Interview: Streaker Records
If you’ve been on Warped Tour in the past few years, you’ve probably seen the name Streaker Records somewhere in the midst of the bands, the tents and the droves of people walking around. Maybe it was on a tent, or perhaps more likely it was on a stamp donning the name of the record label slapped to someone’s arm. In any case, Streaker Records is a label based upon an idea of doing whatever it takes. I chatted with co-founder Rob DPiazza a bit about the origins of the label slash clothing company, discussing a bit about their keys to successfully selling their wares on Warped, the mindset behind the shirts they print and how they look to stay on top of the everchanging Warped Tour scene.
JG: If you want to start out, maybe give us a little back story on what led you to wanting to start your own label?
RD: My two partners were in a band and they were signed by MRV and BMI and we were on Warped Tour in ’06 as the Barbeque Band, then we got signed. For some reason we couldn’t get back on to Warped Tour but we knew it was too important to pass up Warped Tour. We were like, we’ll tell them that we’re a clothing line and we’ll push our t-shirts and shit like that. Warped was like, no, we don’t have any clothing line spots. Alright cool, we’re a record label. They were like, yeah we got record label spots open. So, my business partner literally created a DBA and got us a tax code and everything like that, and Streaker Records was born on accident. We pushed our own band at the time. We ended up doing fairly well for only being on the tour for like three weeks. The following year we decided to do it again, and we did extremely well. Got our SoundScan approval and everything of that nature. Once we did that, we just started signing up bands, and Billboard charting after Billboard charting is just from us busting our ass and doing a lot of DIY stuff.
Warped Tour has been a huge success for you in terms of getting your name out there with your clothing line. What’s the key to keeping your name out there even as the surroundings and such of that tour changes from year to year?
We’ve constantly been evolving. I wouldn’t say we were one of the first people to do it, but we were one of the first people to do it aggressively. We don’t sit behind our table, for one. If you look at all the Warped Tour stands, you’ve got tables set up and people are hanging out behind them. Most of them are hungover. We’ve got an open tent format. Three or four of us pulling people in, actively engaging people. It takes a certain type of person to do that and sustain it because it’s an incredible amount of work. Where at Warped, ten thousand people might pass your tent and only a couple hundred might actually stop and take a look at your stuff, we’re seeing those ten thousand people and grabbing them into our tent. We’re winning a much bigger market than a lot of the people on Warped are doing, which we have to. We’re not one of the big dogs out there. We don’t have Mayday Parade or All Time Low written on the top of our tent. We’re just Streaker Records. Not a lot of people know who we are. And the ones that do are pretty loyal to us.
How do you think the presence of social media interacts with what you’re doing as a label in terms of marketing both your bands and your clothing brand?
I think out of all of it, I think Facebook is the most important. That’s direct fan interaction, pictures, videos, you name it. You can do everything with it. I’m a huge fan of Facebook. Twitter, we have one. It’s pretty much just a blast of whatever happens on our Facebook. The other bands, they use them a little bit more than we do. I feel like Twitter is a big drama spot, you know? I feel a lot of fights break out on Twitter, so I don’t like to use it as much.
I can totally understand. I’ve seen way too many things.
I’ve gotten in trouble myself on it. For 140 characters, you can’t really get out exactly what you’re trying to say. And people start blasting it or they’ll screencap it and they’re like, ‘Oh, you said this.’ Like no, you don’t even get it. I like Facebook man, I really do. It has the most attention on it, I can see who is looking at stuff, I can see what is going on there.
What’s the key to instilling or reenforcing your style of marketing into not only the clothes you sell but the bands that you sign as well?
