Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A quick start guide to guerilla flyering

How to pound the pavement without looking (or being) stupid.

An editorial note: Don't come whining to me if you try to do something from this article and it goes wrong. It is all opinion, so use this information at your own risk.

Let's face it. If you're in this scene long enough, chances are pretty good you're going to end up pitching in to promote your own upcoming shows. It can be a daunting task, with all sorts of pitfalls one may not be aware of until it's too late. Luckily, I've picked up a few tricks to pass along for when other bewildered audiophiles suddenly find themselves holding a stack of flyers. The first tip: use your head. It's possible to do this wrong.

It's easy for those glossy, expensive flyers and cards to become a common trash. Leaving them in the wrong spot might get them chucked into the recycle bin right away. And if you really want a problem on your hands, try slapping up a poster with wheatpaste-- it'll never come off. So my best advice is to carry a stack with you for a day or two, leaving them a few at a time in well chosen places. Being neat about it is a must; leaving a bunch of trash around with the show's info is a good way to drag everyone's names through the mud.

The worst danger I have come across is getting cited for littering. Several promoters I have known have been badly tripped by gigantic tickets that penalize relatively minor infractions with heavy fines. It's potentially an open door for a city government to rob you blind, so it's well worth it to spend twenty minutes on the phone chatting up a secretary at city hall about your local laws. You'd be surprised what those people know, but don't go answering too many nosey questions. Instead, be sure to ask what the rules are regarding tacking posters to poles, removal after the show date, what constitutes public versus private space when it comes to advertising, etc.

A wisely chosen public space is a gold mine. Cafes, record stores, certain bars, book stores and head shops are the obvious spots, as many such places actually encourage such things. Universities, community colleges, and public bulletin boards (often found at health food stores, skate and snowboard shops, record stores, hostels, laundromats, etc.) are also a no brainer. But the real gold mine lies inside of public bathrooms. Leave a stack on the back of a well-used john as potential reading material for the guy or girl who's not going anywhere for a minute. Hide a couple up in the paper towel dispenser, to pop out at unsuspecting moments. Tape one to the back of a stall door, for kicks.

Another good one, but a trickier location to land, is the cashier's blind spot at a mini-mart. If you've ever stood behind a register, you know that you can't actually see what's directly in front of it, right about waist height on the lower left if you're facing the customer. Of course, this spot is quite visible from the other side, where customer after customer is bound to stand. Perfect for a small, neat stack of cards.Another creative method is to use folded flyers or cards as book marks at magazine racks. Hitting a couple of the more obvious magazine types works well, and don't underestimate comic book stores, either. But again, don't go crazy. Be sly, and only do one or two at a go. Also, library books are a bad idea, but some of the periodicals might be worth it. Hit the loo while you're there.

In my opinion, windshield wipers are a bad idea too. It's been done to death so much that nobody even bothers reading windshield flyers anymore. Unless the car has an "I love electronica" bumper sticker, you're likely wasting your time. And last, never, ever, EVER scatter them all over the place on the ground. I mean, c'mon. You're not five, and it's a waste of print money. So if you're handed a stack of flyers a week before your next big show, grab your mp3 player and spend an afternoon creatively reaching your target audience. It can be more fun than you think.

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