Everyone says that flyering is dead and a useless waste of money. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t. It’s not that the people still hanging up flyers are mindless drones simply repeating the “promotion” techniques they’ve seen on TV that they think might work, it’s that they DO WORK. Flyering has to be done strategically though. There’s no use hanging up flyers without a plan in place. Over the next 12 weeks, you’ll be playing 4 shows (one show every 3 weeks) and flyering the hell out of every single one of them. By the end of the 12 week challenge, you’ll see an increase in your fan base, a huge increase in awareness, a clearer market segment that you can play to in the future, and hopefully some money rolling in as well.
Segment the Market
Many new bands are thrust into the idea that their town is a market all to itself. So, if you live in Nashville, Nashville is your “market.” And unless your entire market is saturated with your name, you’re doing something wrong. FALSE.
I want you to think of your home town in segments. These can be neighborhoods, college campuses, coffee shop dwellers, you name it. Figure out how you can segment the market that is your home town into much smaller areas and write down 1 location you’d like to conquer over the next 12 weeks.
In the case of Nashville (for example purposes), we’ll talk about our mini-market segment as:
Vanderbilt University (Undergraduate student body of about 7,000 students, of which 5,000 live in dormitories according to their housing website).
To give you an idea of what it is we’re going to be doing, things break down like this.
- We’re going to play 4 shows over the 12 week period.
- The first 3 of the 4 shows are going to be PAID gigs that will really just be used to get awareness about your band’s existence. The 4th show will be a FREE show that will be at the location you’d like to build a bigger audience (in our example case, Vanderbilt University).
- Although these 4 shows will all be in different locations, we’re going to advertise all of them in the same place: Vanderbilt. This builds a name for the band on the school’s campus.
- We’ll be getting flyers directly in front of students rather than simply posting them around town and hoping people look or handing them to people as they’re on their way to class.
- From a student’s perspective, they’re going to see 4 flyers all for the same band. The first 3 times will all be paid shows that may or may not bring them out to the show and the 4th and final show of this promotional run will be FREE and on campus (much more accessible for them).
- The goal is to raise awareness of the band, get some listeners, and ultimately get people out to shows not only within this campaign, but also future shows.
- Establish 4 places you’d like to play and set-up those shows. This post isn’t going to be about how to book a show or about how to find show support. That’s covered in other articles on this site, as well as elsewhere on the web.
- Remember, your 4th and final show should be AT THE LOCATION where you’re doing all of your promotional efforts. In our case, it’s on campus. It would be wise to play in one of the dormitories we’re going to be flyering in (more on this later), so that people simply have to walk to the lobby or recreation room instead of trekking across campus. Bring the show to THEM!
- Design a flyer for each show. An easy website you can use to do that is Flyer Lizard. Sign up for a free account, design a flyer using some of their stock photos and fonts and save it for printing!
- Print 500 flyers for each show. Depending on what type of guarantee you’re getting from the club/venue, a lot of your budget may end up going towards paying for promotion. 500 flyers should cost about $40 in most jurisdictions.
- Side Note: If you’re a student, you may be entitled to a limited amount of free student printing each semester through your university. Take full-advantage of it.
Any good marketing strategy (and especially flyering) concentrates on what you can OFFER to the recipient or buyer, rather than focusing on what types of benefits you’ll be receiving in return. When designing your flyer, try your best to appeal to the target audience by understanding their needs and wants and offering them a solution to their “problem.” For this 12 week campaign we’re going to be designing 4 different flyers. The first 3 for the paid gigs are going to look slightly different than the one for the final, free show.
Flyer #1, 2, & 3
What are you doing Saturday night?
Instead of sitting in your dorm room, come and see some live music!
We’re a local girl punk-rock duo called [Band Name] and we’re playing for $5 at [Insert Venue Name] this Saturday!
You can hear and download their newest album FOR FREE at [URL].
Bring this flyer to the show and get $2 off at the door OR $2 off a drink at the bar.
That last little bit at the end of the flyer is KEY! Putting a coupon and an added incentive for the customer is a great way to get them to come out to the show. You’ll obviously have to negotiate with the venue what you can and can’t offer as an incentive to people (and you may not be able to get anything), but venues are always looking for ways to bring more customers through the door, and if you can do that for them with a coupon and a crowd, they’ll probably be on board.
