Ken Lelen

Ken Lelen
Ken Lelen sings great American ragtime, jazz & swing and performs with vintage acoustic guitars for an authentic, back-in-the day sound.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2017   Concert  Schedule
Date         Community / Venue   —   Location          Concert Theme
Feb    23     Pine Run, Doylestown PA                       When Love Was Nifty
Mar      2      Friends Village, Woodstown NJ              Juke Joint Jive
Mar    11     Old Bridge Public Library                      Juke Joint Jive
                  Old Bridge NJ   —   732-721-5600
Mar    28       Jefferson's Ferry, South Setauket NY     Big Band Idols
Mar    30      Bronxville Public Library                      She Did It Her Way
                  Bronxville NY   —   914-337-7680
Apr      8       Chesterfield County Public Library       Tin Pan Alley Cats
                  Chester VA   —   804-318-8911
Apr    12     Cypress Club, Raleigh NC                       Sunny Side of the Street
Apr    25     Shannondell-Ashcroft, Audubon PA       He Did It His Way
Apr    26     Springhill, Erie PA                                 She Did It Her Way
May   18      Arbors, Manchester CT                            T B A
Jun      9     Lake Prince Woods, Suffolk VA              Great American Nightclub
Jun    13      Oaks, Orangeburg SC                             He Did It His Way
Sep   21      Friends Village, Woodstown NJ               Sunny Side of the Street
Oct    18      Greendale Mens Club, Worcester MA      T B A
Oct    19      Wilmington Memorial Library               Tin Pan Alley Cats
                  Wilmington MA   —   978-658-2967
Oct    30      Shannondell-Bradford, Audubon PA      Great American Nightclub
Nov     1      Springhill, Erie PA                                 Radio Ramblers
Nov     8      Cypress Club, Raleigh NC                      Great American Nightclub
Nov    11      Oaks, Orangeburg SC                               Great American Nightclub
Nov    29       Heath Village, Hackettstown NJ              T B A

                                          ©  2016 — Kenneth Lelen — All Rights Reserved

2018  Concert  Schedule
Date        Community / Venue   —   Location            Concert Theme
May  19     Cross Keys Village, New Oxford PA           T B A

                                          ©  2017 — Kenneth Lelen — All Rights Reserved


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Every concert poster has a story to tell
     When words and pictures tell stories,
     posters can put people in their seats.
      ©  2016 — Kenneth Lelen — All Rights Reserved

Colorful poster combines odd shape,
unusual size (5½ x 17 in.) with mix of
typefaces in knock-out to attract an
audience for When Love Was Nifty,
22 May 2016, Chandler Center for
the Arts, Randolph VT.

Sometimes, all people ever know about an upcoming concert at a small venue is what is printed on the poster.
     People only glance at a poster for a second, two if you're lucky. So, venue operators inevitably try to raise visibility of a poster by splashing across multiple sites. Distribution seems to work, they say, so quantity is important.
     But a poster must attract interest and inform people if it is to amplify excitement for a show. If content is fuzzy, dense or scant, anticipation for a show is quashed, no matter how many places a poster is found.
     Despite the inroads of social media and digital promotion, program people at small venues still rely on concert posters to tell their story. Now, many are producing their own posters to promote Vintage Music Concerts at public libraries, museums, life care communities, local senior centers, small theaters and acoustic music clubs.
     Budgets for labor, production and materials are tight, they say. But well-designed posters with arresting graphics, clever art, bold colors, unusual shapes and concise venue data can put people in their seats.
     With such successes in mind, here we present several good and decent posters as well as a few less-than-stellar examples we've seen in the last decade. The overall goal is to provide for your consideration numerous examples for a range of design, format and clarity.

