Lamp posts and storefront windows in downtown Provo are continually plastered with advertisements for local concerts. Some are creative, inspiring and high quality. Others are not. Regardless of their caliber, the posters not only market the bands who post them, but say a lot about the city’s art and music culture in general.
A majority of the posters around town publicize shows taking place on “100 Block,” either at Velour Live Music Gallery or Muse Music Cafe — two venues located between 100 and 200 North on University Avenue. Corey Fox, owner of Velour, began managing bands in Utah County in 1991 and is no stranger to marketing and promotion. As the manager for Clover in the mid-’90s, Fox said he worked hard to publicize the band’s shows, which sometimes had more than 1,000 concertgoers in attendance.
“There were many facets to what made Clover as successful as they were in the ’90s,” he said. “Posters, CD artwork, shirt design … all go a long way in branding a band, which directly affects how the public perceives them.”
Fox said one of his early inspirations, not so much in terms of style, but in terms of grand-scale thinking, was Dave Merkley, manager for early ’90s Provo ska band Swim Herschel Swim. Even then, without computer programs like Photoshop or InDesign, Fox said Merkley was able to produce hand-drawn concert posters with rich detail and elaborate design. The advertisements were iconic of one of the most popular local bands of that era, and Fox said modern Provo bands should take their concert promoting just as serious.
“The main job of a concert poster is to visually create a sense of what the public can expect from the music without hearing it yet,” he said. “A good example of a current band using their posters and media for successful branding is The Moth & The Flame. They’ve done a great job creating a kind of post-apocalyptic/machine-age aesthetic that enhances their music and mystique.”
Fox mentioned other bands and artists that are raising the bar on concert promotion and poster quality, including Adam Hochhalter (Apt), The New Electric Sound and the now-defunct Shark Speed. Naturally, these bands often reap the benefits of their marketing, but collectively, they raise awareness for the music scene as a whole.
“When there is good poster art around town by multiple bands, it creates a perception of quality and professionalism to a public that may not know about the music scene,” Fox said. “That way they’re more likely to give it a chance.”
Other prominent figures in the music community agree that good poster art has a positive effect on the scene at large and that recent artists have raised the bar when it comes to poster design and production.
“The last year or so has really seen some improvement in local music posters,” said Dean Cheesman, a multi-talented sound engineer and graphic designer. “It really helps people realize there’s a legitimate music scene in Provo.”
Jared Cisneros, a poster designer and founder of Deer Child, a community booking agency, concurred with Cheesman.
“I’ve seen some pretty cheesy posters,” he said. “But lately, it’s getting better. It really helps with the overall aesthetic and helps bands seem more legitimate.”
Although Fox said he enjoys seeing bands push the envelope in terms of concert promotion and marketing, he warned that, in the end, the music is what really matters.
“To keep people coming to your shows, the music has to match the quality of your marketing. Otherwise, it’s just crying wolf,” he said. “It still all comes down to the music. Posters are just a tool to get people to come and listen and the live show will determine whether they come back or not.”