Why Street Teams Are Nothing But 'Proactive Litter'
By: Jessica Hopper
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist, and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
I've recently started a solo music project after being in a band for 10-plus years. Previously, there were four people sharing band duties such as booking, promoting, etc. Being just one person, I find there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. How can I create a new "team" to help keep the gears in motion as I work to build a name for myself? I know all about street teams, contests and other means for getting people to help spread the word, but I need a core team I can rely on. I don't know how to make this happen since I'm an indie artist and not able to offer pay or other big benefits. Any insight is appreciated!
Even if you do find success, it is likely that your core team is just going to be you for a very long time. That is the reality and knowing and being capable of doing everything yourself is, at a minimum, valuable in that it will help you appreciate what other people do for you if'n you get a "core team" at a later date.
Accepting that, you need to look toward manageability. Duty to your career cannot overtake duty to your art; that is when people burn out and freak out. The big thing to realize is that there is no perfect way to do this, no "if only I'd ____, then this would have happened, and that would be me up there instead of 2 Chainz!" Being covetous only works when it helps motivate you to work hard, not for curating elaborate fantasies that have you ruing fate. Shit happens how it happens. There is no sure path to fame. Your idiot friends and their Candelbox of a band will get deals, drugs and pliant tail they do not deserve. C'est la guerre.
Understandably, maintenance of your online presence--tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, maybe YouTube, as well as Bandcamp, Soundcloud and, for old times' sake, MySpace is a lot of Internetting to be dealing with on top of being an artist. You can choose to do all or none of these, but a functional minimum is Facebook, Twitter and a Bandcamp page. A tumblr-anchored site/basic website is also fairly crucial if you are "serious."
To keep all of this manageable, you need to implement a routine, which is crucial for putting some space between your creative time and the time in which you play manager. (For added realness, change into a special "work" outfit when you are in business mode, i.e., overalls, a speedo.) Being judicious with your time means some careful forethought and being organized and will leave you with still plenty of brain space for writing songs and time for practicing your craft.
For the sake of not being overwhelmed, you need a regimented schedule. You get 20 minutes per day, before noon, to do maintenance: check email, post show dates, toss some pithy tweets out into the universe, what-have-you. Twenty minutes does not mean 45; it means use your watch or get an egg timer. You get 15 minutes after 5 p.m. five days per week for cursory email/Facebooking. Two nights a week, you get an hour for bigger projects, research and hustling. Allocate no more than two additional hours per week for schmoozing at shows, making and distributing fliers, and other things that happen outside the computer. See if you can't get that down to 90 minutes, for the sake of efficiency.
Also, I don't believe in street teams. Street teams are a deeply bullshit way for bands and labels to use young fans for what amounts to proactive littering. When was the last time you were at a festival and show and were eager and grateful for a flier? Never Dot Org.
Did you read that New York Times article this weekend about the terminally interning creative class? When you get some money together, if your career warrants it, consider hiring a young someone as your assistant manager--for, say, $15 per hour 10 to 15 hours per month. Anyone younger than 28 is going to be way better at finessing the interwebs than you are anyhow. It's a title for them to put on their résumé and valuable work experience for the many college-age kids out there looking for entre into "the industry." Give them some real tasks and duties that allow them to make contacts and build your base, job creator-style. Be an inspired part of the solution rather than just another dude in a band bitching about how hard it is to be in a band.
Best of luck,
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