It's always discouraging when turnout at your gig is lower than you expected, but it's especially disheartening when your hopes were extra heightened after seeing a high number of responses to your Facebook event. Of all the users who clicked “going,” only a small fraction actually showed. Were you wrong to think those numbers meant anything?
In a situation like that, it may seem like social media has little effect on your draw. According to the Pew Research Center, though, your posts on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms do help. A 2013 study showed a 33 percent spike in event attendance among adults who follow a music, dance, or theatrical group on social media.
But note that the survey wasn't solely about bands, and it didn't specify what kind of social wasn't only about Facebook events, either. Unfortunately, there isn't much legit research on the subject otherwise.
While we do believe that promoting your shows and music on social media is beneficial to gig turnout, it's a little more complicated than that. Miami musicians June Summer and Augie Pink, both of the garage-pop band Plastic Pinks, feel similarly.
“In all honesty, social media is very important,” says June Summer, vocalist for Miami garage-pop band Plastic Pinks. “Promoting events through it sometimes works better than flyers and posters – even though we use both ways to promote. It creates awareness and curiosity which will ultimately benefit bands, promoters, and events.”
He and his brother, Augie Pink, founded Plastic Pinks late in 2012. The pair also recently launched Ghost Drag, a record label and company covering booking, management, and other artists' needs.
Augie Pink doesn't find Facebook event numbers to be totally reliable. Instead, he sees the events as a way of keeping potential show-goers engaged and up to date.
“A lot of the times people just say 'going' to be able to get more info on the shows and end up not going,” he says. “But the same way happens vice-versa: people don't join the event, yet know exactly when the show is and make sure to go.”
June Summer adds, “If your event page doesn't have any traffic, you can think that the show will do bad, but if the venue has a built-in crowd, it doesn't really matter. An event page might be doing great, but then people just don't show up.
"It's good to use all tools and it does provide some type of insight to what you will be working with. I would say it's a better way of knowing how good you are promoting more than how well you are doing at the show.”
Our advice: If you're doubting the influence of social media on your draw, it may be time to reevaluate how you're using it.
Read our guide to promoting your music here – you'll find tips for better social media results and info specific to show promotion. We've also got a 10-step plan for show promo perfection available here.
Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.