If you are staging an independent theatre show or any form of ticketed show, there is no doubt that you will be investing in having artwork designed for a show. Along with the cost of having the artwork designed, other associated costs will likely include photography, make-up, costuming and printing if necessary.
So, with the investment made on your artwork, you should try to maximize your use of your custom designed promotional material beyond just posting it on your website. I will not go into a detailed discussion on graphic design or how to go about designing a show poster, but here are a few tips that have worked well for us:
1) Have good photos. Depending on the concept of your poster, you will need either studio promo shots or high quality live performance shots or a combination. You need professional photos to have a good poster. Good photos also form the foundation of a good poster and ensure the graphic designer has good material to work with. If the photos are of poor quality (composition, framing, pose, resolution etc), even the best designer in the world cannot create a killer poster.
2) Hire a professional designer. Unless you are a graphic designer, don’t try to put the poster together on Powerpoint. You are an expert in illusions, let the expert in design work his/ her magic.
3) Make sure visuals and photos are large and spaced out. Bear in mind, large format posters may be viewed from a distance and with the advent of the smartphone, many people will be viewing your e-poster on their phones. You want to ensure your poster is easy to read so that it does not get passed over because it is too difficult to read.
For a more in-depth look at graphic design for theatre show marketing, check out Clay Mabbitt’s, SoldOutRun.com, a theatre marketing blog. Specifically, read his post “The Role of Graphic Design in Theatre Marketing” and listen to his podcast on working with a professional designer here.
Here is some of the artwork from our past shows.
With this poster, we decided to go a different route and move from a photo-based poster to a hand-drawn artwork piece. One reason was that the two stunts we were attempting were in the vein of Houdini, so it was a throwback to old Houdini posters. However, we choice for a modern Asian Manga-style as it fit our image and heritage.
Which is your favourite? 🙂
Here are a few ideas to maximize the use of your artwork in multiple ways and on multiple platforms.
The most obvious and natural way to use your artwork is to share it on your promotion channels to market the show. The most cost effective way is to promote your show online:
Your artwork will be featured prominently on your official website with clear links to info on the show and ticketing.
Social Media Platforms
Currently (in 2013), Facebok, Twitter, Instagram and blogs are the most popular social media websites. This will no doubt change over time as the next cool thing is embraced. Use your social media platforms smartly and do not flood them with your artwork.
You might want to tease the artwork by showing different parts of the artwork first on different platforms, before finally releasing the entire artwork on all platforms.
For Facebook, create an “Event Page” and use it as your central social media channel for the latest updates, photos, press releases and videos.
If you have a blog, it will be one of the first places you announce details of your show. To get extra mileage out of your artwork, write a subsequent follow up post to explain the concept behind the artwork and the process of the design. This can include first drafts of the artwork as well. So, you get two different blog entries that feature your artwork.
Be sure to create temporary customized avatars, banner heads and profile icons for all your social media platforms.
Social media craves new content all the time. So, to get twice the amount of mileage, have two versions of your artwork. It will not cost you twice the amount but will get you twice the amount of promotional leverage.
Insert your artwork (in e-mail friendly sizes) into your emailers that are sent to clients, friends and people on your email list.
Advertising & Event Listings
As most small independent theatre shows do not have a large advertising budget (if any), your choice of ad placement will be very selective and specific.
Targeted online ads such as Facebook, Google Adwords and Youtube are affordable channels that you can explore.
Contact social, entertainment and theatre magazines and websites to list your show. This is free but you have no control of whether your artwork will be published along with your listing. For listings, give the editors a “stripped down” version of your artwork. That is, it will only feature your graphics, title and names of the stars. Remove all other details as these will be stated in the event listing. The more attractive your artwork, the higher the chance that it will be used.
A novel yet not uncommon promotional channel is to create an online contest where you give away free tickets to the show or merchandise from the show (if any) or set-up an auction (Ebay) where you auction off memorabilia from the show.
These promotional activities should be done towards the lead-up to the show, even though the auction item will only be given to the winning bidder after the show ends.
Besides promoting the show in an interesting way, your artwork will once again be seen on different platforms.
Even in the digital age, you will still likely print physical posters. The good news, is that with digital printing, you can print on-demand and print as little copies as you need.
Posters will be needed for the venue and any supporting physical outlets that are promoting the show for you. You can then recycle these posters (assuming they are in good condition) for your auctions or giveaways.
If you intend to create merchandise items such as program books, caps, bookmarks, postcards or T-shirts, aspects of your artwork will be on these items. Remember, artwork is part of your branding, so artwork seen on merchandise that audience members bring out of the show will be promoting your show beyond the show.
On the Tickets
If you are staging a ticketed event, you will definitely be issuing tickets, whether they are printed or e-tickets. Either way, this is an opportunity to feature your artwork once again.
This is a unique way to leverage your artwork that is specific for magicians and illusionists. You can use your artwork as a magic prop or the subject of a magical effect. This highlights your artwork (branding) in a live show setting.
Here are some effects that you can create with your artwork:
- Self-printing/ Self-Colouring Artwork ala Magic Colouring Book
- Torn & Restored Effects. Poster-sized ala Axel Hecklau’s “News Flash” or namecard-sized ala Shawn Farquhar’s “T2P”.
- Productions from a Rolled up Poster or Poster Cone as taught in Jeff McBride’s Magic On Stage DVDs.
- An Artist’s Dream-type illusion
- Any illusion prop that you can logically customize to bear the image of your artwork. For example, a mirror box that magically produces merchandise from the show
- Card Printed on Poster. You can design your artwork with a magic effect in mind where a selected card magically appears printed on the poster. If you use Gaeton Bloom’s “Intercessor”, you can create an even stronger effect with a torn corner ploy.
Here are some avenues to showcase your “artwork magic”:
- Video Teaser for Show, Television Appearances, Live Promotion Events
- The Actual Show
The first few platforms are promotional platforms where you can showcase your artwork in the context of “branded content”. The audience watching you will be exposed to your artwork for an extended period of time and not just a 3-second flash on screen. This has very strong visual retention with the audience and is great brand identity building.
Presenting your “artwork magic” in the actual show(s) may not bring people to the show, since they are already at the show. However, think of the ways you can leverage off the performance with photos and videos that you can use to promote your next run of shows or simply use as post-show publicity.
If you have any novel ideas of leveraging your artwork for promotional purposes, please share it with us!
Learn how to book more shows that pay more, check out the Backstage Business Academy, a website dedicated to creating highly successful entertainers