Adam Bird Of Those Mockingbirds Discusses Good Old-Fashioned Street-Teaming
I don’t open at least 85 percent of my emails; shot-in-the-dark solicitations from bands and labels, promotions from Starbucks and phone companies I should apparently switch to, celebrity news…it’s exhausting just looking at the subject lines in my inbox. And so they just sit there. I don’t even delete them. Because checking each box down the row, that’s exhausting, too. My inbox is a graveyard where spam comes to rot and die.
It may appear otherwise, but personally, I would not say I feel a need to be connected to the internet at all times. I have a phone with the potential to be smart, but I don’t use it for anything other than texts or calls. I don’t have any apps, I don’t snap a photo of every meal. The world does not need to know when I’m stuck in traffic, headed out to dinner with my boo, or shitting. I’m in the minority, though.
Call me old-fashioned, or analogue, or too cheap to pay for a data plan—whatever, as a human being, I prefer a more human approach. A tweet is easy to overlook, but if someone puts a flyer or card in my hand, I’m gonna read it. I’m gonna hold onto it. I’m gonna find it in my purse a few days later, and if I’m still interested, I’m gonna look whatever it is up.
There are obvious merits to this, guys!
Your fans are people. Human people. You are also, presumably, a human. Congratulations. Now go make friends and secure yourself a solid fanbase. Fly the nest, or, uh, get up off your desk chair at least. I have faith in you!
“It’s extremely beneficial to make a human connection with someone face-to-face, as opposed to online where the attention span is seconds long at a time,” says Adam Bird of Those Mockingbirds, who I helped introduce potential fans to his music in a mall the very first time we hung out. “The internet spews out so much content…that’s tough to compete with, no matter who you are. Everyone’s advertising, selling. Everyone wants your attention. Face-to-face is different. It’s a little more challenging, but it leaves a bigger mark.”
A funny picture of a cat may be worth a thousand words, but a spur of the moment connection with a likeminded person only generally requires a few.
“It’s not copy and pasted, and it can’t politely be ignored or overlooked. Take us for example; it didn’t necessarily feel like a real friendship until we hung out and did some promoting and got an understanding of what it’s like to be around each other. It’s the same thing. As much as the internet is good for certain things, it does not replace human interaction. A lot of people don’t even realize they’re being desensitized, until you walk up to them and have an actual conversation. It’s a little extra effort, but it’s important.”
Now, obviously, it’s more time consuming than hitting the send button and emailing 300 people in one shot. But you’ll feel good about it, and it will make your potential audience feel like they’re in on it, like they’re a part of something—because they will be. And these are the people who will come to your shows and buy your stuff and tell their friends, because you’re so nice and down to earth and you really, truly care. A lot of these people will become good friends to you. Adam and I are a prime example; he reached out to thank me about something I’d written on behalf of Those Mockingbirds, and it took off from there. Now we talk at two in the morning a lot, and he helps me with challenging projects. Like this column. See? Benefits of connection.
“There is a downside to it, though,” Adam explains to me. “You hit a lot less people. I mean, if you can break through the millions of voices on the internet and hit an audience, you can make it really big. You can have the world captivated. You can reach more people that way than a musician could ever hope to reach in person on a month-long tour. Sure. There is not enough time in a person’s life to meet the amount of people you could potentially reach online.”
And he goes on to explain deeper, prefacing it with a warning that it may not be the best example, but it does get the point across. “Take that Rick Astley song for example—it became an internet meme and just exploded. Everyone knew it. There are people in other parts of the world with internet access who know that song, but to whom The Beatles are completely foreign.”
Which is basically inconceivable to us here in America…but it’s the truth. A more limited reach is truly the only con to street-teaming, though. I would recommend it not only for bands and musicians who are just starting out, but to seasoned vets as well. Why spend hundreds of dollars to run an online ad that will probably get looked over when you can print some flyers and pass them out at local shows or leave them at bars? Go to a festival and meet some people, shit. It can only help you.
“It’s definitely worth doing. Sure, you’ll walk up to someone with your iPod and try to play them a song and get turned down, but the majority of people will be nice and listen to what you have to say. I feel like a big thing that turns people off to this idea is the thought that it’s going to be hard. But you WILL be surprised by how welcoming people can be. Most folks aren’t going to be mad at you for approaching them and [politely] asking a question. But if you’re in a band, then you’re already used to some people not liking what you’re doing anyway!”
And that’s a good point to make—you will not be everyone’s cup of craft beer. But you need to get over that. You wanna play to a sold-out crowd, but you can’t chat up a stranger in a neutral setting and get to know what kind of music they like? I’m not buying it. Get to work.
“All you need is a basic download card with your information on it: how to listen to your music, where to connect, and how to contact you. The better it looks, the more seriously it’s taken. Make a good impression with it, and it will remind them of your meeting. Break through the clutter of everything online and make a good first impression in person.”
If you’re already planning to go to a festival, why not go earlier and hand out press materials to people entering the grounds before your favorite bands play? Be polite, don’t chase people down if they don’t want to talk to you. Be friendly and open. If you’ve got friends in bands, encourage them to come out with you. Put their stuff on your merch tables at shows—help each other. This is what it’s all about. Start local, hand things out at small shows and outside of bars, but if you’re asked (or told) to stop soliciting, stop. Be respectful. Don’t give anyone a reason to dislike you before you put that sticker or card in their hand; you are representing your entire band. Don’t be a dick in a venue you someday would like to play at.
I say this a lot, but, get off your ass.
I am always looking for people to get involved and contribute to this column, and I would love to hear from you guys. Feel free to open discussions or message me questions on the MxC Facebook page!