I’ve gone on record that Knoxville is a particularly difficult place in which to promote independently produced entertainment. This may be not necessarily better or worse than many smaller cities with relatively decentralized populations, but Knoxville’s where I live and try to support the local arts as best I can, so I’m calling the situation how I see it. I understand that show flyers and posters may connote an antiquated view of promotion, though I would argue that flyering is as relevant as ever in light of how social media has been getting perpetually less effective. Predictably, online event promotion has become leveraged between sheer white noise and gate-kept through “boosting” charges. Many fans of the QED comedy show, for example (including several who have gone on to be major contributors to the show) came from those who caught sight of flyers.
Flyering is crucial in not only increasing an event’s cultural cache in addition to general awareness, despite a slice of the population (those not firmly committed to supporting local arts anyway) who may not pay attention. Furthermore, certain establishments have been denying promoters posting space for myriad reasons- both aesthetic and functional. A couple of long-standing spots have taken back those spaces due to both ownership and space-appropriation reasons, though it was out of their hands and they have been nothing but helpful to us in the past. In extreme cases, such as late one night recently, I was met with derision and acrimony for asking to put up a poster for an upcoming show at a deli. None of these are a reflection on Knoxville in particular, as I ran into conflicts like these in both Long Beach and Washington, DC. Several establishments in Knoxville (particularly the delicious Jackson Ave. Market, whos deserves a shout-out here) have been supportive of, and provided space for, local comedy and other low-budget entertainment. This is paramount at a time when so many labor under the delusion that music should be free and local live performances should cost less than a beer while having no qualms about spending $50 ($8 of that to Ticketmaster) to see a show at the Tennessee.
Recently, as many Knoxvillians have noticed, the city has provided some (albeit limited) corkboard space on the sides of new municipal downtown regional maps, seemingly targeted at visitors, newcomers, and suburbanites. This is very smart and gracious of the city, so I do not intend to denigrate this undeniable step in the right direction. Perhaps before long, Knoxville will have posting space of more integrated college towns like Gainesville, FL and Athens, GA. I ardently refuse to believe any justification for why we do not have posting pillars at the intersections of James Agee and Seventeenth Street with Cumberland, and beyond. For now, however, I am grateful that the city has provided some official public posting space. NOTE: More recently, a lot of flyers have been disappearing from these corkboards multiple-times-per week. I have been contacting the city to figure out who governs these, and why they are compromising the municipal function of these bulletin boards.
That being said, these boards are already highly contested by the glut of events upcoming to our city. That is why, after a few rounds of posting events on these boards (or attempting to, at least), I would like to issue this manifesto upon which I believe those of us who flyer for events may establish something of a pact. The first two are strict regulations (or at least common courtesies), the third is me putting my foot down, and all the following are friendly encouragements and/or suggestions.
- No posting for events more than two weeks out.
- Under no circumstance do you place more than one flyer on a map-stand at any given time. NOT one per side; one per stand. Anybody legitimately interested in engaging in public life will look at both sides for information. If you disregard this courtesy, flyerers reserve the right to post over one of your two flyers, and they have every right to choose which side.
- If you tear down show flyers from (sanctioned) public spaces before the events have passed, you are among the lowest of the low and are beyond reproach. I will never understand your motivations for taking such an affront to the local arts, but if I see you doing this, I will not hesitate to call you out on it. Flyers cost the performers and promoters money and excessive time, and you are doing a disservice to your city and an entire community when you flip them this metaphorical finger, no matter what your reasons. STOP DOING IT.
- While 11×17 flyers are eye-catching and functional (particularly given the dimensions of the corkboards), 8.5×11 flyers can be hung horizontally, freeing up more space.
- I don’t know why I even need to state this, but keep racist/sexist/otherwise thoughtless material off of flyers. If someone has a legitimate reason to remove your flyer because it’s offensive, then be mindful of that.
- Another thing I don’t know why I need to post, but make a flyer that doesn’t look like shit. It doesn’t have to be Banksy- or Matt Chadourne-level of snappy, but if you type it out in Microsoft Word, don’t be shocked if people don’t take your show seriously. Adobe Photoshop is easy to get and to learn (I say this as someone with absolutely no graphic design training), and older versions are ostensibly free from their site. I’m sure there are countless sites all about designing snappy flyers. I like the adjective ‘snappy.’
- Where possible when designing flyers, keep in mind that portions of the flyer may need to be covered up, so try to condense all the bare essentials of the show in one area of the flyer.
- If you can, leave your thumb tacks in a corner of the board. Not everyone has a small staple gun or box of their own on them at all times, and tape is ineffective on cork.