Flyer Wars

You may be familiar with the “Holy Wars”, “Star Wars”, or “World Wars”. But were you aware of the ongoing drama that unfolds on the streets of TorontoâÂ?¦ of the perils that modern day promoters faceâÂ?¦ of the unseen threats and harsh wordsâÂ?¦ of the struggles average people face when trying to put up a poster downtown? Since every controversial war needs a ridiculous yet catchy, title I shall call this the “Flyer Wars”. BewareâÂ?¦ it’s all-out urban warfare!

Competition is a vital part of business, as it keeps pricing under control and ensures that fair service is provided to consumers. As a business owner, or more specifically a nightclub owner, you most likely would come to certain cause & effect conclusions: Toronto is a large city; therefore there will be many other night clubs in the area; these night clubs will want to promote; there are a limited number of prime locations in the downtown core; in which case one would logically assume that you will have to make necessary professional arrangements to share the streets with other competitors. However, time and time again we run into grown children who still haven’t grasped the concept of sharing yet. So what do they do? Do they whine, cry, or stamp their feet? Well, you see, these thugs disguised as professionals have more resources than your average child: they have money, power, egos, and influential friends with clubs, guns, knives, and cargo vans. This sets the stage for Flyer Wars.

Who are the players? You silly foolâÂ?¦ I’m not going to name names here, however I will make mention of the fact that the promotions business in Toronto is a lot more organized than one would think. There are hierarchical structures with bosses, street team leaders, and team members. These kids you push past when exiting clubs aren’t fighting with the bums over turf in an effort to erratically win your attention – they are actually paid a sum far greater than minimum wage to provide you with valuable event information that often times cannot be found elsewhere. So if you’d like to be in-the-know and inducted into the inner circles of the club world, better grab oneâÂ?¦ or twoâÂ?¦ or threeâÂ?¦ on your way out of the club. The teams can consist of five to fifty members. There are a couple random groups that still work simply to get into a party for free but those kind of groups are on the decline as they realize they’re being royally screwed over and un-rewarded for their efforts. These groups also don’t try to compete with the larger teams and don’t really factor into our current drama. There are several main sectors of promoters in Toronto: some teams work exclusively for one club; other teams divide their labor over many different clubs to provide the same non-partial service; and a third division focuses on concerts and CD releases around the city. These are the players in Flyer Wars.

Now onto more specific examples of what one might encounter during a typical workweek as a street team member. One day while putting up a poster for a new super-club, the owner of a nearby club came outside and accosted my coworker and I. “Is that for ****?!” he demanded. “You can’t put that up here!” Au contraire, my friend, the sidewalk and street poles are public property. Next thing we knew, he had run back into the club and came out waving a butter knife. He trotted down the stairs with a disgusted expression and began heatedly and jaggedly stabbing the poster to shreds. “THERE! That’s what I think about your stupid club! Now if you don’t get out of here, I’m going to call someone who will MAKE you leave!” Were you aware that an advertisement could incite such blind rage? I sure wasn’t!

I spoke with one street team boss who said, “Boy I’ll tell ya, I used to run with the underground for a time in my juvenile years. But since I’ve cleaned up my life and gone professional, I have met more lowlifes, thugs, and assholes than I ever knew on the streets! The only difference is that these ones have legitimate, tax-deductible money.”

In another case, a poster crew had just put up fresh posters, unbeknownst to another group who was also on the same route. As soon as they slapped up their poster, a member of the other group came over and dramatically slapped their poster on overtop and waved the paintbrush frantically, spraying soggy glue all over their competitors. Before you knew it, entire buckets of glue were flying and so were the threats. “If we see you guys on the street again, someone’s going to get hurt,” the articulate paintbrush waving punk spat.

In other instances, flyer kids were chased off the streets by club owners who weren’t so keen on competitors “luring their patrons away”, or as we see it providing patrons with other options. One team boss was told that “his legs would be broken” if his kids didn’t stop covering up their club’s posters. Will team bosses need to have bodyguards and bouncers of their own now? The scene is tense. Glares and subtle gestures speak volumes to those involved. The cops have been called to remove flyer kids from the streets. Event planners are frantically trying to align themselves with the winning team. Within 24 hours, you will witness teams coming by like clockwork 10-20 times to cover another team’s posters. Money is being blown like cocaine. When will the madness end?

Call me crazy but I think it’s time that people stop freaking out over the competition and start improving their establishments to attract more partiers. Instead of tearing down the street wielding a butter knife, perhaps it would make more sense to spend that time and effort planning renovations or contacting big talent to come into the city. Instead of charging $20-40 at the door and wondering why people go elsewhere, maybe they should lower their prices and offer a more viable service. Call me crazy but I think the time is long over-due and my message is simple: Grow up or get out!

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