In my last post, I talked about flier and handbill legibility. In the comments for the post, I got into a discussion with Kai who brought up some good points.
Do people actually pay attention to flyers for a bunch of bands they’ve never heard of?
One of my bands paid a service to plaster Seattle with flyers for a year, and didn’t see any difference. Only our friends ever showed up. If flyers are useful, then there is a very difficult skill to it. But perhaps you’re right about the location of flyers around building a longterm brand. Maybe if I keep plastering the same bars with flyers, people will start to remember. Anecdotally, my friends and I have never seen a flyer and thought, “oh, there’s a band I keep seeing flyers for. I think I’ll go”.
Okay, I was trying to argue in favor of fliers with Kai, but his comments hit close to home. Especially considering I live in Seattle as well. I was actually coming more from Kai’s viewpoint a few years ago. In Seattle, it’s sensory overload on fliers. Layers upon layers of fliers are on every damn pole. What’s worse, you can put your fliers up all over the city, and assholes like Poster Giant will blatantly tear down your flier or simply just staple over them.
The question I would ask my bandmates was this: “Hey, name that cool band you just saw on a flier that you’re going to go see!” The result was always silence.
Handbills are almost on the same level. I’ve been handed handbills while walking down the street, see them while getting coffee, and been given them by various other bands and friends while hanging out at shows. Most of them end up staying in my pocket, I forget about them, and they end up causing a mess when I wash my pants.
Being in a band, I’ve also spent more money and hours on fliers than I’ve made from shows. I was a dumbass and went to Kinko’s to print out full color, 11″ by 17″ fliers that ended up costing about $3 each. Kinko’s is a rip-off. I found a smaller printing shop that only charged 99 cents per flier for the same thing.
However, the risk of not having fliers is fairly substantial. I had a GREAT show lined up with some friends, 800 Octane from Portland, that had a big following in Seattle. (And the Pistol Whipped Prophets from Eugene, OR. Thanks for the comments, Spooky!) But I fucked up. This show was supposed to be our “come back home from tour” show, but I got overwhelmed with the out of town shows. I made a cool flier for the show, but I relied on a friend to hang them up at the venue. It didn’t happen. Result? Hardly anyone showed up.
(NSFW! A link to that flier.)
Here’s what bugs me about fliers. You can do it, and no one will notice. You can not do it, and you risk ruining a show. And after spending hours dealing with fliers, you never know if it did any good either way.
I have the following ideas. But take them with a grain of salt. I’ll more than likely refine or completely scrap these ideas. Please call me out if you think I’m full of it. I’d be more than happy to change my mind.
Un-Social Media: Not Everyone Is On Your Facebook Page
Believe it or not, not everyone has a Facebook account. Even if they do, they probably don’t have your Facebook page, Twitter, or MySpace on their favorites. In fact, it’s more than likely they have no clue who you are whatsoever.
My friend running an underground club and the singer of Dreadful Children, told me something rather shocking. There’s a ton of kids out there who don’t have iPhones, internet access, or any way of knowing what’s going on with anything. The only way they know what’s going on is through fliers. No flier for your show? They aren’t going to show up. Potential fans lost.
Even if they have all the iPhones, iPads, and massive uber-wifi connectiveness on the go; chances are you are just one of thousands of bands they haven’t heard of on Facebook. Your 30 posts and events will go completely unnoticed. However, if a scenester is smoking outside by themselves, they might look at that flier and see your band. (By the publishing of this post, scenester beards may have grown to the point of obstructing sight. In which case, you will need a whisker flier with a good dose of irony and a free app offer.)
Your Band As A Brand: Get ‘Em Recognizing
Here’s time for an anecdote I heard. Bear with. (Ladies, please don’t kill me with this one.) I was told a story. How true it was, I don’t know. But here it goes. A friend of mine was trying to figure out how to hook up with women. He noticed his friend was always getting laid. He decided to watch his friend to see what was going on. At a bar, his friend walked up to a girl and said, “Do you want to fuck?” She got pissed and walked away from him.
Baffled my friend walked up to the guy and asked, “Does that actually work?” The guy replied, “Nine times out of ten it doesn’t.”
Chew on that one for a sec. The guy is hitting on 50 girls a week, so he’s hooking up with at least 5 girls a week.
This story might be total bullshit, but I’ve seen sillier shit work with hitting on women. Who knows. But to relate this to fliers and getting people to notice your show, most people wont’ notice. But maybe 1 out of 10 will! At the very least, they’ll see your band’s name.
If people keep seeing your band’s name, it will sink into their sub-conscious. Bands can get noticed for the most silly or illogical of reasons. I’ve been a sucker and went to check out a band’s site just because I’ve seen their name around town so much.
(Please don’t start going up to women and asking them to fuck because of this article. Have some class. Just lie about your job like everyone else.)
Note The Genre Of Music For The Night
I see this quite a bit. A flier for 3 bands at some club. The bands are listed, “John Doe and the Willickers”, “Itsy Bitsy Insanes”, “Thee Band Name Because ‘the’ Was Already Taken”. This flier tells me nothing. What type of music is this? Why the hell should I pay $5 to see this? “Punk Rock Awesomeness”, “Metal Monday”, or “Ironic Beard Night” would help me out to know I’d like to go.
Seriously, I’d like to know! I want to know if there’s something I might want to hear. Otherwise, the flier is lost in the tons of other fliers of other unknown bands.
Make It An Event
This one I need to turn into an experiment. Martin Atkins recommends making every show an event. How about a contest? Get all the bands to toss in a free shirt and CD for the winner of a raffle. Or, more simply, “CD Release Party”. Or just, “2011 Too-tight-manjunk-pants night!” Whatever. Be imaginative. Every show should be an event. Something themed and DIFFERENT FROM EVERY OTHER FLIER.
How to test if fliers are effective?
This one I don’t know. It’s hard to set up an experiment if there’s no way to determine the results. What do you think? Please comment and throw out some ideas. Have fliers worked for your band? Are they just a waste of time and money?