by Tamara Halbritter
Almost every new band and even some established bands have had a night where only seven people show up. The sound echoes off the empty walls. The energy level in the joint is so low, no one seems to have a pulse. Every imperfection of the club is obvious — from the drunk front-of-house guy to the horrible-sounding mikes — while you play yet another song to no applause.
On stage with your mates, you can’t believe all the work your band put into writing, practicing and performing your set, only to have it come to this. You and a few ghosts of shows gone by are here together, at an empty venue. Your cut of the door is down to nothing. You don’t even get drink tickets because the crowd is so small.
Want to prevent this sorry-assed night from ever happening again?
Build a street team.
Today’s street teams are the boots-on-the-ground/virtual army that can make the difference between millions of people hearing your music vs. only a few of your close friends and relatives.
The team’s role is to spread the word about your music and pack the house at your next gig. Here’s how to create a street team and motivate it to do a massive, ground-level takeover.
Bolster your online presence.
Before you even assemble your team, make sure you have a strong web presence so fans can hear your music online. Get on the main sites for music, such as Spotify, Bandcamp and SoundCloud, and update your Facebook page. Check out “10 Great Places to Share Your Music Online,” for other ideas.
Develop promotional materials.
Once your virtual world is together, create postcards or download cards that have your website and links to mp3s. As your street team grows in size, invest some of your show earnings into T-shirts, hats or other merchandize the team can wear and entice fans to buy.
How do you start your street team? Ask your fans first. Let the most enthusiastic ones know you’re building a street team, and you think they have what it takes to represent the band. Tell them what’s in it for them (comp tickets to shows, free merch, back-stage passes or whatever you’re willing to give).
Don’t forget to ask your virtual fans as well. Post a blurb on your online sites and ask for volunteers. You can also post an ad on craigslist.org with a link to your music.
Motivate the team.
Make being on the street team a social event. Map out the area surrounding your upcoming gig, and figure out which bars, clubs, even health clubs and mom-and-pop stores or other organizations you can approach. Then pick a time and place, invite people to show up and direct the team to divide and conquer. Ask management at each location if you can leave cards about your next show.
Set an example for new street team members on how to approach potential fans and hand them a card while giving your 30-second pitch, something like “There’s a killer rock show with hot female vocalists next Thursday. Check it out.”
A great way to get people’s attention is to stand outside popular events and hand out cards as people are leaving. For example, stand outside your next venue on nights when there’ll be a big crowd and invite people to your gig.
Watch your fan base grow.
The more your street team pushes your band, the larger your crowd will get. And don’t forget to make your online teamers part of your next mission. If they’re savvy at all, they can grow your online fan base in no time.
Tamara Halbritter is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer and editor who develops content for music, transportation and green industries.