How can I have good promotional material without breaking the bank?

I have a great act and little money. How can I have good promotional material without breaking the bank?

It is perfectly possible to produce excellent promo material without spending a fortune, as it’s the planning and creativity you put in beforehand, rather than the amount of money you throw at it, that makes the difference.

However, based on the evidence of much of the posters and fliers that come the way of this column [note: the advice column of The Stage – G.], which are, quite frankly, not only horrible, but in some cases actually work against a good act getting the notice it deserves, they far outweigh the ones that stand out for the right reasons.

It is also true that, just as with stage equipment and costumes, inexpensive and cheap-looking are two very different things, and if you can’t achieve that difference by yourself, money you invest in getting help from someone who knows what they are doing is money well spent. Here is one example of an act and a designer who have been able to work together to achieve something worthwhile. Even if you are a solo performer designing your own material, there are some useful points you can pick up from both sides.

What the experts say:

Darren Evans:

Darren Evans is an experienced musician and founder member of the impressive nine-piece soul band Detroit Soul. The band, which received excellent reviews at our recent Showcall Showcase, also drew praise for its well designed brochures and fliers. Here’s Darren’s version of how they came about.

“Having spent many years working as a session musician with various bands and artists, the one thing that always seemed to be consistent was the lack of modern, accurate marketing material. Managing a professional act should be no different to managing a large blue chip company. Any piece of marketing material, such as flyers, brochures, etc, needs to portray exactly who you are and what you do, before you even read it.

“When I decided to form a nine-piece soul tribute show band, I decided that we needed to have an easily identifiable image that could be used on posters, brochures, website, etc. It is so easy to buy some graphic design software for your computer these days and have a go at designing these things for yourself to save money, but this can often be a false economy.

“As it is very unlikely that as an artist you’ll be unable to stand in front of each prospective booker, your flyer or brochure needs to do the work for you. I decided to enlist the help of a good graphic designer who advised on all aspects of how the designs should look and which colours we should use.

“Having spent some time getting to know us and watching some performances, the designer had a clear understanding on what we were about. Most graphic designers will charge their time per hour, so a great cost-saving tip would be to have many ideas prepared in advance. Even create two piles of brochures from other artists and acts – one pile for designs that you like and one for designs you dislike. This will save a lot of time and help the designer create ideas that you will like. Consistency is very important. The designs and colours that you use for your flyers, brochures and posters need to be reflected on your website.

“The result was a professional looking brochure that represents exactly who we are and what we do. Producing good literature does not need to be expensive and it is extremely important that you seek advice from an expert in this field. This was the first time I’ve ever taken this route and so far the results have been very promising, and new enquiries and bookings have improved dramatically.”

Lisa Woon:

Just as when musicians and singers work together, or stage performers and backstage crew, the end result is a lot better if both parties involved have some understanding of what the other is trying to achieve and what they can do to help. Here is the Detroit Soul marketing story from the designer’s perspective.

“When Detroit Soul approached me to design their promotional material, the first thing I had to ascertain was their target audience and what sort of service, in this case music, they were offering.

“As a band playing a selection of classic and contemporary covers, spanning from the sixties to the present, I knew that they needed a universal appeal. With such a wide market to compete in, they needed a logo that was bold enough to stand out, while still symbolising who they are. The strong blocks of red and black, together with the use of silhouettes, contrast perfectly against the white of the band name. Add in some circles to stylise the sound of the horn section and you’ve got a simple, yet effective, logo. It’s all about positively reinforcing the style and spirit of the band in a visual form.

“When it came to the flyer, I had to find a way of combining this new style and logo with previously taken publicity shots. Although these were stylish and offered great visuals of the guys in action, they were slightly contradicting the fun element of the act. So the question really was how to resolve this without making the band go to the expense of having more photographs taken.

“This is where the illustrative element came in. I had previously used bubbles on the logo to give the impression of sound, and so I developed this theme to show the music travelling out of the instruments and around the page.”

John sums up:

I wouldn’t have picked Detroit Soul as an example of good marketing if I hadn’t liked the fliers and the band themselves didn’t live up to the promise of their promo material. So I agree with Darren that designing the material yourself simply to save money is often a waste of the little money you do spend. Equally, if you are engaging a designer, you need to look at the quality of their existing work, as spending a lot of money doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. But I think it is possible to design good fliers yourself if you have a little skill and access to software and materials. The key factor is to approach the job as if you were a professional designer, or better yet, a booker or punter who needs to be enticed to go to a gig. If you’ve already got promotional material, take an honest look at it from that perspective and if you wouldn’t book that person, going back to the drawing board isn’t a waste of time.

This article is from the Advice column of The Stage and re-posted here with the permission from the author. The original article can be read at

My Graphic Friend:

“Designing the material yourself simply to save money is often a waste of the little money you do spend…”

If you feel that you didn’t do a good job with your self-designed promotional materials, you can try our Print + Design services. We provide both design + printing for: business cards, flyers, posters, postcards, outdoor stickers…

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