A perplexed posterer


Some of the Whos, Wheres, Hows to Poster...

Text and illustration by Michael O'Donahue
Photographs by Rodney Gitzel

Editor's Note: the following is the first in an ongoing series of articles dealing with the music business in Vancouver. These articles will be in no particular order, some will be written by people in the industry, others will be interviews with such people, and still others, who knows? The idea is both to provide information and resources to the independent musicians in town and to let the non-musicians in on how the industry works.

For our first article, we have local musician, writer and former postering boy for the Hungry Eye (oooh, he's old!) Michael O'Donahue on the sometimes sticky issue of postering. Next month, if all goes well, we'll let you know about how show booking works. If you have any suggestions for upcoming topics, give us a buzz.

Confused, puzzled or perplexed by postering? Where, when and why a mystery? If so, you may be ignorant -- but WE CAN HELP. Handy little tips about the Art and the Science of what will get you seen and what might get you beat up. We have ALL THE ANSWERS, so relax.

The following details the ins and outs of No Budget Advertising. All you musician types, read on. And remember, USE YOUR NOGGIN' -- NO HOGGIN'.

First of all, there's the question: to poster or not to poster. The answer is: POSTER. Early on in, it may not make much of a difference to the size of the crowds at your shows, but as time goes on and people see your name plastered on walls everywhere, they will see your name and remember it. It pays off in the end, believe me. Even people so unenlightened that they don't care about your band will at the very least know you exist.

You may be a Rock God, and of course you're the undisputed stars of the show, but there's nothing more lame on a poster than the name of just your band. So, if you are making posters, and you know who you are playing with, then PUT THEIR NAMES ON THE POSTER, TOO, EGOMANIAC. What if one of the other bands has two hundred friends that don't show up because your poster failed to mention them? It's also very bad etiquette: the other bands will see your posters featuring Not Them and you will make no friends.

So WHERE do you poster? The boards you see -- mostly downtown, on Commercial, 4th, Broadway, etc. -- are overcrowded. There are more bands than people in this world and everyone has a poster. You ARE going to have to cover current bills (bills = posters) up sometimes, but you can minimize your chances of a Rock and Roll Ass Kicking by showing at least SOME respect. First, your fellow local unknowns are Off Limits, unless of course they have themselves been overly aggressive in their postering. Anyone taking up more than their fair share of space on the wall is FAIR GAME. Leave them a couple, but treat their excess as blank space.

Really big shows with huge posters up months in advance are also always in season. Their stooges will come along and rip your bills down, but, whatever. They've got a bigger budget, they can withstand a little loss of space, and your little gig isn't going to affect the size of Supertramp's crowd, so feel free to stick it to them and the rest of their bloated MOR ilk. Unless, of course, there's other available and less contentious space.

It is actually against the law to put posters on telephone polls, so unless you're an Inveterate Rebel, stick to the already established boards. Exception: new construction sites with plywood walls emblazoned with the words "POST NO BILLS." On these you will have to use GLUE -- the flour and water kind -- so they can't rip your bills down, and soon others will follow your lead and -- voila! -- an otherwise unsightly plywood blight becomes valuable advertising space for the underfunded.

I can't overemphasize the key to good postering etiquette; that is, show some goddamn RESPECT. Respect for the other bands on the bill, for the other bands competing for the severely limited available space, for the clubs and halls nice and/or desperate enough to let you and your buddies actually play in front of people. Be nice, and, if you must, be a jerk -- but be a jerk to the Big Boys. Your fellow little people are your only friends.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on November 28, 1997

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