September 24, 2010

Week 1: Gig Promo Posters

Posters and Handbills ARE Important

By Sean Claes

The Set Up: Let’s assume you have booked a show… since you are a band. So… next step is promoting said show. We’re going to call this one “Old School” promotion.

A 1990 Poster designed by Christa Nelson
promoting a high school band Nelson was in.
Poster – Get one done
Even if it’s a 8.5” x 11” pencil drawn flier on college-ruled notebook paper ripped carelessly out of the wire binder that says who you are and where you’re playing… that’s more than 80% of the bands out there are doing.

Now… I don’t recommend doing your promotional poster that way.

There are many poster designers in the Austin area (or online) that would be happy to design your poster for a nominal fee. I think the going rate is about $50 for a decent artist. Of course if you want to go with a poster artist who wins awards… you’re going to pay more. Money buys quality. Here's a couple of October shows that have professional graphics.

But, if you’re like most bands you’ve got a slim budget. DIY design is pretty easy as long as you get someone with a computer and a little bit of knowledge.  Like I said, it doesn’t have to be beautiful or amazing… but it SHOULD inform someone about your show and perhaps even get them to consider going (Look at the end of this entry to see some posters I've done in the past).

Information to make sure you put on your poster:
-       Name of bands playing (make sure the headliner stands out)
-       Date of show (Include FRIDAY or TUESDAY)
-       Time of show (doors open at … each band goes on at…)
-       Name AND address of venue
-       Price to get in.
-       18+ or 21+ venue?

Information to think about for poster:
-       Discount for mentioning poster
-       Group discount ($5 a person, groups of 5 or more are $3)
-       Providing a really striking image for poster
-       Website to visit
-       Free download/album for visiting site

Remember… this is a poster that people are going to look at in passing. Most people who look at it wont spend more than a few seconds on it… so please make sure the most important things STAND OUT. Namely the date, venue, and bands.

Printing and Distributing

OK.. you’ve created a poster. It does the job and it’s sitting on your computer. Next step.. find a printer and make copies for distribution.

1.    What to get:
a.     Posters for the venue (usually a venue will take 5-6 posters. If it’s an out-of-town venue, you can mail them the posters and as a bonus send them a roll of tape. That will  pretty much guarantee 2 things.. they will hang your posters and once you arrive they’ll remember you fondly. I say print 50-100 posters for your show.

b.     Handbills will be for every member of the band to hand out anytime they go out (handbills are pretty much printed 4-per letter-sized page. The bonus with handbills is you’ve got 2 sides… so you can put MORE information on it… or a promotion (bring this handbill in for $2 of cover).  Print 100 pages (which is 400 handbills).

2.    What to do with them:
a.     Posters: as many as you print… that's as many as you should hang up. There is a service in Austin that I’ve used the past to hang up posters for me (Motorblade) and they have a method for hanging up your poster to the 100+ places in Austin they have distinguished as legal to place posters.If you've got the cash to spend... I'd recommend them.

With some work and time you can find these places yourself if you don’t care to hire a company to do it for you. With about 4 bands on a bill that gives you about 12-20 people who should be promoting. Split the city up and let each person/band take care of a section.

b.     Handbills: Get these done about 3 weeks before a show and every time you go out.. you should be dropping a few off or handing these out. In Austin walk down 6th Street or Red River and give ‘em away. If you go to touring show that is in a similar genre as yours.. hand them out as people walk in or out. Note: Unless your show is also at that venue it’s not good taste to hand them out inside (if your show is at Red Eyed Fly don’t hand out fliers at Stubb’s and vice versa).

3.    Need a little help?
This could be a good place to employ some of your fans as a “street team.” I’m personally not big into street teams because it’s just making people who are your fans work for you for free.  BUT.. there are plenty of willing folks to serve as a street team member… so if you feel OK doing it.. go ahead. It is a cheap way to get the word out for your band / show.

Next week I’ll talk about some of the online options for promotion. But I want to stress… physical posters and face-to-face handing out of handbills to fans is HUGE.

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

Here's a few examples of posters I did myself.
My 35th Birthday Bash
Yes.. I took my own photo.

