How an indie artist can use email to build a “street team”

How bands can use email to build an online street teamA “street team” is a group of fans that help promote an upcoming concert, album, or single on behalf of a favorite band or label. Street team members are essentially volunteers, though they’re normally granted special privileges when it comes to getting into shows, purchasing merch, etc.

According to Wikipedia, some of the efforts that street team members undertake include:

  • placing stickers and posters in their communities
  • bringing friends to the shows
  • convincing friends to buy band merchandise
  • phoning the local radio stations to request their songs for airplays & voting in the charts
  • bringing vinyl and CDs to local DJs in the clubs where they work

Street teams in the digital age

With the internet, there’s a way to both build and utilize a street team purely online. Many indie record labels (such as  Asthmatic Kitty) are doing exactly that — using their existing email list to gauge the level of interest a recipient has in specific musical acts, and then grouping the most dedicated subset of their overall list into a new list of “street team” contacts.

As an indie artist, this process is made somewhat simpler because you don’t have to determine which people are interested in which bands (the way a label does). If a person is on your email list, you already know they’re interested in YOUR music. Now the only question is, how many of your fans are willing to help you promote an upcoming concert event or music release? And who are they?

Building your online street team

Like most things in life, the quickest way to find the answer is to ask. Send out an email to your entire list (and your social media followers and fans); tell them that you’re putting together an online street team and you’d love for them to join. Basically, you’ll keep them posted in advance on all the big news about your band — shows, recordings, new merch, new videos, etc. — and they’re encouraged to take some online action that supports your promotional efforts: tweeting or retweeting, sharing and liking your content on Facebook, or leaving reviews or comments on blogs and forums that talk about your music. In return, they’ll get access to things like exclusive video content, reduced ticket prices (or free guest list spots), autographed posters, and advance-copies of new albums. Plus they’ll get the chance to help you spread the word about your music, hang with the band before a show if you tour through their town, and receive your undying gratitude.

Those who respond with interest should be added to a second email list: your online team! Then you can write to that list any time you have an upcoming campaign you’re excited about and need some help with. Keep the tone of these emails casual, appreciative, personal, and brief! And remember, you’re really not asking these folks to do anything that far above-and-beyond what you hope your regular list subscribers will do in terms of sharing your music; you just want these folks to do it FIRST in order to help you create a buzz right out of the gates.

Because you’re asking for their help in a direct and personal way, and because you’re keeping them in-the-loop on band news before the general public hears it, your online team will feel like they’re part of an exclusive club; they’ll be far more likely to take action and help you spread the word.

As for your regular newsletter subscribers, I’d also recommend throwing a “Join Our Online Team” reminder into your non-street-team emails every so often, just to make sure you’re continually giving people the opportunity to help out. But keep those reminders brief — and at the bottom of an email that features other important items. You don’t want your regular subscribers to feel pestered.

Have you worked with a street team (online or off) to help you promote your music? How did you build your team? What do you ask them to do, and what do they get in return? Let us know in the comments section below. 

[Street team image from Shutterstock.]