[2017 Music Issue]

Show fliers aren’t litter—and online advertising can’t replace them

Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

Comic Mitch Hedberg once famously dissed show fliers by joking, “When somebody tries to hand me out a flier, it’s like they’re saying ‘Here, you throw this away.’”

Hedberg died in 2005, one year before Facebook went public and many years before the social media network became your de-facto events calendar. Without Facebook to ease his burden, Hedberg probably had to throw away hundreds of fliers in the course of a month. By comparison, I’ve acquired perhaps two dozen fliers over the past year, and I’ve been too astonished by their mere existence to throw them away. In an age when promoting a show online is so cheap and easy, why bother with fliers?

Nicole Sligar and Patrick “Pulsar” Trout know why. If you’ve been to a Downtown show or a record store recently and come away with concert fliers in hand, there’s a good chance Sligar, a longtime street-level marketer, or Pulsar, head of booking at Beauty Bar, helped put them there. Sligar makes and distributes show fliers for out-of-state clients; Pulsar makes fliers for Beauty Bar shows. And they both make a solid case for not going Hedberg on ’em.

“Too many venues fall into the trap of thinking, ‘Everyone just looks stuff up on social media, so I’m just going to advertise there,’” Pulsar says. “It’s not enough for people to just get handed a flier, to just see an ad on Facebook or just see a poster up at a record store. They have to see stuff about a particular show multiple times and in multiple ways for it to really sink in.”

Sligar agrees. “There are people who can’t be bothered. They’ll come out, grab them off their car and throw them on the ground. But there are other people who take every single piece. They put the venue calendars on their refrigerator, or they collect fliers like I do.”

Pulsar concedes that straight online advertising works for some genres, like indie and EDM. (Metal, hip-hop and punk, less so.) But he’s got legitimate concerns that even those messages might not get through without fliers to back them up. “You have an entire generation now that grew up with the Internet, and they associate anything online that they didn’t specifically ask for with spam,” he says. “They just kind of tune it out.”

Meaning, those fliers are in no danger of disappearing from your car anytime soon. And looking at them from time to time might actually do you a favor.

“It’s so frustrating, as a fan, when I find out about a show the day of, or a week after it happened, because nobody had a physical flier out,” Pulsar says.

Laughs Sligar, “Fliers will always be here. As long as there are trees available, I think we’re good.”

Tags: Music, Featured
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