A 2007 INsite Night Ad I created.
The rock can be found on the corner of
FM1626 & FM967 at a gas station in Buda.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Music Do-It-Yourself advice

52 Weeks of Music DIY Advice
The link to each week is below. To learn about the project read under the sexy photo of me.

Week 1: Posters and Handbills (9/24/10)
Week 2: Social Media (10/1/10)
Week 3: Merchandise (10/8/10)
Week 4: Publicity (10/14/10)
Week 5: How To Write a Press Release (10/21/10)
Week 6: How To Release Your Music: Part 1 of 3 (10/28/10)
Week 7: How To Release Your Music: Part 2 of 3 (11/4/10)
Week 8: How To Release Your Music: Part 3 of 3 (11/11/10)
Week 9: The Rock Star Treatment (11/18/10)
Week 10: What's The Point? (11/25/10)
Week 11: Keep It In Your Pants (12/2/10)
Week 12: Where's Your Glass Ceiling? (12/9/10)
Week 13: Basic Ground Rules (12/16/10)
Week 14: It's Christmas - Comic Time (12/25/10)
Week 15: Steps to Advertise on Radio (12/30/10)
Week 16: Who's Talking? (1/6/11)
Week 17: Be A Gracious Host (1/13/11)
Week 18: Who's Voting? (1/20/11)
Week 19: Come To My Show... Please? (1/27/11)
Week 20: Entertain or Perish (2/3/11)
Week 21: DIY Poster Child: One Eyed Doll (2/10/11)
Week 22: Promotions One Oh One (2/17/11)
Week 23: Check Your Music (2/24/11)
Week 24: The Hustle (3/4/11)
Week 25: Reviewing the Role of a Reviewer (3/10/11)
Week 26: The Banter (3/17/11)
Week 27: Keep It Real (3/24/11)
Week 28: Interviewing 101 (3/31/11)
Week 29: Notes From The Cubicle (4/8/11)
Week 30: Standing Out (4/14/11)
Week 31: Playing Festivals (4/26/11)
Week 32: What Are You Wearing? (5/4/11)
Week 33: Tell The Truth (5/17/11)
Week 34: The Average Lifespan of a Band (5/24/11)
Week 35: What's The Big Idea? (6/6/11)
Week 36: How NOT to Treat Fans (6/16/11)
Week 37: It's A Job (6/23/11)
Week 38: Five Ways to Brand Your Band (6/30/11)
Week 39: What Goes Around... (7/8/11)
Week 40: Wasted Potential (7/14/11)
Week 41: Standing Out or Outstanding? (7/21/11)
Week 42: Know Where You're Headed (7/28/11)
Week 43: What's In A Name? (8/4/11)
Week 44: Treat People Right (8/12/11)
Week 45: Promote From Your Phone (8/19/11)
Week 46: The Plan (8/29/11)
Week 47: Ian Moore (9/6/11)
Week 48: Which Comes First? (9/23/11)
Week 49: Your Stage Self (10/13/11)
Week 50: Are YOU in THEIR Life? (12/2/11)
Week 51: To Play Free or Not To Play Free (12/29/11)
Week 52: Bands As Retail Stores (1/5/12)

Sean Claes

Earlier this month I completed my first personal weekly challenge, I reviewed 52 Austin-Based CDs in 52 Weeks. When I finished that, I took a little time-out. Then I thought about my next challenge. What if I do a weekly blog for a year that gives advice to do-it-yourself bands out there? I've been on both sides of this one.

As a magazine editor and owner I have been on the receiving end of promotional attempts by indie bands who don't have a label or publicity firm driving their promotions. There are a few out there that do it really well. They promote themselves online, via e-mail, they call, I see their promo out there, and I see the results at their shows. On the other hand there is a vast majority that don't. They either don't know what to do, who to reach out to, or just flat don't care to promote themselves... and I see the results at their shows as well.

As a freelance writer and promoter I've also been on the "sending end" of the table. I realize how hard it is to promote a band, project, show, or music release. I've learned something along the way there as well.

So, take a deep breath and let's see how this goes. Welcome to my new challenge, Fifty-Two Weeks of Music Do-It-Yourself advice. Admittedly this is a challenge that will likely help DIY bands more than the average reader... but I think you may be entertained even if you aren't in a band. Let's see.

As I did with my last one, I'll post a link to each week via this page so they'll all be in one nice tidy spot. I hope you enjoy the journey and learn a little bit in the process.

This is a hand's on blog... your comments are appreciated.
Let's go for a ride together.

Thanks to Austin's Annie Ray for taking this shot of me at ACL 2009.

