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.

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