How to make the most kick-ass show poster

Show posters are still one of the best ways to promote your band and a live show. I know most of the venues that I played at still used show posters for every show. Some venues even required that you send posters. These are a low-cost option for promotion and still can work great if done correctly. Don’t just write some stuff on a sheet a paper with a sharpie. Put some thought into your show posters and they will pay off with larger crowds and more engaged fans. I’m going to teach you how to make the most kick-ass show poster ever!

Are posters still relevant?

Posters still serve a purpose because they just plain work. Well, they work if they are done properly. I’ve seen some amazing posters, and I’ve seen really bad ones. Really good posters are memorable and do a good job conveying a message to the potential fan. Think of it as your band’s print advertising. The best part is that posters can usually be made for very little money. You can even make them yourselves if you have a good enough printer at home (more on that later). Show posters work great because once they are hung up, they are always working. Anytime somebody walks by, you have the chance of promoting your show.

Where should you put your posters?

Hanging up at the venue you are promoting is a great place to tell the regulars about a show they might want to see. The venue is a must and should be where you start with posters. I would then think about other places local to the venue where you could hang a poster. Madison, WI has a few kiosks around town where bands could hang their posters. This was a good way to get people walking around town to see your poster. This also was a place where competition was fierce. Your poster might only last a day until the next band put their poster over the top of yours. Think of local businesses that fit your genre and ask if you could hang your poster there. Places like music stores are a great fit for show posters. Try liquor stores or grocery stores as well. Always ask if you can hang a poster first! Sometimes, a business might even have a spot dedicated to promoting local events, etc. NEVER go into a store and just start plastering the front window with your posters. Be nice to your local business owners and they will be nice to you.

How to bring smartphone tech into a poster

QR codes, or quick response codes, are an easy way to make your poster interactive with a smartphone.  These codes have been around for a long time in Japan. They take a bunch of code and assemble them into a square full of blocks and lines. I’ve even seen people tattoo QR codes on themselves! They are a great way to get somebody to browse to a website of your choosing. I included these on Mojo Radio’s poster to link to our band’s website. You could use a code to promote a new single, youtube video, or whatever you like. The cool part is that QR codes are built into a lot of the newer smartphone software. Where once this was a technology that needed a separate app, it is now more commonplace. IOS user can use the photos app and the QR code link will automatically appear. QR codes are really great if you are sending people to a complicated web address. If you put a link like http://www.yourbandname.com/video/ournewvideo1.mpeg then most people aren’t going to even bother typing all that in. You can turn all of that into one simple square full of dots instead. Here is an article to learn how to make your very own QR code: https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/29449/how-to-create-a-qr-code-in-4-quick-steps.aspx

Here is my band’s QR code.

Mojo Radio QR code

One of the latest trends is augmented reality. I’ve seen a few examples already, but not a lot. I think this is going to become a bigger and bigger trend with posters. It is a cool way to bring life into a static poster. Check out these examples:

Here is a link to a video to show you how to make one for yourself.

How can you make your show poster a work of art?

Try putting elements into your poster that make it stand out. Odds are that the venue you are promoting will be littered with show posters. There might be so many that people won’t even pay attention. If your poster can grab somebody’s attention then you are way ahead of the curve as far as promotion goes. Advertising experts will all agree that getting people’s attention is the hardest part. When you got that then you are most of the way to converting them into a ticket-buying fan. I remember seeing wonderful show posters from the 60s and 70s. Some of these were amazing original pieces of art. So much so that they are collectible and sell for a good amount of money. There are still show poster artists out there, and bands are commissioning these artists to make them unique one of kind posters. Most of the time they are used as a merch item. Check out Kyle Baker at Baker Prints for some examples of great show poster artwork. Here is a link to a book that is all about cool show posters.

Here are some ideas for unique posters: Scratch and sniff, glow in the dark, blacklight posters. Try using scrapbook techniques on your poster. Incorporate 3D Magic Eye image art where you see the shapes after staring at it for a bit. These can be amazing and will get people to sit and stare at your poster which is what you want. There is no wrong answer if it results in a unique poster that still works in advertising your band.

What size and shape to make them

Most of the time show posters are the same size. I would say the industry standard is 11″x17″. This allows you to have a pretty decent size to allow for a good amount of graphics and text without being too small to read or see from a distance. I would go with this layout for most occasions. Unfortunately, this size is not commonly compatible with the average everyday computer printer. You will probably have to outsource this or upgrade your printer to handle the bigger paper.

I would also say change things up if you feel you could do something to attract a potential fan’s attention. Maybe a circle poster would fit the theme better. Maybe something larger or smaller fits your band better. You be the judge. Just remember that anything that is a non-standard size or shape will probably cost more to make.

Make your poster versatile

One way to make a show poster even more versatile is to create a poster that has a blank area. Usually, this is the lower 1/3 of the poster. You can use this area to write in whatever you need that poster to promote. This is a good way to make your poster multi-purpose. You can make them unique for each show by writing in the info you need in the blank space. You can also use this space to promote new merch or even save it for autographs to give away to your fans. This way you can print a whole bundle at one time and have a stack that is usable for months. If you print posters with specific details then they are only good for that one show, or purpose.

Companies that make show posters

Back in the day, all the bands hung out at the local Kinkos to get all their posters made. Ah, memories. Kinkos was bought by FedEx and some FedEx stores have the ability to make posters. The UPS Store is another place where you can get things printed. I would also seek out a local print shop near you. It is always nice to make a relationship with a local company. They might cut you a deal if you are a repeat customer. A print shop might also offer more options than the FedEx or UPS Stores. If you want something special like a special edition screen printed version then you probably need a more specialized local business to handle that request.

Make your own posters

Today there are many choices for printing at home. As I stated earlier, I think the 11×17 size is a standard these days. I would look for a printer that at least has that as an option. I would also add the ability to wirelessly print from a smartphone or tablet. Most newer printers have this option, but make sure it is AirPrint (IOS devices) and Google Cloud Print (Android devices and Chromebooks) compatible. This way you can have your file stored on your portable device and print it off without having to send it to a computer first. Storing on your portable device will also make sure you have a copy in case you need to make more posters on the road.

Inkjet printers are a great choice and they handle photos and graphics very well. If you are planning on printing a lot of posters then check out the Epson EcoTank line. These come with enough ink to print two years worth of documents.

If you plan to print once every so often then look at laser printers. Inkjet printers might be better at photos, but they also get clogged ink heads if not used often. Laser printers do not suffer from this problem. Photos might not be as vivid, but you might be more than happy with the results from a laser. Nothing is more annoying than printing a bunch of posters only to realize later that your cyan ink head was clogged and didn’t print correctly. Laser printers that do 11×17 can be a little pricey, so keep that in mind.

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