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The Words of Fang VonWrathenstein – The Importance of Posters

March 14, 2012

Hails metalheads! My name is Ty, and I’m the vocalist and manager for the unsigned heavy metal band Lords of the Trident (www.LordsOfTheTrident.com) from Madison, Wisconsin, USA. WeLoveMetal.com has asked me to write a series of articles about how unsigned bands can navigate the difficult and ever-changing world of the modern music scene. A “how-to”, if you will, about getting out from your parent’s basement and making it to the next level. 

First and foremost, a disclaimer: I am in an unsigned band. No, I do not have a record contract. No, I don’t spend my days lying on my luxury yacht bought from the millions I’ve made in royalties and product tie-ins while semi-naked women massage my feet. That, my friends, is the dream. What I do have is a relatively successful band that plays a lot of shows, writes a lot of music, and has a lot of hardcore fans. The type of fans that come dressed up to shows. The type of fans who travel 2+ hours to see a show. The type of fans that do their final college thesis on the genesis of our band (yes, this actually happened). Our album is being actively torrented in Germany, Russia, and Japan. We’ve opened for major bands, played festivals, and I suppose we can be thought of as “up-and-coming”. In terms of my experience, I’ve played in various bands for the past 13 years, some successful, most not. The advice given here is not sacrosanct, and is a method that may not work for every band out there. I’m only going to tell you what’s worked for me, and maybe give you some ideas to think about to apply to your own situation.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on to our first topic:


Answer this question: For a newer band, what is the primary use of posters? If you answered “advertising a show”, you are wrong. If I’m Joe Frathouse, walking down the street, and I happen to pass by a kiosk where you’ve placed one of your posters advertising your show, what impetus do I have to stop and look at it? Even if it’s the best, most eye-catching poster in the entire world, why would I want to come to your show? I’ve never heard of your band. I don’t even know who you are.

…ah, but in that moment – now I do. I’ve seen a poster for one of your shows, noticed your name, or perhaps your logo or picture, and moved on. I didn’t come to the show, nor did I have any interest in doing so. But I saw your name. The next time I see a poster with your logo on it, I may remember that I’ve seen the same name before. The more and more posters I see, the more and more “street cred” I subconsciously assign to your band. After all, a terrible band couldn’t be getting all those shows in the area, right? They must be pretty good!

Or so Joe Frathouse assumes. We, as the enlightened members of the “playing in a band” caste, understand that even the most terrible bands can play quite frequently in today’s pay-to-play and “your friend base determines the turnout” venues. But that’s another story for another article. The point is this – for every poster you make with your band’s name on it, your “street cred” increases. For this reason, and this reason alone, the most important thing a newer band can do is make posters for every show. Not only are you advertising your shows to the 0.5% of people who see the flyer and come to the show out of pure curiosity, you’re increasing the visibility of your brand. No, that’s not a typo – I did say “brand”, not “band”.

This works the same way in all advertising. Why do we buy Tylenol instead of some brand of aspirin we’ve never heard of? Duh – because we’ve never heard of that type of aspirin! If I had a choice between two equally expensive clubs where bands were playing, and I had never seen either band’s show, would I choose the band that I had heard of before, or the mystery band? 99% of the time, it will be the band that I’ve heard of. Why? Because of the same “Joe Frathouse” mentality. A band that actively displays their brand around town is a band that cares about public perception of their success. Therefore, they are far more likely to be the more professional and better sounding band. Perception is one of the most important things about properly marketing a brand – or a band.

When you say your band’s name, the proper reaction should be, “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of you guys!” If they haven’t heard of you, you need to start questioning why they haven’t – especially if they’re in your fan demographic.

So how do we get more recognition? Put up kick-ass posters, of course! And how does one make kick-ass posters? I’m glad you asked:

  •      Print all of your posters in legal (8.5 x 14”) format. Why? Because they’re BIGGER! And most print shops charge the same amount of money to print legal sized pages as they do for printing normal letter paper (8.5 x 11”). Bigger = better.
  •      Don’t make crap posters. You need professional pictures of your band, not the ones your girlfriend took in your basement. You need a professional-looking logo. Your posters need to be 300dpi for printing. Don’t know what that means? Then you need to learn how to use photoshop and/or GIMP (a free photoshop alternative). Don’t give me that whole “I’m bad at computers” excuse. Do you want your band to succeed? Then take an afternoon and watch some free online tutorials. Either that, or pay someone who knows what they’re doing to make good posters. Iron Maiden doesn’t make their posters in MS Paint, and neither should you.
  •      Most posters need a border. Unless you have your print shop cut the posters to size, you shouldn’t let an otherwise nice-looking poster fly off into white space. Slap a simple border on that sucker for some structure.
  •      Ask your local copy shop if they offer “house accounts”. Usually this only entails letting them have your credit card on file for direct billing, and will discount your printing costs significantly. At the shop I use, for example, I get around 15% off of normal printing costs, and it doesn’t cost me a dime!
  •      When you post on public billboards, post two (or more) posters in a row, right next to each other. Numerous psychological studies have confirmed that humans are great at picking out patterns quickly and easily. Creating a pattern of posters is an easy way to cut through the cluttered mass of posters that likely exists on your local kiosk.
  •      Make your name or logo big, and post your genre. These seem obvious, but it’s something a lot of bands miss. You want people to remember your name, right? Then make it hard to ignore. Want to attract passing metalheads to your shows? Then put the term “METAL” (or prog, death, etc.) somewhere on your poster. Don’t make them have to guess what kind of music you play – spell it out for them.
  •      Make every poster different. Sure, it’s time consuming and expensive to make new posters and take a variety of band photos all the time, but if you don’t, passers by will mentally “tune out” your posters, thinking that they’ve already seen it before.
  •      Ask to put up posters in bars, coffee shops, record stores, and other businesses. The worst part about posting on public kiosks is that depending on the popularity of the kiosk, your poster could last as little as two hours before being covered up. If a place of business puts your poster in their window, however, that advertisement is not coming down anytime soon.

So take these tips, make some sweet posters, and litter the town with your name!

Stay Metal!


Fang VonWrathenstein

Barbarian Vocals, Lords of the Trident

Want to thank me for my words of wisdom? Go to www.LordsOfTheTrident.com and buy my album! You can also find us on AmazonMP3, iTunes, and Band Camp. Want to tell me your poster success story? Or hate on me for my terrible, terrible advice that got you fired from your job and made your wife leave you? Email me directly at LordsOfTheTrident@gmail.com. And since you’re on the internet anyway, check out our sweet music videos on YouTube.

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One Response to The Words of Fang VonWrathenstein – The Importance of Posters

  1. Newhart on March 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    I need me a fuckin’ Trident. Thanks for the advice.

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