"All the people tell me so, but
what do all the people know?"
It's been a long time since you worked on a street team but the
concept hasn't changed tremendously - and that's a problem. Originally,
the idea of rewarding people for spreading the good word with free
admission and 3,000 stickers was enough to get feet moving. Nine
years ago the idea of pimping Paul Oakenfold for free tickets
from Rifkin by merely placing flyers around town, talking
up the artist at every given opportunity and distributing stickers
seemed pretty easy. But in this social networking age, it's a lot
harder to stand out and reach a tipping point.
Back then, just as now, the hard part was embracing the artist.
To highlight this from the earlier example, the time spent promoting
Oakenfold would have been entirely worthwhile if you could understand
why he reigned supreme in dance music and, for that matter, how
dance music really managed to make an emotional connection with
anybody who wasn't rolling. It would have been a lot easier to get
behind him if he had made himself a little larger than life.
Without feeling a deep and appreciative love for the artist and
the lunacy that inspires that art, it may be more difficult than
ever to take time and promote that artist. Being an artist just
doesn't cut it anymore - just look at Frank Black. Really,
the artist has to show some spirit and promote themselves through
more than just the creative expression by which they define themselves.
To help with this, here is a list of suggestions for any artist
to consider for the sake of assembling an aggressive and enthusiastic
1. The artist should adopt and associate themselves with a unique
symbol simple enough to be spray-painted while inebriated or shaved
into the side of a Newfoundland. Simple shapes chosen to represent
some deeper meaning are the most preferable. The artist alone should
assign meaning - it's sort of like working backwards from an acronym.
Everybody likes acronyms.
2. The artist should generate a buzz through at least one, if not
a series of, dangerous and irresponsible actions that become newsworthy.
On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being a DUI with a bona fide celebrity
in the vehicle and 10 being self-immolation, the artist should really
target somewhere between 6-8. For instance, a 6 would be a criminal
conviction of something absolutely stupendous - think along the
lines of Rick James. Rick James stands alone in the world
of celebrity convicts not because he smoked crack but because he
kidnapped somebody to smoke crack with him. On the higher end of
the scale, an 8 would be taking a shower from a Gerry can filled
with something fairly flammable in a mass transit center. In an
ideal world, that flammable something is celebrity-endorsed moonshine
awaiting marketing. Real world success can actually result in an
elevated terrorist threat level.
3. Grassroots should mean something to the artist. If the artist
doesn't already smoke a lot of weed, the artist should get photographed
with a celebrity that does.
4. It's a lot easier to spread the word about the artist when the
artist has words to spread. There are a lot of people out there
who read bumper stickers. Heck, there are a lot of people out there
that live their lives in accordance with them
an awful lot
5. If at all possible, the artist should start a dance craze. This
isn't as hard as it might seem. Fat Joe started the Rockaway
simply because, well, he's fat. Leaning back is a pretty natural
thing to do after a big meal. Doing it rhythmically? Yep - that's
6. It's never a bad idea for an artist to take a nickname. Calvin
Broadus might have sold a couple of albums but Snoop Dogg
has sold millions.
7. Product tie-ins are a tricky game. An artist might end up with
their own shoe (good), an anatomically correct and possibly enhanced
sex toy (outstanding), or a figurine likeness tossed into a Happy
Meal (horrible - especially if it can be disassembled and becomes
a choking hazard).
-William Cadillac Donovan
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