Providing posters for concert clients
Venue managers and program directors have relied on me to produce event posters for most of the 1,700+ concerts I've performed since 1999. They were printed on 8½ x 11-inch white card stock with a single four-color photo, program description and venue data (name, date, time, room, etc.)
     Activity coordinators and resident service directors at several life care centers expressed gratitude for these promotional materials. We saved them the time and labor needed to produce their own posters, they said.
     A few program
Dark and moody, this 5½ x 8 in. red and black poster was
produced by the resident's program committee at Willow
Valley Manor North senior complex, Lancaster PA, for the
19 Jan 2010 show. Audience was invited to hear "ragtime
 + jazz + swing with whistling guest MATT KOCH.”

Koch doesn't whistle. Never did. He played upright bass
for the concert, where almost half of the 250-unit facility
enjoyed a 70-minute show. We asked, but no one would
fess up to creating the myth of the "whistling guest."

people and resident groups have always designed and printed their own posters. Their posters typically follow a design format proscribed by the venue's management or activity people, they said. In my view, this regimen can produce less than spectacular results.
     Still, I'm satisfied the event posters I've offered over the years to clientat small venues filled some gaps in their promotional plans, staff levels and budgets. Speaking selfishly, I know the posters helped attract audiences to my concerts because I've always asked people how they heard about my concerts.

Posters for private concerts

Continuing care, life care and assisted living communities for retired individuals typically display posters in several places for a week prior to a concert. Prime locations include: bulletin boards, post offices, elevators, libraries, bathroom doors, sandwich boards in lobbies, and picture frames on concierge desks.
     At larger senior villages —
The resident-run committee poster offers
scant concert info & misleading program
data (Memory Lane — really?) for the 9 Aug
2012 Vintage Music Concert at the Lakes,
350-unit residential complex at the Willow
Valley community in Willow Street PA.

those with two, three or more apartment towers and hundreds of residents — event posters can be found displayed on a bulletin board in each lobby or elevator bank.
     A quick, one-off version of a poster is often mailed as an insert to a facility's in-house newsletter. Occasionally, it is sent to families of residents. And some marketing directors mail posters with concert invitations to their list of resident prospects.
     Although marketing types usually manage websites at retirement facilities, some will post info and photo for an upcoming, all-resident concert. Once in a while they'll add a copy of the poster as well. 

Posters for public concerts

Music venues, arts & culture centers, libraries, municipal senior centers, social clubs and other venues use posters as well. Often they're quite elaborate, since the posters are expected to attract multiple audiences or acknowledge multiple sources of underwriting.
     Most posters are displayed on-site or mailed to members. Some are found in retail windows or school bulletin boards. Some send posters to corporate and institutional sponsors who may broadcast them to their members and staff.
                                                                           Petite versions of a poster

This performer-supplied, four-color bookmark
 (2¼ x 7¼ in.) promoted an In The Mood concert
on 26 Sept 2016 at the library in Hinesburg VT.

seem to work for public libraries and music clubs. Libraries, for example, like to distribute colorful bookmarks to their patrons at the front desk, while municipal senior centers will offer counter cards at their information tables.
     Some groups will send posters with printed press releases. They sometimes draw attention of local media outlets.
     Posters in a digital format are also sent to social media sites. Though heavy with images and vapor-thin on content, such promo materials tend to reinforce what recipients already know about a venue. Unless an event is held when nothing else is slated, it stirs controversy, or it's meant for mall rats and 20-somethings, social media sites rarely build audiences intended for senior adults.
     Finally, almost everyone likes low-cost postcards, a low-key way to promote an event. They are especially attractive if corporate funders assist with postcard distribution by offering their mailing lists, postage, mailroom and volunteer labor.

Elements of effective posters

Few venues have large budgets or graphic designers on staff to produce masterpieces. At the same time, there are no hard or fast rules in poster design. What works in one location is awful in another.
     Unusual sizes, shapes and colors can quickly draw attention to a poster. But the words free, tickets going fast and live will grab the eye even faster.
     Try to minimize word count to what people can read in a few seconds. The more words you cut, the more the remaining content is read. At the same time, cryptic messages or insufficient number of words will lead potential audiences to scratch their heads about what's offered at your event.
     Over the years we've found posters with these elements work well:
     •   site, date, time, performer and program précis — essential
     •   venue phone, website, email and ticket prices — secondary
     •   performer's pedigree and underwriter identity — tertiary
     •   simple layouts and one good-sized performer photo
     •   minimize type colors — use additional colors sparingly
     •   maximize key details with L A R G E  type
                                                                                       Posters made in 
To promote Vintage Music Concert by Ken Lelen Combo,
25 Sept 2010, 
this 24 x 34 in. poster was produced by the

