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Victoria print shop waiving poster fees for live-event companies

Steve Webb has grown Metropol Industries into one of the city’s top commercial printing companies, with 20 employees and several locations across Greater Victoria.
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Steve Webb, founder of Metropol design and printing company, tapes up an event poster. He created Vicposters.com as a way to inject life into the live event industry, and will be waiving fees associated with printing and distributing posters for live event companies for the foreseeable future. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Steve Webb has grown Metropol Industries into one of the city’s top commercial printing companies, with 20 employees and several locations across Greater Victoria. But the upstart owner has never forgotten the company’s modest early days when it was a one-stop shop for the printing and distribution of posters for live events in Victoria.

“That is no longer within the scope of what Metropol is becoming. We’ve evolved,” Webb said. “But we’ve always benefited from our connection to the live music and the arts community, and I’m always going to be thankful for that.”

Webb launched Vicposters.com last month to assist artists and event producers as they slowly navigate their return to work, with one very important proviso: All fees associated with printing and distributing posters, for the foreseeable future, have been waived. In the past, Metropol charged clients $20 per day to print and distribute event posters on sanctioned poles and cylinders through the downtown core. With tickets to sell, event producers start their promotion campaigns weeks or even months in advance, so what Webb is offering represents significant savings.

Most events are being given a two-week free run. Webb has turned down clients who have been willing to pay, as he want to see his investment percolate and give as many people a chance to take advantage of his offer. At present, Webb said he has no end date in mind for when Vicposters.com ends and his for-profit postering service at Metropol resumes. “If we take the monetization out of it, which is going to be the biggest obstacle for people who are trying to put on an event right now, especially with reduced capacities, I can help out a lot.”

Webb is giving back to a community which helped grow his business over nearly 20 years of operation. Event producers simply upload their poster— in .pdf format, with portrait orientation — through a link on the website, and Webb’s team does the rest. The initiative is a rebuilding mechanism to combat the effects of COVID-19, which has hit the live event industry especially hard, Webb said.

“When the pandemic hit, if you had a restaurant with a patio, or a retail space that had a tremendous amount of room, that worked in your favour. But there were a few sectors that got decimated, and one of those was the arts and entertainment community. That happens to be the same group of people who I’ve worked with, through Metropol, over the last 18 years, to build up my company. I know first-hand that they are going to have the longest of struggles.”

Vicposters.com has been busy since Webb launched the initiative, and it has kickstarted the poster printing and distribution side of his of his business back into high gear after nearly a year-and-a-half of dormancy. “We’ve been working with Metropol for years and they’ve always been fantastic to partner with,” said Morgan Brooker, a producer with the All Ways Home Festival, which is using Webb’s free service. The two-day event at Langford’s Starlight Stadium will be one of the first large-scale events with in-person audiences when it debuts Sept. 4-5, so Webb’s service is an invaluable one. “Every bit helps right now,” Brooker said.

The website displays digital versions of each poster in a scroll on the homepage, which adds another layer of free promotion. Everything from established events such as the Victoria Fringe Festival to low-key of summer farm markets appear on the site, which means Webb’s efforts have struck a chord.

“The best scenario is to see everything on the poles,” he said. “It makes for a vibrant situation. That is the image we want to project to people who walk down the street. That’s what those poles are for.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com