Street teams are a valuable marketing tool for music and some of my favorite people. Anyone who is willing to work long hours – without pay – to support music or a good cause is someone I want to know. Among my favorite street teams is the Alesana Army. Not only can they tell you every date on the current tour, they can debate literary content in the stories and songs of Alesana. These kids totally rock!
Street teams are not fan clubs. Members have to work for the right to be a part of the team. They are not paid and receive very little reward for the considerable time and commitment it takes. The street team assigns specific tasks or missions that each member has to fulfill to remain on the roster. Members must vote and comment on any number of websites or polls, and are told to do so every hour of the day, where the voting is not limited. (When do they sleep?) Each day, team members are required to ‘like’ every post, by their band, on numerous social media outlets. (When do they shower?) One mission stated that street teams must time their band-inspired Halloween decorations to coincide with the tour dates in their area. (Too bad if the show in your town is November first.) Street teams are sometimes offered prizes in exchange for their loyalty. A sticker, button, or tour poster is free, but they have to buy their own ticket to the show. In addition, there is usually no discount for merchandise, and they often pay full price for Meet & Greets. Belonging to a street team can cost you money.
Successful street teams combine enthusiasm with knowledge to introduce music lovers to new bands and organizations. To Write Love On Her Arms, a group that offers hope to people considering suicide, uses their street team to reach out. Team members are always kind and willing to take the time to explain how they can help. I have seen them at music festivals, as well as smaller shows spreading the word that no one has to suffer in silence. But not all street teams are effective, and some are just downright annoying.
Competition in a street team dilutes the purpose. When a street team is constantly charged with winning contests, the underlying mission which should be to promote their cause or band, is lost in the shuffle. At the Uproar Music Festival, a street team member ran up and down the line before the doors opened, slapping stickers on everyone and everything. When I asked him what he was advertising and why, he could not answer. In fact, he was put off by having to stop and address my question, because if he got rid of 150 stickers by the time the festival started he would win a poster signed by one of the bands. I did not care what he was promoting, because he did not care.
Bullying never wins friends or gains new fans. At one show, I was approached by a street team member representing a small indie band, who commented on my favorite Avenged Sevenfold shirt. At that point, she proceeded to tell me why Avenged Sevenfold was not real metal music and the band she was promoting were true, hardcore rockers. (Was she really trying to pick a fight with an A7X fan?) I tried to excuse myself, but she followed, shouting above the music I was trying to listen to, that I was a ‘poser’ and did not know what real music was. At that point, I no longer wanted to hear her band and was relieved that I had not worn my Mozart hoodie.
Serious issues deserve an appropriate setting. PETA, a popular animal rights group, is seen at various types of music events every day. Although the cause is laudable, a concert venue is not the proper place to address such serious issues. Simply put, it is a buzzkill. I am willing to listen to their concerns, even support some of their campaigns, but I certainly did not buy a ticket to see For All Those Sleeping to be lectured on the evils of eating meat. I believe it would be more effective for PETA to arrange a table near the merch area where concerned people can go to them for information. Rushing forward to stop groups of happy concert goers in order to display photos of dead seals is not going to win support for the cause and it can ruin a good vibe.
The vast majority of street teams are amazing and I will continue to support any street team that works tirelessly for their music and causes. I appreciate the news, information, and dedication they bring to light. But street teams that do not know what they are promoting – or seek to bully music lovers into submission – are detrimental to the band or organization they are supposed to represent, and they can just skip me in line.