Warren NJ public library as a 36 x 34-in. sandwich board
for the walkway at its front entrance.
standard sizes (8½ x 11-inch and 11 x 14-inch) fit the most locations. Posters in large formats (18 x 24-inch or larger) seem to work better in retail window displays, sandwich boards and billboards.

Rare, medium and well-done posters
In the past decade we've collected more than two dozen concert posters. Though several were too big to scan for publication, many were memorable for their color, shape or graphics. More than a few were just too dull to show anywhere, to anyone and at anytime.
     However, below we will present several styles, formats and designs for your review. Most are notable for possessing one or two design ideas that appealed to their audiences.

Tune in to Radio Ramblers
These two posters, each bathed in one dominant color, publicize a Vintage Music Concert on the same theme — Radio Ramblers. The program regales audiences with song renditions as well as stories of the singers, stars and shows from radio's heyday — 1930s and 1940s.
     By coincidence, each poster employed a table radio as design motif. And each provided its audiences with the same performer-supplied program data.

For a summer Sunday concert on 7 Aug 2016 at Oak Crest,
a large retirement facility in Parkville MD near Baltimore, a
resident-run program committee produced this 8½ x 11 in.
poster. The Radio Ramblers concert attracted 125 people.
Activity staff at Shannondell, a large retirement community in Audubon PA
near Philadelphia, produced this 8½ x 11 in. poster for a 17 July 2015 Radio
Ramblers concert. Held at Ashcroft, a 200-unit independent living building,
more than one quarter of its residents attended the concert.

We love the smashed-in speaker screen and missing volume dial.

Quick and dirty design ideas
Though most program directors at retirement communities invited me to send my posters for their upcoming concerts, more than a few never used what I sent. The rest made their own.
     Some said they never received what I sent or, like the resident life director at Springmoor in Raleigh NC, said nothing by not replying to email and phone inquiries. Ironically, on the night of the concert the resident life assistant at Springmoor found the missing posters as well as my unreturned performance contract in her desk drawer.
     When forced to make their own posters, program managers I've met wait until the last minute to think about the job. Others just hand the task to an assistant, who typically has meager design skills.
     Of those who made their own concert posters, the resulting products reflect quick and dirty work. In my view, this means design quality is hit and miss.
     So, as these next six posters reveal, some staff-made posters can generate a good impression for an audience. Some reflect the staff's minimal time, negligible design skills and token efforts.

Produced by part-time staff at a public library
in Hinesburg VT
, this poster employed a dark
 clear knock-out typeface, choice
words (note
 the "free evening") and attractive

vintage photograph to inform and entice local
residents to visit its 26 Sept 2016 concert.

Produced by the activity staff for OceanView, a
seniors property in Falmouth ME near Portland,
poster draws the eye in an oval-shaped picture
and concise account of the Folk Song Boomers
concert program. Though well-attended, only a
few octogenarians at the 25 Sept 2015 concert
recognized 1960s songs, so the applause was,
um, polite.    
Produced in-house for a public library in
Burlington MA, this poster promoted the
26 March 2015 concert by putting info in
discrete areas: sponsor at top; performer
& program in the middle; date & venue at
 the bottom.
Last-minute poster by an activity person who never
attended any concerts yet carped about the fee she
paid. It offers boilerplate from my website, yet omits
mention of a concert program so folks at Wellington,
a retirement spot in Philly's western suburbs, would
have an idea of what to expect.

For the record, the Oct 2014 Juke Joint Jive
program offered pop songs of bobby soxers,
jitter buggers, drugstore cowboys, stagedoor
johnnies and lindy hoppers of the '30s & '40s.
A good time was had by all. 

