By Jim McCarthy Apr 17, 2012 0 comments

Even Virtual Stuff Needs a “Cover”

In a way, a live event is a virtual good.

That’s right.  And there’s a bit of irony in that too because live events, whether plays, sporting contests, musical performances or whatever, are as ancient a “product” as humankind produces.  It’s not hard to picture a particularly rakish neanderthal smartass standing on a rock telling jokes, as his two burly buddies stood at the opening to the cave, stopping anybody from coming in who didn’t hand over their berries or mammoth steak as payment.

But still, it’s a virtual good because it doesn’t exist anywhere.  You can’t take it home, and you can’t keep it on a shelf.  And that’s what I thought of when I read this piece at The Atlantic about how Kindle has “killed the book cover.” Here’s a key tidbit:

“A digital book has no cover. There’s no paper to be bound up with a spine and protected inside a sturdy jacket. Browsers no longer roam around Borders scanning the shelves for the right title to pluck. Increasingly, instead, they scroll through Amazon’s postage stamp-sized pictures, which don’t actually cover anything, and instead operate as visual portals into an entire webpage of data (publication date, reader reviews, price) some of which can also be found on a physical cover and some of which cannot.”

The image for "Dueling Pianos" in New York. Now I want to see that show.

But here’s what I can tell you after 10 years of selling events, which also has no paper to bind and which isn’t browsed on shelves:  the “cover” image matters.  It matters an awful lot.  In a setting like Goldstar (or really any website) that lists lots of different events, the ‘cover art’ for an event is the single most powerful initial attraction point.  Note that I’m not saying it’s enough to sell your event, but I would go so far as to say a poor or dull “cover” will make sure your event doesn’t get sold.

If you want to do great event art for sites like Goldstar or even newspaper listing sites, here are a few tips:

  • Be bold and colorful, but not wild. A single strong color theme is good.
  • Be iconic. Don’t put too many things in the image.  Just one awesome thing.  Even simply the title done in a great font.
  • Avoid  candid photographs. There are exceptions to this, but most of the time, photos of live action end up looking amateurish.  Done well, photographs as part of an event image are brilliant, so be honest with yourself.
  • Thumbnail well. Remember that this image is going to be shrunken down to very small size and shape.  A picture of fireworks exploding over your venue looks great big, but it looks like a black square when it’s 100×100.
  • Give me a reason to go. This is a guiding principle for everything you put everywhere about your event (and what we try to do editorially at Goldstar for every event we list) but the ‘cover’ is no exception.  Give me one good reason I should go RIGHT IN THE IMAGE.

As it turns out, I’ve been pinning event images that I like (from the Goldstar site) onto a board at Pinterest for the last few weeks if you want to see some examples I like.

Event marketers, take this seriously.  If there’s one place not to skimp or get it wrong, it’s on your “cover art.”  Live events may be a virtual good, but people make very real decisions based on the look of your cover.

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