a small printed advertisement or other public notice circulated by hand.
In the dictionary, it gives this example: "annoyed by the handbills on our windshield." Fortunately, we are going to be reviewing the kind of handbill you wouldn't mind receiving...the kind with Duran Duran on it!
The word handbill came into use in the 1750s. As printing became more accessible to the general public, businesses and organizations made the most of the opportunity to get their messages out at a bearable cost. We are all familiar with the 'Wanted' poster, not just a Western movie prop, but a genuine artifact of early law enforcement. Below wasn’t a wanted poster, but the band DIDN’T want you to be taken by people selling fake merchandise!
Around 1889, the term flyer came in to use, referring to fly-sheet, a term for an advert or handbill in use around 1830. As printing technology improved, it became easier, and cheaper, to mass produce high quality flyers, promoting a countless variety of products and services, including live music performances. This flyer is for a Duran Duran show at the Forum in Los Angeles in 1987.
By the 1980's the "hand" had mostly gone out of handbills. The most common way for a fan to come across one was to find it in a small pile at the local record shop. It would normally be a punter's last stop on the way out the door of the shop, and was most likely the delivery method of this handbill promoting the 1983 tour in Australia.
In Japan, the handbill, or chirashi (which means "scattered" in Japanese), has always been a popular way to advertise music and movies. In 1982 when Duran Duran played their first tour in Japan, chirashi were a major component of the national advertising campaign. This particular variant states that a second show will be added on May 1st at 3:30pm, due to popular demand!
Even with mass worldwide embrace of the Internet, the chirashi still remains a focal point for street level advertising in Japan. Here's a chirashi for the release of UNSTAGED on Blu-ray and DVD from September 2015, yet another reason why Japan remains a hot-bed for collectables.
Of course, Japan isn't the only country to still embrace handbills to promote events. The USA remains a strong contender as well. In the Internet era, flyers are becoming harder to find, and more collectible as a result of less of them being made. But they are still out there!
If this column has piqued your interest, then we highly recommend checking out our friend Andrew Golub's new book THE MUSIC BETWEEN US which showcases handbills, flyers and advertisements, along with memories from fans.
Created by Derek Supryka // Edited by Katy Krassner // Pictures by Derek Supryka