The Gig is Up: Great concert posters

Concert posters first sprang to life in the 1960s in San Francisco as a way to advertise shows. But, as in many cases, these advertisements soon turned into art. Today, this trend continues, partially as a replacement for the album covers that used to visually express a band or a tour.

I don’t know about you, but the last time I bought a physical CD was at least six months ago, and the cover was nothing special. In fact, the only CD I own and can remember for its value as a visual piece is Mika’s Life in Cartoon Motion.”

In today’s digital world, album covers no longer carry the clout they used to — and that’s where concert posters come in. Some designers say these posters have caused the rebirth of American illustration, and while you’re free to agree or disagree, one thing’s for sure: they’ve become an art form all their own.

“Gig posters,” as the cool kids call them, are a new phenomenon for me — so I guess I wasn’t one of the cool kids. But as soon as I started researching this story and immersing myself in the online poster scene, I quickly came to see why they are such a popular and collectible medium.

Screenprinters, graphic designers and illustrators alike have made their names drawing up limited edition posters for artists from Phish to John Mayer. Not only are these posters works of art fit to hang on apartment walls across the country and across social-economic lines, but they are highly collectible, too.

Some gig posters are available to the masses at huge concert venue merchandise stands, but most are made in limited runs and sell out in minutes on sites such as Still others are only sold at one-time shows and small venues, so the value of these posters is supplemented by the of status of obtaining one.

I don’t own any of these status symbols, but I have found some favorites among the online catalogs. Below are my ten favorite modern day gig posters for your viewing pleasure.

Bon Iver

It’s simple, but it’s clever, so it doesn’t need anything else. The meaning is obvious — music is inexorably a matter of the heart.

The Black Keys

To me, this poster is sexy rock and roll, poster-fied. Yeah, I know smoking is bad, but the cigarette makes an already mysterious poster cool.

Tokyo Police Club

I’m a sucker for graphic geometric patterns and a good, saturated red. I also love how the individual components of each “square” look like broken hearts.

LCD Soundsystem

Victorian wallpaper meets musical transformer — what’s not to love? This poster is stylish juxtaposition at its finest.

Mumford and Sons

This poster brings to mind an old-world manuscript illustration, which somehow seems completely appropriate for Mumford & Sons. Plus, I love diamonds in any form.

Broken Social Scene

Once again, I like the simplicity of the imagery. I’m a big fan of the hot air balloon motif in general and more so in this instance because the sky and balloon spaces are surprisingly inverted.

Mates of State

When two become one…it makes a pretty heart. Two fingerprints, two identities overlapping. Neat idea executed beautifully.

Hot Hot Heat

Part children’s book illustration, part finger paint design, this alligator looks so friendly until you see its bright red, titled teeth. I love the incorporation of type into this poster as well.

The Shins

Hmm…underwater rocketship ride? I don’t really care what it is because it looks so cool. The colors are layered, soothing and exhilarating all at once.

John Mayer Trio

Yes, John Mayer is my musical weakness, but I promise that’s not why I chose this poster. I love the “screen printed in my garage” vibe of it, not to mention the classic color combo and charming lettering along the bottom.

Disagree with some of my choices? Have some favorite posters of your own? Feel free to link to the images in the comments. Happy poster hunting!

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Hannah Remund I'm a Southern girl who just graduated from Boston University's College of Communication with a major in advertising and a minor in English. I love beautiful colors, characters and creations and I'm currently trying to find my place in this crazy world we call advertising. You can find me in my kitchen cooking pastries, at my computer creating layouts or @hannahREMUND.

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