Giving away trinkets is a heck of a lot cheaper than shooting a video--and frequently much more effective. "The first 100,000 albums are always the hardest to sell, and that's the expertise Beno provides," says Rick Rubin, founder of the American Recordings label. "He gives you a way to get things started." Benveniste first tapped into the power of youth marketing while managing the heavy-metal group System of a Down after graduating from college. He hyped the band in Internet chat rooms, giving out his home phone number. When kids called up, he would play some music on a boom box and then mail them a free cassette.
In just three years Benveniste built an army of more than 30,000 kids who distribute swag to their pals in what he calls "hand-to-hand promotion." Clients included Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead and Limp Bizkit. Next: hip-hop, electronics, films, fashion and, perhaps someday, even politics. "We want to become the voice of today's kids," says Benveniste, "empowering them to bond together and giving them something to belong to." But giving them some free stuff first.