We've never really interviewed anyone who wasn't either in a band or from a record label. However, I think the Street Syndicate is really quite a special company that kids should know about. They recently promoted our very own Absolutepunk.net tour and have also done campaigns for Brand New, Coheed And Cambria, Thursday and more. There are so many of you out there who want to get into the music industry and they're a perfect way for you to gain experience and make a little money while you do it. But enough from me, why don't we just let the guys over at the Street Syndicate speak for themselves.
AP.net: TELL US ABOUT THE STREET SYNDICATE AND WHAT YOU DO:
ELLES: Simply put, The Street Syndicate is a music & entertainment marketing company. We mainly promote new music CDs, DVDs and artist's tours, but we also get involved with magazines, movies, special events and even websites for all sorts of special promotions. We're made up of a large community of like-minded, music loving people we refer to as "Synners" who work for us all over the country (as well as our New Jersey-based staff). Synners are our reps who execute specific, grassroots tasks as part of our marketing campaigns... like visiting record stores and lifestyle shops to put up posters, passing out fliers at concerts and hitting up college campuses. That's the basics, really.
AP.net: WHO MAKES UP THE STREET SYNDICATE?
ELLES: On top of our active Synners around the country, this is our in-house staff:
Chris Elles: started The Street Syndicate in March, 2001. He started his career as the Music Director of WGMU in Fairfax, VA and was the Washington, DC college rep for Elektra Records in the mid-90's. He also worked at Arista Records and CMJ (College Music Journal) before joining forces with his friends at The Music Syndicate. Elles is the space rocker & Brit-pop lover who swears by My Bloody Valentine's 'Loveless' as one of the best guitar epics of all time. Recently he gets down with Oceansize, Secret Machines, The Kinison, Air and Spiritualized (of course). Through all this, he's convinced that Classic Rock is the best radio format and that Britney Spears' new record is certainly "a must own".
Brian Pacris: was an intern at The Syndicate before joining Elles full-time. He interned at Some Records and was music director at RLC-WVPH (Piscataway/New Brunswick, NJ). Nicknamed "Indie Rock," Brian's the dude who's down with all the post-punk rock movements. He follows all things At The Drive In / Mars Volta / Sparta, but tends to jump into the fire of metal, hip-hop, electroclash and what we call "gangsta thug rock." He carries the Syndicate title as 'Best Dancer' currently resides in New Brunswick, NJ... home of our heroes, Thursday.
Jim Young: was a street rep for Vagrant Records in Boston, MA before he became a dedicated Synner for The Street Syndicate in April 2001... and was hired full-time this January. He worked on almost every Boston-area Street Syn campaign during his life as a Synner 'cause he was damn good and always pushed the boundaries. Musically these days, Jim's bringin' the white-belt hipster-tunes into full-effect at The Syndicate. Stellastarr*, The Killers and The Faint are all in heavy rotation... not to mention Blink-182, The Blood Brothers and The Bronx. In his spare time, Jim loves to reminisce about the finer days of ska.
Michelle Rakshys: was an intern at The Syndicate in 2002, has since been a Wilkes-Barre, PA and New York City Synner for us. She brought her charming personality, positive outlook and kick-ass tattoos into the Street office and has been teachin everyone the true meaning of the The Big Apple's hardcore / punk scene. It's more of a course than a seminar, but everyone's finally catching on. Michelle handles the bulk of our shipping, recruiting and Synner assistance part-time.
JIM: We each share passion for all forms of entertainment and love to turn people on to exciting new trends. I think we work exceptionally well together as a team. We share such similar duties and listen to one-another... as well as our Synners because they are the ones tapped-in.
ELLES: We're also not afraid to rip a good joke on one-another when given the opportunity.
BRIAN: Yeah, that's when we're in our prime, right? It's easy to callus a family... granted, a somewhat dysfunctional and ridiculously large one at that (when including ALL of our Synners across the nation).
AP.net: WHAT ELSE DOES THE STREET SYNDICATE DO?
JIM: Well, The Street Syndicate is part of an larger but still independent company called The Music Syndicate.
ELLES: Yep. The Syndicate started as a national College Alternative and Metal Radio promotion company in December, 1998. I created The Street Syndicate with the partners of The Music Syndicate in March 2001. Since then, the company has built a successful Commercial Specialty Radio Promotion department and an artist management department called The Management Syndicate. Wow... time flies now that I'm thinking back...
BRIAN: Yeah, we've really come a long way! Our current management roster includes Thursday (Island), Murder By Death (Eyeball), Stretch Arm Strong (Tooth & Nail), Shadows Fall (Century Media) and God Forbid (Century Media). The Syndicate also started an in-house record label called We Put Out Records that released records by Cropduster, God Forbid and The Step Kings.
AP.net: WHO WAS THE FIRST BAND THE STREET SYNDICATE PROMOTED?
ELLES: Ahhh yes... Rustic Overtones on Tommy Boy Records. They're now split up. Two groups came out of the members: Paranoid Social Club and Rocktopus. Both are still unsigned as far as we know, but are active and steadily building their fan base -- something they do so well as independent artists.