I try to get all the bands to work their own merch tables for one. I’m a pretty big believer that a fan doesn’t want to meet a merch guy, they want to meet the band. All the years we’ve been on Warped Tour, we see bands kill it on their merch line and it’s like… man if the band was there, you know how much better they would do? So when we’re on Warped, myself and the owners will be there, but we try to bring a band member out either with us full time or at least to a few of the stops. So like, Chandler from A King’s Affliction was with us this summer. We had The Drama State come out for a couple shows and they hung out. Storm the Bay came out. Crimson Tigers were on the entire tour as well. We like to have them actively push their own stuff, because like I said, fans want to meet the band. It’s one thing to pick up a CD from someone than have someone pick it up and have the band sign it, get pictures. It leaves that kind of lasting impression on the kids and they stick around a little bit longer than just the fly by, ‘Hey, here’s a free CD’, because anyone can do that.
In your opinion, is there a particular thing that you think some labels are doing that is actually hurting them instead of helping them?
I’m sure people could say the same thing about us in all honesty. We know that we’re not the most popular label in the world. I’ll be bold and straight up say it’s because of how we work. We’re extremely aggressive. A lot of people don’t like to set up near us on festivals because they know whatever money is in that area, we’re going to go after it first. We’re not just going to sit back and wait to make money, we make it happen ourselves. I’m sure a lot of people could sit there and say that we’re way too aggressive.
We didn’t expect this to be a full time thing when it started, but now that it is, you can’t go out and act like you rule the world and stuff because you don’t. We’re small fish in a big pond. Once we got ahold of that, and it only took us a couple months to realize, hey, we’re not big shit we need to chill out. Once we grasped that, things started going a lot smoother for us. I think once other people grasp that same concept, things will work out a little bit better for them. But this industry is small, and you do one thing and you get blacklisted. That’s not a good thing.
You note that people might not appreciate your aggression. Do you think that’s helped you stand out more though?
I definitely feel in terms of fanbase, I mean, fans know. We have a stamp that we stamp every kid with that has Streaker on it, and they all want that stamp and they’ll come running for us. As far as the aggression, it’s not like, ‘Hey come over here or I’m going to kick your ass,’ we just actively pursue sales. People get mad at that because they don’t understand why we’re doing it. I think All Time Low was next to us one year and Vinnie their merch guy was like, ‘You guys hustle hard.’ He was one of the few people that kind of understood it. He was like, ‘I get it. When you’ve got someone like us next to you, you need to try and make that money.’ But they know I’m never going to step in front of their tent, I’m never going to steal a person from in front of their tent. I’m up there on Warped Tour, up at six o’clock in the morning, scouting for a location. A lot of these people like to sleep until nine or ten in the morning. I’ll work those extra couple hours to make sure that I have a good spot and make sure my company can survive and we can do what we have to do to make money. If they get upset that we’re near them, get up earlier – that’s all I can really say to that.
As far as your clothing line goes, how do you feel the particular aesthetic you’re trying conveys what your mindset is as a marketer and a label?
We try and play off things. We try to have a shirt that is friendly enough for everybody to have. We’ve had shirts in the past with a robot and cutesy little dinosaurs and stuff. We try and stay up with the trends. I got a few people that work at Zumiez and a few people at Pac Sun that they kind of let me know what the trends are and what’s coming out. Not that I’m trying to steal designs because there’s not a single design that we have that looks like anything out there. But there’s this stuff we come up with ourselves and it sounds great but then it’s a total failure. Some people just don’t get it. We made the Get Naked shirt. It’s an impulse buy. Kids laugh and say I need to have that right now. Nine times out of ten, that person will never wear that shirt again. Unless it is to a frat party or something like that. But then we’ve got some cool shirts like the Sharktopus shirt that we put out last year. We love that shirt, it’s cool, it’s a huge design. It’s probably one of our more complex shirts. It did fairly well. I see it everywhere. It was on Warped Roadies the other day. We were watching it on Fuse and a couple guys actually had it on. I though that was sweet. It’s cool when you see some of your product out there, and we kind of know that a lot of our stuff is just word text. We try to stay away from it now and try to get into some actual designs. We don’t have too many designers that we like to stick with, and it isn’t anybody’s fault, they’re just not good at doing a lot of different things. They’re just stuck on one thing. We try to change it all the time and hopefully we do well with it. It hasn’t failed us yet.