September 17, 2010

September 21 is HAAM Benefit Day in Austin

Next Tuesday, September 21 many Austin restaurants will donate a portion of their proceeds and musicians will donate their time and talent for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. It's the annual HAAM Benefit Day

"HAAM Benefit Day is a uniquely Austin event where businesses donate 5% of the day's proceeds to HAAM to support musicians' health. Musicians, most of whom are HAAM members, perform throughout the day at retail stores, outside stages, City Hall and more. The event runs from 6am to well past midnight and community members are invited to shop, eat out, listen to great live music and enjoy! See this year's music schedule." - (From

I attempt to make it out and support this every year. The first year I was able to sit on the Gibson bus as it stopped at several great restaurants to see some awesome bands. Last year I hit up several live performances and eat at one of the supporting businesses.  This year I'm planning on spending my lunch hour watching either Dave Madden at Romeo's at 12:30 or Reckless Kelley at Whole Foods (12:00). If you're a one location person.. the morning seems to be hoppin' at Whole Foods and the evening shows are going to be awesome at both Threadgill's and Headhunters (depending on your chosen style of music).

If you're looking for a few "to sees" don't worry... I've waded through the 141 live performances and listed some of the ones I'd recommend. I've even put links to some of the CD Reviews/Interviews/Video I've taken of some of these artists. 

To see a full schedule click here.

8:00a - Dan Dyer - Whole Foods (525 N. Lamar)
9:00a - Sara Hickman - Whole Foods
11:30a - Paul Finley - Time Warner Cable (730 W. Stassney) (YouTube Video)
12:00n - Reckless Kelly - Whole Foods
12:30p - Dave Madden - Romeo's (1500 Barton Springs Rd) (CD Review)
1:00p - Bruce James - Neiman Marcus (The Domain)
1:00p - Ray Wylie Hubbard - Whole Foods (2010 Interview / CD Review)
4:30p - Guy Forsyth - GSD&M Idea City (828 W. 6th) (2004 Interview / CD Review)
4:45p - Colin Gilmore - Phil's Icehouse (5620 Burnet Road) (CD Review)
5:00p - Deadman - Waterloo Records (600 N. Lamar) (CD Review)
5:30p - Malford Milligan & Jeff Plankenhorn - Whole Foods
5:45p - Nakia - Romeo's - 1500 Barton Springs Road
6:00p - Billy Dee - 26 Doors Shopping Center (1206 W. 38th) (Video)
6:00p - Shapes Have Fangs - Antone's Record Shop (2928 Guadalupe)
6:00p - Brennen Leigh - Evangeline Café (8106 Brodie)
7:00p - David Garza, Ruby Jane, and Arum Rae - Hotel San Jose (1300 S. Congress)
7:00p - Rosie Flores, Bob Livingston, Greezy Wheels and more - Threadgill's South (301 Riverside)
7:15 - Michael Fracasso - Romeo's (video)
7:30 - Nathan Hamilton - Gueros (1412 S. Congress)
7:45 - Redd Volkaert - Romeo's
8:00 - Subrosa Union - Encore Records (1745 W. Anderson)
8:30 - Adrian and the Sickness - Headhunters (720 Red River) (CD Review)
9:00 - Honky - Headhunters
10:00p - Killa Maul - Headhunters
11:00p - Milkdrive - Continental Club (1315 S. Congress)
12:30 - Street Light Suzie - Headhunters

Here are some photos I took at last year's event:

Billy Dee @ Time Warner Cable
Billy Dee at the Time Warner Cable office

Uncle Lucius @ GSD&M
Uncle Lucius at GSD&M Idea City

Patricia Vonne @ Whole Foods
Patricia Vonne at Whole Foods

HAAMbassador Thundercloud Subs
A "HAAMbassador" poses with Graham Weber at Thundercloud Subs

Here's Patricia Vonne performing "Guitars and Castanets" at Whole Foods during the 2009 HAAM Benefit Day.

September 9, 2010

Week 52: Deadman - Live At The Saxon Pub

(This is week 52 of my 52 Austin CD Reviews in 52 Weeks Project)   
“I hear that train a'comin' down the line
She's carrying music and some old friends of mine.
And when they get here, we're a'gonna let loose
Gonna play about midnight, you can come if you choose.” – Don’t Do This To Me

Live At The Saxon Pub
Gonzolandia Records

It is no mistake that the Deadman CD Release celebration for their Live At The Saxon Pub this past August 20-22 was called a “revival,” as the band comes off like an alt-country choir with Steven Collins fronting the 6-piece praise band.