BRIAN: You know, I'm not real sure of my first. Some of the first things I remember when starting to work with The Street Syndicate included splitting up Dave Navarro stickers, shipping 10,000 CD samplers by a band called Dezeray's Hammer and cold-calling retail stores to check stock on Seven Mary Three records in stock!
BRIAN: BUT... the first campaign I really sunk my teeth into was Schatzi... a kick-ass rock band from Austin, TX. They were on Mammoth Records at the time.
JIM: Come to think of it, I was a Synner for the Schatzi campaign! I know my first project was for Rustic Overtones... yeah... but Schatzi was definitely one of my favs. I remember promoting them several different times over a long period of time in Boston. Once I relocated to the main office, the first band I saw come through from the very beginning of the project that was Stellastarr*. That band is just amazing. A GREAT album; one the best of the last year.
AP.net: HOW DID YOU GUYS MANAGE TO EXPAND YOUR STREET TEAM INTO A NATION-WIDE ARMY?
ELLES: We actually started to recruit nationwide rather than just the East coast where we're based. The Music Syndicate's radio promotion departments were in contact with so many music fans and 'tastemakers' nationwide, so it only made sense to gradually establish ourselves wherever we could - in both large and small cities. Step-by-step we began to connect the city dots and fill in the gaps over the years.
JIM: We're STILL growing and always in need of new help no matter what market area.
ELLES: Totally. Many Synners have come and gone through this community and on to full-time jobs at various record labels and entertainment companies... and bands.
BRIAN: We constantly recruit Synners because some help us out for a few months while others have been with us for 3 years. We recruit a lot through word of mouth, website postings, links on band's websites we promote and through our current Synners while we're promoting outside concerts. We tend to have strict requirements for a street marketing team so we don't just add everyone and anyone to our team. We aim for the Synner team to be the best students and trendsetters out there.
JIM: I think that the way we got our team to the size it's at is the same way we maintain it: constant communication. We put A LOT of effort into getting to know the students we work with and we make sure that all our Synners realize how important they are in what we do. We're not a company that's just going to ship postcards, CDs and posters off to people without instructions and hope for results. We put a lot of time and effort into giving direction, lending advice, shipping the proper amount of tools and setting realistic goals. Not to mention that we ask for really detailed follow up reports.
BRIAN: We also compensate our Synners with cash stipends for successful campaigns. Blingo.
ELLES: I think the students who want to get into the music / entertainment industry, crave experience, networking opportunities and care about their futures are the ones who get the most out of our community. Everyone's a young professional trying to learn and grow in their own ways... and that is how we grew as an army... all organically.
JIM: Structure and care for our Synners also account so much for our growth and success.
AP.net: WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST INTERESTING PROMOTIONAL TOOL OR IDEA YOU'VE EVER WORKED WITH TO PROMOTE A BAND OR TOUR?
JIM: One of the coolest promo tools I've ever worked with was during the Schatzi campaign. Do you remember Shrinky-Dinks? You color this plastic sheet and then bake it... and they shrink. Well the band had a pack of them made with each member of the band playing their instruments. They even came with a little pack of colored pencils to color them in, plastic stands and keychain rings! Classic.
ELLES: Oh yeah, for the Bjork and Dido campaigns, we helped to create a cool window cling / postcard combos. They seemed to please since they weren't normal. Oh yeah, and for the Club Dread Soundtrack, we had super-rad beach balls. I mean, who doesn't like beach balls? C'mon now!
BRIAN: One idea I really enjoyed did not really revolve around a band or tour, but around branding a record label. While promoting outside of shows, we packaged together Jade Tree Records mail-order catalogs along with the label's CD samplers, stickers and postcards. The gift-pack showcases older label releases along with their most current and upcoming albums. Other promotional items we used that I really liked included the fliers designed to look like citation tickets promoting a book called "Joint Smoking Rules," drink coasters promoting a so-called speed-dating company and rolling papers that promoted Les Claypool's Flying Frog Brigade.
AP.net: WHAT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT MISSION YOU GUYS HAVE EVER DONE FOR A BAND OR TOUR?
ELLES: I tend to forget sometimes, but honestly the most difficult campaign was probably the first one I ever set up (for Rustic Overtones) when The Street Syndicate first started. Hiring new reps, shipping all the materials and constantly reporting back and forth between the reps, the label, band and management all at the same time presenting a lot of new challenges for me. That campaign taught me what to do and more importantly what NOT to do. All campaigns these days are way more complex, but it's that first step you always look back on and say "damn, now that was a rough ride"... and I'm glad I have an amazing team to work with now. I didn't dwell too much on the "negatives" and kept the "positives" skating towards the better, bigger picture.
JIM: As a Synner I had to work a PAINFUL campaign. It was for a band called Seether. They had me going around stenciling the sidewalks outside music shops, campuses and clubs by using spray chalk (instead of spray paint). I wasn't "really" vandalizing, but it didn't look too good if you ask me. If a cop came by and saw me doing it, it would have definitely looked sketchy. So I guess that could be seen as "interesting" (...if by interesting, you mean totally whack). The sprayings had the band's alternative website mocked after their first video. It made sense, but it was a tough one.
