Even Virtual Stuff Needs a “Cover”

Penn & Teller

Penn & Teller

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

There’s a bit of irony in that, too, because we associate “virtual” with our new, modern world, whereas live events 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 stand at the opening to the cave collecting payment in the form of berries or a mammoth steak.

A live event is a virtual good because it isn’t tangible. 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 a piece in 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.”

Here’s what I can tell you after 10 years of selling live events: The “cover” image matters an awful lot. In a setting like Goldstar (or any website) that lists lots of different events, the “cover art” for an event is the single most powerful initial attraction point. I’m not saying it’s enough to sell your event, but I would go so far as to say that a poor or dull “cover” will make sure your event doesn’t get sold.

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“The Exorcist”

Here are a few tips if you want to make great cover art:

  • Be bold and colorful, but not wildA 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, they can be brilliant, but candid photos of that quality are rare, so it’s best to avoid them.
  • Thumbnail well. Remember that, depending on how the image is being viewed by a user (on phones or tablets, for example), this image may be shrunken down to very small size and shape. A picture of fireworks exploding over your venue looks great big, but it might look like a black square when it’s 100×100 pixels. Likewise, if you layer text over your image, make sure it’s short and powerful. Lengthy text will obscure the image and become unreadable at thumbnail size.
  • Give me a reason to go. This is a guiding principle for everything you post everywhere about your event — and the “cover” is no exception. Have the image visually show me at least one reason I should go. If you put it in words on the image, make sure the words are few and powerful, and that the font is substantial.

As examples, I’ve pinned event images that I like (from our site) onto a board at Pinterest.

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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