Staff Reporter

You're a 16-year-old kid. You think Insane Clown Posse is the greatest collection of musical geniuses to arise this century. You haven't cleaned your room in six years. The closest thing you've ever had to a job is the five bucks a week your dad gives you to pick up after the dog.

Believe it or not, you have commercial value.

In fact, there is a company in Silverlake that will pay you (not in money, but in "swag" cool stuff like Insane Clown Posse T-shirts, free CDs, concert tickets, etc.) to do exactly what you were already doing for nothing: talk to perfect strangers on the Internet about your favorite band.

The company is M80 Interactive Marketing, one of the more creative and some would say insidious marketing firms anywhere.

In an era when advertising has lost much of its effectiveness because young consumers no longer trust such messages, word of mouth has become one of the most important means of selling a product particularly when it comes to entertainment offerings like movies and records. "The Blair Witch Project" is only the latest example of a movie that initially didn't have much marketing support but exploded in popularity because of strong word of mouth.

In the past, you didn't hire a marketing firm to start word of mouth; it either happened or it didn't. But that was before the Internet.

Now you can buy word of mouth, which is M80's business model.

The company was started less than a year ago by Dave Newpert, former new-media chief at Madonna's record label, Maverick Records. Newpert had so much success selling Maverick artists over the Internet that he decided to go independent and use many of the tricks that he learned or developed.

The first thing M80 does is look for the most rabid fans of a given client on the Web. If they represent, say, the band Insane Clown Posse (which they have), M80 marketers will go to bulletin boards, chat rooms and other fan sites dedicated to that band and look for people who seem really enthusiastic.

Then they recruit the person by offering inside information and lots of free stuff. They supply CDs by the artist weeks before their initial release, specifically so these guerilla marketers can talk about how great it is. The kids and these people are usually kids under 18 are also given a database full of chat sites and asked to go there to talk about the artist. Since it doesn't do much good for them to talk about Insane Clown Posse in a chat room already dedicated to that band, they are asked to talk about the band at sites dedicated to similar groups.

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