BRIAN: I have to agree with Jim on this one. However, I was on the other side of the telephone -- hiring the Synners to try out this crazy task. Imagine trying to convince 30 different people in different situations all over the country that using spray chalk was completely legal and that they wouldn't get in trouble, albeit however sketchy it may look from an outside point of view. And oh yeah, that if you rub your sneakers with a wet cloth for long enough, the spray chalk would eventually come out. Riiiiiiiiiight.......
JIM: Yeah, my sneakers can be put on that list of spray-chalk casualties....
ELLES: Even so, we came through with our commitments and definitely got people's attention! Remember all those emails the record label received? Ha ha ha.
BRIAN: Yeah... never again.
JIM: You guys still owe me a new pair of shoes.
AP.net: WHO HAS BEEN THE BEST BAND TO WORK WITH OVER THE YEARS?
ELLES: There's been a lot...and within several different genres. Wow. It's really hard to narrow it down! Well look, most recently we've really enjoyed working with Gavin DeGraw, Murder By Death, Stellastarr*, Dane Cook, Sloan, Soil and of course our friends in Thursday. Tell ya what though... wish we got to know SpongeBob a bit better since we've helped him out in the past as well. Gotta have dreams.
JIM: Since I started in the office, one of the coolest band I've had the chance to hang/work with is definitely the guys with The Kinison. You take Skate & Surf Fest and add a bar with REALLY cheap drinks and you have the recipe for a good working relationship. Fun guys.
BRIAN: That's a pretty tough question, alright. Other artists and releases I've definitely been proud to be a part of: Brand New, Bjork, Elvis Costello, Piebald, Cave In, The Fire Theft, Coheed and Cambria, Schatzi and Jets to Brazil. I honestly can't narrow it down to just one!
AP.net: WHAT IS THE SCREENING PROCESS FOR POTENTIAL SYNNERS?
ELLES: OK, let me run you through it all. After reading the About Us page on our website, click on the Be A Synner page. If you like what you read, email firstname.lastname@example.org and request an online application. We ask all applicants include their full name, city, state and expected year of graduation from either college or high school in the body of the email.
BRIAN: Whether it's just visiting our website or having a dialogue with us directly, we have to know that a potential Synner is definitely interested in building a working relationship with us. We contact people that we feel would fit well into our community. We need to be sure that there is drive and dedication to promoting and marketing all sorts of projects and not just one type of music. It's important potential Synners prove to us they can follow-through with their commitments.
JIM: It's a pretty involved process, but it has to be! Synners have a fun time working for us and they also work hard. Being a Synner is no different than carrying on a part-time job (depending on the campaign). Campaigns aren't too long, but we have to make sure students are going to look at it professionally and responsibly and not like "I'll try this for a day and then leave it if I just don't care to finish what I started". That does no one any good! So if we get a good vibe on someone, we do our best to get them on promoting outside a show and then go from there. Synners get a lot of benefits the longer they work with us, but it all starts with the application process.
AP.net: IF ANYONE READING THIS IS INTERESTED IN USING THE STREET SYNDICATE TO HIRE FOR A PROJECT, WHAT SHOULD THEY DO?
ELLES: Much like a student interested in becoming a Synner, go to www.streetsyndicate.com and click on the About Us page first. It's important to read up on who we are, our philosophy, what we do as a company and how we might differ from other street marketing companies and fan-based street teams. We recommend labels, bands or other companies email us at email@example.com with the basics of what they're interested in as well as full contact information. We're pretty good about responding to everybody in due time.
JIM: I'm also a fan of messenger-pigeon.Just tie a note to a gray and white pigeon's leg. It'll know where to go. They're good like that.
BRIAN: What happened to your deep-down love of monkeys dressed like cowboys who ride dogs?
JIM: They direct the pigeons.That's how they know where to go.
AP.net: LAST BUT NOT LEAST, DO YOU HAVE A COMPANY MASCOT OR ICON?
JIM: Well now, funny you should mention that. There are several un-official mascots at The Syndicate. The most recent ringleader is a big, yellow stuffed banana named Bob Nanna (of the non-Braid persuasion). He's pretty solid dude who is a company favorite.
BRIAN: And Jagha-Shark (pronounced with a THICK, Boston-accent). He's a silver, inflatable shark sent to us by the folks at Jagermeister who sponsored a Shadows Fall tour earlier this year. Jagha-Shark hangs from our ceiling and is a fine defensive-blocker when it comes to nerf basketball.
ELLES: Let's not forget about The Kid! Some think of him as a typical cardboard cut-out, but the company tends to agree that he has a mind of his own. He holds a special place in our hearts... and in the conference room... yep... right near our beloved Mock-Rock.
BRIAN: Hey, are we coming across as totally strange and unusual to you?
JIM: But who DOESN'T have undying love for inanimate objects?!?!
ELLES: We'd be boring if we were "normal." Whatever that means.