love. Bloggers are more likely to respond to people that are engaged with their blog through comments on their posts etc. More importantly, bloggers are more likely to respond to people that are perceived to like a variety of music and not just the one artist whose street team they are on. Hence, your first interaction should NOT be an e-mail to the blogger promoting your artist. There needs to be a general interest in the spectrum of music that a blogger showcases. Ideally, it is only your 4th or 5h e-mail to a blogger that should relate to the band’s street team that you are on. Who are you more likely to take recommendations from on restaurants – someone that recommends the same cuisine over and over OR someone that recommends a variety of restaurants? The same psychology applies to bloggers. That might also explain why music listeners are more likely to warm up to recommendations from a blogger as opposed to recommendations from a street team member.
We live in the fantastic world of music discovery services such as Pandora, Slacker, and LastFM. All these services are powered by music recommendation algorithms that have their own unique value propositions. Yet, interestingly enough, the algorithmically “curated” playlists of these services have never broken an artist into the mainstream on their own. Hence, BROADCAST internet radio stations are probably a better bet. That does not mean you should not send recommendations to services like Pandora .
Once again, independently owned internet radio stations are still in a growth phase and are focused around creating a playlist strategy that helps them grow and retain a listener base. Hence, internet radio DJs (us included) are more likely to take recommendations from people that they know for a fact are listeners. We internet radio DJs have listener analytics so we have a fairly good idea of who may or may not be a listener of our radio broadcast. We often get e-mails from people that are trying to push artists saying they love our station and they invariably end up being from a city or town that we have ZERO listeners from based on our listener analytics. Hence, it is a good idea to actually be a patron (i.e. listeners) of a handful of broadcast internet radio stations that feature the spectrum of music that your artist fits into. Internet radio stations are more likely to take recommendations from actual listeners than folks on a mission to get their artist on every radio station on the planet without actually listening to half the stations.
RULE 5: Create videos for the most radio-worthy songs by your artists
Youtube is still king for folks discovering music worldwide. Hence, your artist’s music needs to have a presence on youtube. But, a group of audio clips is not sufficient to facilitate organic discovery of that artist. There need to be visuals – compelling visuals. The video must be something people would want to share on their social media profiles. It should be something that could potentially have the ability to go viral. Very often, people search for a video that has nothing to do with your artist but your song accompaniment to the video they are looking for could resonate with them and send them down a path of discovery of your artist’s catalog. There are some noteworthy examples of this. Our favorites are the following:
- Michelle Phan – a makeup artist that periodically features the music of pop artist Samantha James. Samantha James defines the golden standard for what a modern female pop artist should look and sound like and is yet ignored by terrestrial radio. Yet, her music has found a global audience through Michelle Phan’s videos.
- Gotye and Kimbra’s “Somebody that I used to know”: This video by relatively obscure Belgian-Australian artist Gotye was for a song that was unlikely to ignite charts anywhere but its incredibly creative music video started getting shared across the social web and it became a huge hit. Terrestrial radio stations had no choice to pick it up for airplay since anything that becomes a hit outside of their world deems them irrelevant (which frankly we wish they were).
- Our favorite one by far is amazingly creative. It is a video featuring two movie characters that do NOT belong to the same movie. The video revolves around a fictional romance between Lois Lane (the Superman series character) and Bruce Wayne (the man behind the Batman character). The song that is featured on the video is Duran Duran’s hit single “Come Undone”. While it is true that the song was a huge hit before the years of the internet, the strategy in this video is noteworthy. Here is that video:
There is no end to creativity in a street team’s strategy but its members need to understand how listeners warm up to and consume music. Being a street team member is like being a marketing professional. It isn’t just an advertising game or resorting to an inundation of requests to an unwilling crowd. The rules outlined above are just a great way to kick-start the efforts of a street team but the list of rules is by no means exhaustive. If you are the member of a street team, please feel free to share some of your ideas via the “comments” section below. Last, but not least, feel free to share this article.
We are an American internet radio station that broadcasts worldwide. The station features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades.
Give us a spin when you get a chance.
We just might become your alternative of choice!