NYC Dollar Vans Are Using Social Media? Just Ask Dollar Van Demos

March 18th, 2010 |

Brooklyn, New York is a borough that marches to the beat of its own drummer. It’s a musical mix-tape microcosm in its own right with talent always seeping from the seams and, thanks to Joe Revitte, its streets. His lone dollar van is just one in a herd of dozens,  but there is one little difference. As  it makes its way over pot holes and through traffic lights, music artists inside pour their souls out to a film crew, complete with hidden microphones, and the occasional passenger. This is Dollar Van Demos, the brainchild of Joe Revitte and his wife, Iara.

Here I talk to Joe Revitte about Dollar Van Demo’s and the impact social media has had on the production.

SR: For those who don’t know, explain what a dollar van is and how you work with them.

JR:  Dollar Vans provide cheap transportation ($2) to areas under served by public transportation.  They’re basically commuter vans operated by mostly Caribbean immigrants (especially from Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago, but also from several countries in Africa). Since the bus service is slow and the subway reaches only a half-way distance, the dollar vans help transport several thousand passengers per day between their homes to their jobs, shopping, and school.  The vans run only on one route but can stop or pick up riders on any corner. We run with a van on Flatbush Avenue (basically Brooklyn’s “Main Street”) and the dollar vans can be found on other main thoroughfares in Brooklyn and in Queens. We work with a van operated by Black Street Van Lines owned by Winston “Youngblood” Williams, whose company’s vans are legal, insured, and permitted by the Taxi & Limo Commission (TLC) of New York City.  The vans have a deserved reputation of driving at top legal speed, packing the seats full of passengers and pumping great reggae, hip-hop, and soca music from their speakers.

Next to YouTube, what would be your favorite social media site and why?

It’s hard to say, but I like how MySpace allows musicians to completely customize their pages with all of their images and music, I like how Facebook offers smart organization of connections and messages, and I like how Twitter allows instantaneous communication.  We consider every social network to be important to our ever-growing network of connections. One thing I’m really proud of and have a lot of fun doing is re-tweeting and communicating directly with Dollar Van riders on Twitter since some of the messages they send are uniquely hilarious (see our Twitter feed for proof).

How do you go about building such a great fan base on your social media sites?

By working really hard and continuing every moment to work even harder.  We basically make sure we’re continuously contributing to “the feedback loop” where if someone connects to us, leaves a comment, etc. we try to reciprocate with a short, positive reply.

McDonald’s recently borrowed your idea, how did that happen?

After this guy subscribed to our YouTube channel in November, I sent him a message via YouTube thanking him for supporting our channel. He was gob smocked that someone would be thanking a subscriber in such a way and he revealed that he worked for a Chicago advertising agency. He said his client, McDonald’s, was about to launch their new “Dollar Menu at Breakfast” and asked us to collaborate with them. We licensed our concept for two commercials that starting airing nationwide in January starring Joya Bravo and Wordspit. This is proof of the amazing connectivity of the Internet!  The “behind the scenes” footage and the spot starring Joya Bravo can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sunil Ramsamooj