How to Promote Your Music on the Streets: Printed Promo Items for Impact (Poster, Flyers, etc.)

After successfully booking a show in your target city (Atlanta, for the purposes of this blog), one of the next tasks at hand is to line up show Promotion/Marketing.

There are various routes you can take advantage of to market your show – free and paid on line sources, broadcast outlets (including radio and TV) and more. The key to choosing the right avenues is a mix of analyzing your budget and whether or not you can expect a decent ROI (Return On Investment = your marketing expenditure creates more revenue at the show than the actual cost).

One of the most effective “cost based” means of marketing your shows is printed promotional (“print promo”) items. And one of the most cost effective print promo items is the 11×17 color gig poster. Why is the 11×17 Poster one of the most cost effective print items? Because of the low cost and high amount of impressions per item.

You can typically print 1,000 full color 11×17 posters in bulk (“gang run” digital printing) for less than $0.34 each and then, you can send a few at a time to each venue in advance of your show. As a result, each poster may be seen by multiple people, which can pay big dividends for you, especially if your poster is designed well and the venue has packed shows with similar artists leading up to your show!

According to marketing statistics, its likely that at least 1% of venue patrons who see your poster will decide to check you out, but you can increase that percentage simply be designing your poster for maximum impact using the elements I address below!

NOTE: Make sure to check with the venue first to find out who/where to send your posters to in case a different location than the venue and how many posters to send so you don’t waste any or send too little!

So, what exactly defines a well designed poster? After launching a successful gang run print company called about 5 years ago and dealing with print promo items for my own band as well as various music industry organizations and major, independent label and unsigned artists (including Gavin Degraw, Sister Hazel, State of Man and many more), I’ve seen plenty of designs that ROCK and plenty that don’t. I’m going to give you some of the keys to making your printed materials WORK best so you can make sure your money, time and energy are well spent!

The top elements you can use to get the best results from your posters, flyers and other printed promotional items are:

  • The Right use of Color
  • Professional Graphic Design
  • Your Artist Name
  • Your Artist website(s)
  • Venue, Date and time of show
  • Branding Statement
  • Call to Action /Incentive offer

I touch on each element, below.

When planning your design you want to make sure to use color effectively. These days, full color (4 color CMYK digital printing) and black and white “gang run” printing cost very close to the same, so don’t let cost influence your poster (or flyer) design too much. This is an area you want to get right the first time, so get expert help if needed.

Full color, high contrast designs that POP off your printed piece are great tools to grab people’s attention and get them to STOP and read your message. Again, thanks to “gang run” printing (CMYK digital printing), the cost is actually a lot cheaper for mass quantity runs than you might think!

Adding high contrast colors to your design isn’t a rule, of course, because in some cases, simplicity and subtlety of color can be just as powerful (if not more so). You simply have to determine what works best for a design on a project by project basis. That said, don’t be afraid to go with your instincts and print whatever “WOWs” you! Chances are, it will “WOW” others, too.

Unless you are a pro graphic designer or someone you know is a pro graphics designer (and willing to give you a “buddy rate”), then you should strongly consider spending a little money on this area. Graphic design rates can run anywhere from the low $20/hr to the high end of $1,000+ per hour). Most artists can find designers on line or in their city in the $60-75/hr range. Be sure to look over the designer’s portfolio and that you really like the comparable design work before you chose to move forward with a designer.

Make sure to also request price and turnaround time quotes with your potential designer up-front before officially hiring a designer. For those unfamiliar, turnaround time simply means ‘how long the project will take to complete.” This is important because you may find that a designer with the right skill and price may not be able to deliver your project in time. For example, a $75/hr designer with an amazing portfolio quotes you two weeks before he/she can complete your job and unfortunately you need your printed item delivered in one week to properly promote your show. You have to also factor in the turnaround time for the printing (anywhere from 3-10 business days for posters, and typiclly 3-4 business days for flyers and business cards) and for the shipping (cheapest means is usually Ground services like UPS and FED EX which can take an additional 3-5 business days.

As long as you can identify a good designer that is financially feasible for you AND you have found that your Design Turnaround + Print Turnaround + Shipping Turnaround = Delivery prior to your promotional start date, then you are in good shape!

Finally, be prepared to pay 50% of the quote as a deposit to get the designer started AND make sure you will receive as many “mock-ups” as needed to finalize the design. Some designers only offer 3 or 4 drafts, but its always best to find designers that will work until the job is done right! Otherwise, you don’t pay the final 50% and they don’t deliver the high resolutions files. That gives each of you reason to get the job done right.

This item is, of course, a must if you want to create an identity/name recognition for an artist in any market! There are exceptions to any rule, so just have an extraordinarily good reason if you chose not to list your artist name on your design.

Another “must have” item, is the artist website(s). This allows anyone who sees your design to actually go somewhere to get more information about you (or your artist). Since printed promo items like posters and flyers can’t let a potential fan hear what you sound like, giving them your website(s) on your printed material solves that issue. One of the worst things you can do is NOT give the public an easy way to find you if they desire to.

You can pretty much promote your regular website, site, site or whatever top site you feel best represents you. If you have a lot of sites and can’t make up your mind on which to list, just list the top two or three and make sure those sites have listings of the others sites you want to promote. This has the added benefit of ensuring your design isn’t too cluttered with info.

Yes, you’d be surprised how many people DON’T either leave a section for this information on posters or at least find a way to incorporate this info into the the design of their printed piece. If you are printing promo items for a singe show, then you can include the date, time and venue in the design itself. But if you are doing a large run of printed promo items to use for various shows, then there are two options:

  1. Leave a space for a sticker, label or to write in this info on your posters, flyers, etc.
  2. List your entire upcoming tour schedule with a note stating “Subject to change – Visit for current schedule.” Since you may have to add or cancel dates weeks after you receive your newly printed items, know that this option is best for items you plan to distribute in a short period of time.

Cost, Age and Venue Address are also optional items to consider including! Depending on how much design room you have available, you can always include “visit for full detials!”

Your branding statement should define what type of artist you are and give people a reason to want to hear and see you. Take a look at a great blog on’s Lounge area entitled “Branding Your Band” that helps guide you through developing a brand statement. You don’t have to necessarily come with this statement yourself if you use a simple, intriguing quote from a credible source (e.g. “One of the best Rock bands on the Planet” – New York Times).

Another great option is to use a combination of your own branding statement and a credible quote:

ABC Band – A New kind of Rock Experience (branding statement)
One of the best Rock bands on the Planet” – New York Times (credible quote)

Again, just remember the key here is to ensure your branding statement(s) identifies what type of band you are AND gives people a reason to want to check you out!

A call to action is where you request the person viewing your printed materials to engage in some sort of activity. Here is a good marketing definition:

A simple example of a Call to Action is:

“Visit for more information!”

Now, simply adding an incentive to your call to action will increase the number of potential fans that will do what you are asking. Here is a simple example of an added incentive:

Visit to download the band’s latest single, FREE!”

Most of these tips are simple to implement but can make a big difference in the effect of your printed promo materials. And the next time you are in a live music venue, take a look at the posters and see which ones get your attention. Chances are, they are using some if not all of the elements above!

Oh.. and here’s one last Branding/Call to Action/Incentive example for you:
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