An Outlet to the Convention

In order to get people to notice a new band, go to a concert, or buy a new album, music advertisements incorporate design elements that would normally not be plausible in a normal commercial advertisement. Many of these artists use color schemes, designs, or layouts that would be traditionally unappealing, but serve a purpose to portray what a band or artist sounds like or the genre that they entail. That being said, many of the popular design conventions are incorporated into these advertisements. The main obstacle one might encounter when analyzing and generalizing any form of art advertisement is that there is endless variety to the ways people market their art. With variations in the emotions, genre, or aesthetic the artist themselves is trying to portray, a designer has almost no limits in the creating an advertisement. By focusing on advertisements used for alternative and punk influenced musical artists – particularly musicians on independent record labels (or no label whatsoever) with a smaller following – the variety in advertising dwindles only slightly.


Figure 1. Ad for punk band Bad Religion’s 2000 album “The New America”

Most of the mood of these ads seem careless, angry, or satirical. Despite the fact that punk bands and symbols have been used to by major corporations to sell products, punk itself was created as a response to and often made satire out of commercialism, capitalism, and the status quo.  A good example is the Bad Religion advertisement on the right. The ad depicts the American flag in the background along with three (probably white) people with their hands on their chest and openly carrying guns. This ad is satirical (and perhaps a little angry) and pokes fun at pro-Second Amendment patriotic Americans. With a band name like Bad Religion, the ad is most likely a satire on right-wing white America, and the ad succinctly depicts the band’s opinions on the issue. People who feel similarly frustrated with these kinds of Americans may then go and buy the new album, since it’s probably going to discuss what they are interested in. Generally, these kinds of ads could target people of all ages, but most often target teens and young adults who are into similar kinds of music or have similar political or social views.


Most music advertisements, and particularly those that are more popular, utilize simple, sans serif fonts since they are so easy to read and are especially useful for large text. However, there is a desire to make advertisements look less polished among many alternative artists, so such artists create text or font that appears to be hand drawn or hand arranged. The use of backwards or upside down letters, crooked lines, or clearly handwritten text gives many advertisements that do-it-yourself, homemade aesthetic, which can be appealing to potential viewers. Such as in the Jeff Rosenstock ad below, while the text is in a sans-serif font, the letters are a tad crooked, making the ad appear to be homemade or the letters to be hand-arranged. Since alternative music itself is named for being an alternative to popular music, it would only be proper that advertisements for alternative music challenged the status quo in terms of design. Like text, the colors in an advertisement let an artist portray any mood, and as such, there is no limit to the color combinations and palettes that designers can use. Generally, most music advertisements utilize stark contrast between the background and text to make the advertisement eye-catching and the artist name and other text stand out from the background. This is true for both popular and underground artists.


Figure 2. Ad for punk artist Jeff Rosenstock’s 2015 album “We Cool?”

White space can be utilized or avoided, like text and colors, to create a certain tone in the ad. In more popular ads, white space takes up a large area, such as in the Jeff Rosenstock ad on the right. Most advertisements for independent artists follow this principle and there is often less text on these ads. The non-white space on these ads typically convey only important information, such as the band name, album or tour name, and a release date or tour dates. However, artists who want their advertisements to seem more homemade will often design their ads to be intentionally busy, minimizing any sections of white space.  Advertisements that divorce themselves from the convention of white space typically add more art and add text that aren’t completely related to the purpose of the advertisement, such as small photos, drawings, or cutouts, or song lyrics.


Figure 3. A clearly homemade, hand-drawn ad for punk band The Plugz promoting their first full-length record.

Most of these advertisements serve to promote a new band, record, or tour. The variety in how artists design advertisements is virtually unending, but there are some conventions in design elements that seem to be more successful than others, even for musical artists. The homemade look incorporated by many punk, underground artists often doesn’t stick out or have a memorable features. Like the Plugz ad on the right, while it may be unique since it is hand-drawn, there isn’t really much that is very eye-catching about it, especially since there are probably thousands of ads that look similar. There are many bands that incorporate that look into their ads, so it may serve as a flag to those who are already interested in a certain kind of music. However, it may look childish, unprofessional, or generally unappealing to the average viewer. Furthermore, some ads are too simple, and give us nothing about the artist themselves. That being said, artistically, any musician could use advertisements in limitless ways, and advertisement designers can try to incorporate the creativity involved in creating music into the advertisement themselves.


This entry was posted in Blog #2. Researching Print Advertisements. Bookmark the permalink.

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