Talking Gigposters with Clay Hayes

Clay Hayes is the co-creator of Gigposters.com, the hugely popular website / forum dedicated to all things gigposter related, and currently features over 7,000 registered designers and over 85,000 posters. Clay will be represented at Flatstock, the annual SXSW poster convention that starts today.

Door Number 3: When Gigposters.com launched, you benefited from word of mouth and then some great nods from Yahoo and USA Today. How do new users find Gigposters.com today? How many page views a day does Gigposters get?

Clay Hayes: It’s all word of mouth and search engines. I do not actively advertise the site – no need at the moment. I don’t actually track stats anymore (I have them turned off on the server to speed things up). Once the site got super busy, it really didn’t matter to me anymore. I’d estimate it gets around 250,000 views a day.

From what I can tell, the story of Gigposters.com is one where you created a site to serve a very specific niche that you cared about and, inadvertently, an untapped community of users (poster designers in this case) discovered it and completely embraced it and helped the site grow. So is this really about luck, or timing? If someone decided to create a community site the size of Gigposters.com today would they probably fail?

It was all about timing .. and a unique idea. No one had done anything like it before… and no one has tried to do anything like it to this day. I don’t think anyone would try to compete now. It would take many years to build a collection of any substantial size.

Were you involved in the creation of Flatstock, or did the idea of it come about on the Gigposters.com forums?

The first Flatstock was a result of a few people in the GigPosters.com forums coming together to form the first event. After the first Flatstock, they realized they needed a professional organization to bring it all together. They created the American Poster Institute, and brought me on as a board member. I was on the board for many years, and resigned recently to concentrate on my own site, etc. I still help out with their website, etc., but do not make the decisions anymore.

Is SXSW a chance to grow your business or is it more of a reunion with friends across the world?

It’s 3 things really. It’s a chance to promote my site. Many people attending these events do not know anything about the scene, and having my booth there gives people the ability to go online after the show and see what the rest of the world has to offer. Its a great way for me to sell merchandise to raise money for the site (it’s expensive to run). And, it’s definitely a great reunion of all the poster friends in the best community on the planet!

Is Gigposters.com pretty user-regulated? My sense is that longtime users are pretty thorough about alerting you to objectionable content. With a site like yours, is it better to take a more hands-off approach?

I try to take a ‘hands-off’ approach as much as possible. No one likes to be told what to do, but it is my job to step in when people cross the line. There are terms of use on the site, and if people break them, I have to deal with it. Most regular users know how it works and help me out by ‘educating’ people. I can’t be on there 24/7 to answer every question – so it’s great that everyone steps in and helps out.

Since you look at more poster designs than anyone on earth, do you consider yourself to now be a design critic or an authority on gigposters?

I’m a computer guy. I’ve never really had an ‘eye for art’ like many of the people on the site. I do, however, learn by osmosis and know what people like. I’m the technical guy providing the site for people to do their thing. Mr. Behind-the-scenes.

What sort of design trends, in terms of style, colors or imagery, have you noticed lately?

More color posters – that’s for sure. Less photocopied flyers and more screenprinting. I see designers that visit the site getting inspiration by the amazing posters, and it really has raised the bar by helping them improve their own.

You offer a “Premium” service, meaning for a yearly fee ($20) users have access to exclusive content, chatting, etc. How successful has this implementation been?

It’s been around a few years now and has been very successful. These features really take the site and community to the next level and everyone who is participating benefits.

Lastly, what’s the secret to having such a loyal group of users, people who without question become premium members, hold auctions to support the site, and would probably be really, really bummed out if Gigposters.com ever went away?

I think people appreciate the fact that the site is run by one man who has dedicated his life to the site and the scene. I have lived off credit cards for 7 years now to make it all happen, and those who realize this want to help me out. I’m not suffering or anything – I really enjoy what I do. I’m not a charity by any means, and I don’t ask for anything. I do appreciate everyone’s support –it has really helped me out over the years.GigPosters.com is a very special site, with an amazing community. It’s growing more and more every day and opening up the eyes of the world to gigposter art. I’m very proud.

*image from Gigposters.com

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