Our flyer accomplishes the goal of offering a solution to the recipient’s potential “lame Saturday” problem as well as gives them a reason to go; There’s $2 off the door or a drink.
Side Note: Just to reiterate, you have to have a different flyer for EVERY SHOW you’re promoting. Printing a bunch of the same flyers looks lame and they’ll more than likely be ignored. Figure out new catchy ways to grab the attention of the recipients each time.
This is the flyer that’s going to be for the free show that is hopefully going to be the peak of the campaign. It’s going to be similar to the first 3 flyers. except this time it’s going to be on campus for easy access and it’s not going to cost anything at all to attend.
[Band Name] is BACK!
We’re playing for FREE on campus Saturday night at [dormitory hall] at 9PM.
We’ve got 2 other bands playing with us as well [Band1, Band2]!
This is the last time we’re playing for a while, so get off of your ass and come downstairs to check us out!
Come and listen to some awesome free music and hang out with us instead of checking Facebook.
If you’ve never heard of us, we’re a local girl punk duo and we’re awesome.
You can hear our newest album FREE at [URL].
Bring this flyer to the show and get $2 off a physical copy of our album.
Here’s where the fun begins. Our first goal with our market segments is a university. As noted earlier, about 5,000 of Vanderbilt’s 7,000 undergraduate students live in dormitories. That’s quite a few people! Like all universities, there are some dorms that are reserved for freshmen and others that are for those farther along in their education. Find the dorms that have a higher first-year population; Freshmen usually have trouble finding things to do on the weekend so they’re the perfect people to pitch to!
1. Go to a popular dorm and slide a flyer under each door. This means EVERY door you can. If you only printed 500 flyers, then you’re going to be putting them under 500 doors.
2. We’re going to be A/B flyering, meaning the first show will be advertised exclusively to dorm A, the second show exclusively to dorm B, the third show to both A & B and the fourth show to A & B. This doesn’t overwhelm people with flyers throughout the course of the 3 month period and also exposes you to a wider audience
3. If you’re feeling ballsy and have the money to spend, you should also invest in standard show flyers. These are flyers that are provided by the venue for the show itself. These are NOT the flyers that you designed above to slide under doors. Print a few hundred standard show flyers and plaster campus with them. These will be on every billboard, bulletin board, and student desk you can put them on. This is all about name recognition and brand awareness. Very few, if any, of the people you’re flyering to with this part will come to the show because of THESE flyers, but when they go back to their dormroom and there’s a flyer under their door for the same show, they might reconsider. The more someone sees your name, the more likely they are to come out.
4. Repeat these steps for each show that you have booked.
As said earlier, this post isn’t about how to play shows well or how to even book them. All I wanted to mention in this section is how you should take advantage of the traffic that comes out to your shows. At every show you should obviously have a merchandise tablet with all of your cool shirts and CDs available for sale. Additionally though, you should also have an email list signup sheet. On your email list, you should email people and let them know about the rest of the shows in the series as well as keep them in the loop about your ongoings. You know, newsletter stuff.
Finally, let’s take a look at the potential for this show. Obviously, since we didn’t actually run this campaign, it’s impossible to say what kind of turnout we’d get, but given past experience with promotion, we can make some educated guesses.
500 flyers x 4 shows = 2000 flyers. Let’s guess that we see 2-3% return on these. 2 people coming out for every 100 flyers passed out may not sound like a lot, but over the course of 2000 flyers, it’s 40-60 people.
And if they bring their friends out to the show or you have some curious people who weren’t actually interested because of the music or coupons and just wanted to see what all the hubbub was about, you could have close to 100 PEOPLE coming out to your shows, who you can then work your magic on to get them on your email list, pick up some merch, or make friends with.
Following up with this in the coming weeks and months should be even more shows that you call on these new fans to come out to. You may not have to flyer like crazy in the future, but building a nice base to build off of in the beginning is something to be proud of and can do you wonders when you’re trying to land bigger and better gigs. Tell the booking guy at the next place you play “I brought out 100 people to a show on campus, can I play here next?”
David Roberts is the founder of the Sunshine Promotion company. Based out of Nashville, TN, his blog “Sunshine Promotion” at sunshinepromotion.info helps artists achieve real goals with hard facts, case studies, and templates of music business plans to follow.