Chris Robley concert posterEven in a small city, you probably have your choice of ten or more music-related events on any given night. In mid-sized cities that number could be as high as one hundred. Now throw in theater performances, art openings, indie film fests, Monster Truck rallies, women’s arm-wrestling tournaments, artisanal cupcake clothing-knitter conventions — and suddenly there are a lot of posters stapled to telephone poles and thumtacked to coffee shop corkboards.

With that much information and visual branding shouting for attention, can a concert poster really cut above the noise? And if you’re already working with a small promotion budget for each show, is it worth it for indie artists to create and distribute concert posters?

The answer, in a nutshell, is “yes, but…”

* Yes, concert posters can still cut above the noise — but they have to have outstanding design, striking colors, and legible details.

* Yes, it can be worth it for you to create a poster for every show — especially if you have someone in the band with design skills — but you don’t necessarily need to PRINT them and hang them for every single show.

And that’s the major difference between concert posters today and even ten years ago.

Concert posters live online now 

They’re shared on Social Media, featured on your blog, uploaded to your Facebook event page, etc. Every show you play gives you an opportunity to show off your band’s visual branding, and posters can certainly help attract attendees; but concert posters that are archived online can help tell the story of your band long after those shows have passed.

And since you have easier and more frequent access to your fans via social media, email newsletter, and RSS, you don’t necessarily have to go hang up 100 posters for every show you play anymore; your fans will see your poster online! Sometimes it makes more sense to only print posters for larger events like album release shows or music video premiers.

Posters demonstrate to the venue that you’re serious

When you create a great looking concert poster to promote a show, you’re also communicating to the venue and booker that you’re serious about making that event a success. And even if you’re not going to spend an afternoon hanging posters all over town, it can still be worth printing  a handful for the venue itself.

Make sure you get the posters to the venue as far in advance of the show as possible. The sooner the club gets the posters, the sooner they can hang them (displaying them to existing clientele — folks who might be likely to come to YOUR show too). Call or email the venue to see how many they need.

You don’t have to do a complete redesign every time

If you’ve found a design that works for you, sometimes it can make sense to run with the same basic look and feel for a series of shows, tours, or season. For instance, I had my friends at Chicken3000 create an illustrated poster for a show I played a couple weeks ago (the one shown above); but I liked the design so much — and I didn’t want it to “go to waste” on just one local show in a small venue — that I’m reusing it for my next show too.

Use a smartphone app to create, upload, and share your concert posters

There are some amazing and user-friendly apps out there for manipulating images, adding pro fonts, and more. Now everything you need to make sweet posters resides in your iPhone. For example, my friend Naomi has been making many of her most recent show posters with an app called Over, and they look really cool.

Take a picture, crop it, add a filter, adjust the colors, pick a font, write the concert details, save it, upload it, bam! No need to belabor this thang.

If you make the poster, YOUR name goes at the top

When I first started creating my own band posters, I’d sometimes get complaints from other bands on the bill that their names weren’t as big as my band’s name. I think those days are largely gone, and it’s well understood that if one band designs a poster and spends time putting them up around town, THEY deserve whatever branding impact that slightly larger font gives them. Of course, if someone is on after you, be sure their name is on the poster too (with accurate set times), and you can even write “headliner” next to their name. But again, your work — your reward!


Do you make concert posters for all your shows? Do you print them and hang them up? How many? If not, how come? Let me know how you think about show posters in the comments section below.

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