This is a bare-bones effort by the activity staff at
Calvary Homes retirement center in Lancaster PA,
who waited till the last minute to produce posters.
The work reminds me of an aphorism attributed to
writer-comedian-movie producer Woody Allen that
"80% of success is showing up." Guess we should
be glad as well that I showed up for the concert.

Another anemic effort at poster-making — this one by the
resident engagement director at Residence at Otter Creek
Creek, a retirement facility in Middlebury VT, for a 25 Sept
2016 concert. I'm impressed. Somebody actually scoured
the web for a photo of me playing.

Shannondell's poster designs inform and invite
Over the past eight years I've performed numerous times at Shannondell, a large retirement community with several concert venues in Audubon PA west of Philadelphia. The five-person activity staff, one of whom is host at each concert, produces a poster for every event. Results are first-rate and respectful of the audience, as the examples offered here illuminate.
     Though I've delivered nearly 20 concerts at Shannondell, the staff's posters do not assume people in the audience already know what I do — sing vintage songs and play vintage guitars — so they tell them each time. In addition, the posters offer a graphic representation and info on the concert theme, which is different for every performance.
     Every poster uses blocks of type to tell audiences about the performer and the concert theme. What's more, clever graphic ideas and color are employed to play off the theme. The result is Shannondell audiences are informed and invited to their concerts.

On 28 April 2016 we presented a
concert of Broadway Mementos,
songs from the Great White Way
that became great American hits,
to an audience of 85 residents in
Shannondell's Ashcroft Theater.
Our 2 Nov 2015 program, When
Love Was Nifty, offered the hits
from 1945-1954 — years before
Elvis & his rowdy friends came
along—to about 85 folks in the
Shannondell Bradford Theater.

On 14 July 2014 we presented an
early version of Hollywood Song
Souvenirs  —  selected hits from
the best American comedies and
dramas — for about 65 people in
Shannondell's Bradford Theater.
On 3 Nov 2014 we played Speak
Easy Jazz— music of the 1920s
loved by flappers & doughboys
with clever lyrics & catchy tunes
for the audience of 50 people in
Shannondell's Bradford Theater.

What not to do in poster design
With the examples above I hope you've found poster ideas you can use for your next event and I hope you enjoyed our modest discussion on poster design. You probably already know some posters work better than others to inform and draw an audience.
     Most do, but not all. That's why I saved the worst poster for the end, since it's an egregious example and personally offensive. Indeed, it was unnecessarily disrespectful of the audience and the performer.
     The poster's creator was a social director at Pomperaug Woods, a retirement village in Southbury CT. She did not want to use a poster I sent for the 26 March 2012 concert. Called A Fine Romance, the event featured love songs popular from 1940 to 1956 that were favored by the generation that rationed its romance and deferred its affairs "for the duration."
     Instead, the social director produced her own poster (shown here) just before the event. When I noticed it hanging on a wall near the theater, I told her the poster said nothing about the concert program so people would know what to expect. Oh, by the way, my name was spelled wrong.

     "Don't worry," she said with disingenuous aplomb. "Nobody reads these things, anyway."
     She also did not, when asked twice before the concert and once afterward, produce the check for my concert fee. Later, after the concert was finished and the room had emptied, I discovered it tucked under a microphone stand as I packed my guitars and sound equipment to leave.
     I've never heard from this person again. Still, I got the message, loud and clear, just like words and pictures on a billboard.


          Burlington Public Library, Burlington MA     
          Calvary Homes, Lancaster PA                    
          Chandler Center for the Arts, Randolph VT
          Carpenter-Carse Library, Hinesburg VT      
          Oak Crest, Parkville MD                              
          OceanView, Falmouth ME                           
          Pomperaug Woods, Southbury CT              
          Residence at Otter Creek, Middlebury VT   
          Shannondell at Valley Forge, Audubon PA  
          Warren Public Library, Warren NJ               
          Wellington, West Chester PA                      
          Willow Valley Communities, Lancaster PA  
©  2016 — Kenneth Lelen — All Rights Reserved