|This article does not cite any references or sources. (May 2009)|
A street team is a term used in marketing to describe a group of people who 'hit the streets' promoting an event or a product. 'Street Teams' are promotional tools that have been adopted industry wide as a standard line item in marketing budgets by entertainment companies, record labels, the tech industry, corporate brand marketers, new media companies and direct marketers worldwide.
The now ubiquitous "street team" model was originally developed by urban record labels such as Loud Records, Jive, Bad Boy, Roc-A-Fella, Priority Records, and Ruthless Records. Rap labels found an affordable and highly effective bridge to their target audience that did not require the traditional outlets found in print, radio, television mediums and elusive large scale record distribution deals.
It was a modern version of a credible "cool" field marketer working for you with the ability to create hype for your artist (brand) through credible peer-to-peer interactions and viral word-of-mouth influence marketing.
This grassroots tactic was partly born in the mid-1990s from the larger monopolistic record distributors trying to shut out rap and smaller music labels of the day from radio and mass distribution due to the early stigma of "gangsta rap" and "punk" on those genres as a whole.
Street Teams were used by smaller independent record labels as a tool to circumvent the larger out-of-reach distributors and corporate owned record labels. Other independent label owners used street teams as a way to build equity in their stable of artists for the benefit of gaining a courtship by a larger music label or record distributor to merge or sell part or all the company. (see Loud Records sale late 1990s)
For the smaller labels trying to get in the door of the music business, the thinking was in part to build a loyal fan base in key markets first, get strong street hype and "street-cred" first, try to get on the local radio stations through hype/word-of-mouth, then go to the larger record distributors with a much stronger negotiating hand and a solid "sellable" commodity.
Through this method of building a solid fan base with disposable income first, the smaller label wielded greater power in their initial distribution negotiations for the benefit of their music artists and their profit margins. Distribution deals for an "unproven" new artist that came with a built-in fan base, generally received better upfront money deals than music artists had previously received without street teams sharing the music and spreading the word (viral marketing) nationwide.
The position of street team representative was often filled by fans of an artist or young people looking for an introductory position in the music industry. In many cases, an influential teen referred to as a neighborhood "tastemaker" was sought out or pinpointed by a record label to be used as a conduit to their respective neighborhood, due to their stronger influence over other teens that looked to them for "what's hot" or "what's the next hot thing". The tastemaker was directed to create a team on the streets to make an unsigned music artist more popular through word-of-mouth and hype.
The concept for organized promotion teams in the music business can also be traced back to January 1975, when Starkey and Evans, two teenage KISS fans from Terre Haute, Indiana created the KISS ARMY as a group of fans determined to promote the KISS name. Although this could be more attributed to fan clubs, fans worked together outside of their homes, to promote KISS to other kids at school or while hanging out. This KISS army was quickly taken over by the band KISS itself and army recruits were offered limited edition merchandise and seating.
Usually unpaid, street teams for bands and artists are still often composed of teenagers who are rewarded with free band merchandise or show access in exchange for a variety of actions:
- placing stickers and posters in their communities
- bringing friends to the shows
- convincing friends to buy band merchandise
- phoning your local radio station to request their songs be played
- bringing vinyl and CDs to local DJs in the clubs where they work
- posting to band forums and bulletin boards online
In some cases, points are assigned to an individual for a particular action, and those points can be exchanged for tickets to shows, or for band merchandise. Some bands even produce special items just for street team members.