10 Guerilla Marketing Tactics to Promote Your Band

Some of the most effective promotion and marketing campaigns are low cost, fun and highly creative.

Jay Conrad Levinson originally coined the term ‘Guerilla Marketing in his 1984 book ‘Guerrilla Advertising’. The term guerrilla marketing was inspired by guerrilla warfare, which is a form of irregular warfare and relates to the small tactic strategies used by armed civilians. Many of these tactics includes ambushes, sabotage, raids and elements of surprise. Much like guerrilla warfare, guerrilla marketing uses the same sort of tactics.

Here is my Top 10 List of Guerilla Marketing Tactics to Promote Your Band:


1. The Drive By

It’s simple and effective. All you need is a curtain-sided truck and an audience that will appreciate your music for free. For example if you are a heavy metal band without an audience, simply drive up to the local Metallica show (or any other sold out HM show) and play, for free, from the back of a truck to the audience queuing up outside the venue. This is an ambush, so make the quickest impact in the shortest amount of time. Spray that music as fast and as indiscriminately as possible.


2. The Event/Occurrence

Piggy back on some other event like a football match, bike race, or demonstration – it worked for UK band The Clash. The 1979 Rock Against Racism political rally that took place in London is defined and remembered by a blistering performance by The Clash. Reputedly the band played for free as long as the organisers of this political rally made a donation to Nigerian freedom fighters to help them buy a soviet tank. Now if this isn’t literally a guerrilla event I don’t know what is!


3. Fly Posters

Images speak louder than words and cleverly created and positioned fly poster can be highly effective. Again take the guerrilla approach, think Banksy here, go for that image that will make people stop in their tracks and look. The brave names game is often very effective, though often illegal and very dangerous. I once walked through the night down the main railway line from Hull Paragon station for approx. 20 miles with 8,212 posters and wallpaper paste to advertise my band The Akrylyk Vyktmz (sic). We didn’t stop until we’d run out of posters, paste and energy. We even got to admire our own handy work on the train ride back to Hull. Over 30 years later and some of those posters still exist – if you ever find yourself in East Yorkshire in the UK, riding the train towards Hull, look out of the window at Gilberdyke and you’ll see those posters on all the overhead bridges.


4. The Big Blag

I once tour managed a sold-out UK tour of a well-known Liverpool band with support provided by one of their record label mates. When we got to the first gig there was a third band there that I didn’t know about. I figured that the local promoter had added this band to the bill. When it came to the settlement after the show I asked the promoter about this third act and he knew nothing about them. This happened for the first few dates of the tour when I eventually twigged that this band had found the dates and where simply turning up, blagging their way in and playing each night. They caused no fuss, didn’t steal the dressing room rider and didn’t upset anyone so we let them play the rest of the tour; to sold out shows, and even gave them a slab of beer and some sandwiches each night.


5. Clever Flyers

We all do flyers but if want to see how ineffective they are look at how many are lying in the gutter after you’ve spent a few hours handing them out. When I lived in the USA I knew a band that printed their flyers to look like giant $100 bills. Not one of these flyers ended up in the gutter – they all went home to be stuck on refrigerators. If you are handing out flyers then first find your audience e.g. you are a singer/songwriter then hand out flyers at all the open mic nights in your town. Why not consider dressing up? People always want to speak to attractive/unusual/creative people. I once had a possé of young cheerleaders handing out flyers at a football game to promote a single called ‘Cheerleading’ by the UK band Silver Sun, we pretty much had to fight off all the young guys trying to take the flyers. 10,000 plus flyers gone in under 10 minutes.


6. Occupy & Pop Up

In the present economic climate there are empty shops and retail units all over town. Negotiate a lease for a week and set up shop. Make the window display interesting, interactive and provocative, or better still play a gig in the window. I once got the keys for a shop unit in a very high footfall precinct under the pretence that I was businessman that was considering leasing the unit. I had the keys (for free) for 24 hours and during that period we must have played to 250,000 people.


7. The Charity Shop

Opportunity shops love your stuff, take it in and it will appear in their window or on their sales shelves. Print up some shirts or take in your records or CD’s and with half an hour they be in the window. Go one better and offer to set the window and point of sales display yourself. Often these shops are staffed by volunteers and they like it when someone gives them a hand.


8. Get Inked

Tap into hipster-dom. The current trend is for beards and a sleeve or two of tatts. The only problem is getting inked is expensive and stays with you. That giant love heart, flames and loved ones name tattooed on the top of your arm might be a good idea when you are 19 years old but maybe no so attractive when you are 50 (I’m talking from experience here). Get some temporary tattoos made up and give them away for free. Nothing is more rock ‘n’ roll than ink.


9. In the News (for the wrong reasons)

Get on the news, especially when parliament is in recesses as those news editors will be short of material. I once worked with New York rap act The Beastie Boys back in the 80s whose forthcoming European tour had very low ticket pre-sale. I started a campaign to get those evil The Beastie Boys banned and once I got that fire started I continued to pour on the gasoline and stoke the fire. Within two weeks all the venues where sold out and we even moved some of the gigs to bigger venues. Thanks to Malcolm McLaren, the ultimate musician situationalist, for the inspiration.


10. Music on Hold

You know how annoying it is when you call up a company and you get put on hold for 20 minutes? Make sure that your music is playing when this happens; it’s not as difficult as it sounds. When I worked at a major record company in London I always made sure that my latest act was the ‘music-on-hold’ and I always made sure all my calls sat on hold for 2 to 3 minutes before answering them. This was especially true if I knew that an important promoter or TV/Radio producer was going to call me. When they eventually got to talk to me I’d always ask them what they thought of the band on hold. Those 2 to 3 minutes of someone’s undivided attention is worth $1 million if they are listening to your music.


To be most effective it’s a great idea to combine the above ideas in different variations. Get out and get creative!

* Please note that Collarts does not encourage or condone activities that may be considered illegal under Australian law.