As the title suggests, this album was recorded while performing at Austin’s Saxon Pub, where the band seems to have a solid Tuesday night residency. The dozen Collins-penned tracks that are captured on this album are beautifully performed.

The songs contained within this release are a collection of tracks from previous albums 2001’s Cuatro Canciones  and Paramour, 2005’s Our Eternal Ghosts, and 2008’s Severe Mercy. It also includes a few tracks from the soon-to-be-released Take Up Your Mat And Walk.

Gospels like “If I Lay Down By The River” and “Mankind” play nicely with the whiskey-soaked lost love grooves of “Adios Mi Corazon” and “Ain’t No Music.” Meanwhile the storytelling of “Brother John” and “Oh Delilah” add another layer to the tunes.

My favorite song on this album is the ballad “When The Music’s Not Forgotten.” It hit me deeply in a personal way. You see, recently I went on a spiritual retreat called a “Walk To Emmaus” and I finally understood that is meant by God’s grace. So, the following lyrics really hit home. “If we stand on a hill and do not touch / How can we do good? / If we wash our hands of all our friends / What change can really come? / If we hide our fears and don't draw near / Have we really lived? / Or are we all just standing here / Hoping there is grace?” As a small bit of trivia, I learned this track was actually used on Seasons 1 and 3 of the hit  CBS show Criminal Minds.

I believe there was a little divine hand in the fact that this CD is my last one of my 52 Austin CD Reviews in 52 Weeks project. It really typifies the journey I’ve gone through personally, socially, and spiritually in these last 12 months. But putting me aside, Deadman Live At The Saxon Pub is a must-listen to music lovers of any kind. 

The album is available for purchase at shows and online at Gonzolandia Records. They play Austin tonight 9/9 at the Continental Club, 9/14 at Saxon Pub and have an in-store at Waterloo Records on 9/21 at 5:00p and play a H.A.A.M. benefit shot at Saxon Pub that evening.

Also, there’s a free studio version of “Don’t Do This To Me” on the band’s Bandcamp. So… there’s many options for you to catch Deadman live or, for those who don’t happen to live within touring distance, online.

Deadman is: Collins (vocal/guitar), Kevin McCollough (guitar), Jacob Hindebrand (guitar), Kyle Schneider (drums), Matthew Mollica (Hammond B3 organ), and Lonnie Treviño Jr (bass). Find them online at

September 1, 2010

Week 51: Tin Can Phone - Tin Can Phone EP

(This is week 51 of my 52 Austin CD Reviews in 52 Weeks Project)  

“But as we walk along the path of life
Each experience is significant and that is why
I’m dying to tell you the things I’ve learned” - Zero

Tin Can Phone
Tin Can Phone

Thanks to Greg “Phive” Cooper, I’ve been introduced to some really good local reggae bands in the last year. One of those is Austin’s Tin Can Phone (TCP).  The released an EP in October 2009 that finally made it into my hands last month.

This EP is equal parts rock and reggae. Songs like “Murder” and “Snake Eyes” bring the pop-rock offering to the table. “Fell Off,” “Hardly Care,” and “Zero” bring the Reggae feel. The sound TCP harnesses is a laid-back one that has a Sublime meets Jack Johnson feel to it.

“Murder” kicks the album off strong with a sweet Josh Nicholson supplied guitar-riff. Next up is the summeresque feel of “Fell Off.” Then the reggae-infused jam “Hardly Care” comes next with a creeping rhythm.

My favorite track, “Snake Eyes” is a rocker with a building groove that seems to layer as the song progresses. “They say that lightning won’t strike the same place twice / But don’t you know that every time I roll the dice I get snake eyes.”

“Zero” ends the EP on a high point. It’s got a feel that reminds me of “Smoke Two Joints,” the original version by The Toyes more than the Sublime cover).

Vocally, Matt Rusin commands the mic and delivers his message in a conversational style.. almost at a whisper at times. The rhythm is supplied nicely by Tyler Rusin (bass) and Bert Mesa (drums).

Tin Can Phone is playing this Monday (Labor Day) at 2:00p.m. in San Marcos, Texas at the San Marcos River Reggae Festival. Also on the bill for this show is The Original Wailers, The Movement, Full Service, Ashes of Babylon Carlton Pride & Zion, and Chris Boomer. For tickets (just $10).. visit

For more information about Tin Can Phone, visit You can also download an "unoffical album" called Fifteen Songs for free here.