These are all terms used to describe concert posters that were specifically designed as inexpensive advertising to sell tickets to local music venues. They were usually designed by local artists or a member of the band that was willing to draw, cut, copy, and paste them together. They were handed out in the streets, stapled to telephone poles, or taped up in storefront windows.
While they’re all fliers in a sense, that term is generally used when describing a paper ad that’s 8-½” x 11” or smaller. And a flier less than 8-½” x 11” is often referred to as a handbill.
After the mid-1970’s, the term telephone pole poster generally refers to paper printed at 11” x 17” (or 8-½” x 14”). They’re usually lithograph or photocopy printed in one or two colored inks on various colors of paper or thin card stock. The printer was often at liberty to print on whatever they needed to get rid of around the shop, so variants of original printings can be found on different paper colors and stock weights.
Gig fliers and pole posters were typically the medium of smaller concert venues. Big venues can’t get away with homegrown ads pasted up by street teams. Once you’re serving 10,000 (or more) attendees, the budgets get bigger and the “posters” for the show tend to be created by well known artists in limited editions (aka. “Merch” concert posters). The promotional medium for selling through tickets becomes digital, radio, and television ads.
Bands before they went mainstream
The Pacific Northwest is one of several US hotspots that have been responsible for birthing nationally recognized acts. These geographic regions were the local homes where bands toured endlessly as opening acts or headliners to tiny audiences before becoming pop culture icons. A common theme for these regions tends to be a large number of live music venues catering to somewhat smaller audiences (500 or often far less). This is where the posters and fliers full of amazing music history are born.
Small stops on big tours
Concert fliers and pole posters are often some of the “missing holes” in the concert poster aficionado's collection. When a well-known act rolls through town, the posters quickly get ripped down as “something to hang on my dorm room wall.” And it doesn’t seem like too many were carried to the next home or apartment.