Ten years ago, Facebook was a place for college kids to share pictures, connect with new friends and post unnecessary status updates about the hangovers from their 21st birthday parties. Today, it’s the leading destination not just for “fake news” and nefarious data scrapers, but also new comments on old pictures from your mom’s work friends, engagement announcements you could care less about, and friend requests from Republican relatives you met once when you were 2. Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm project has never seemed less relevant to young people who want to connect with the world.
But there’s at least one reason that many stay tethered to the flailing social-media giant: event invites. If you live in a music city like New York, Facebook remains the best place to find out where and when the bands you like are playing. From booking house shows (“dm for address”) to national tours, it’s as essential as ever for DIY bands, even as it loses its grip among young users. Whereas established artists—like Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt, who announced to her more than 540,000 followers last month that she would be deleting her Facebook page over “grave concerns” about its “negative impact”—have the luxury of walking away, many emerging musicians are too tangled up to cut the cord.
“We don’t have a band Facebook page because updating band Facebook pages makes me feel deeply lame.”
“I don’t really want to be on Facebook at all,” says Devin McKnight, a guitarist who has played with Speedy Ortiz, Grass is Green, and records his own music under the moniker Maneka. “But I feel like I have to because of my band. I don’t know how much it helps, but I do know the event invites kind of have that market cornered. No other platform really offers that.”
In spite of its recent credibility nosedive and the birth of the #deletefacebook movement, Facebook is the most popular social media platform for American adults, though Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) and Twitter are nipping at its heels. But Facebook, more than its competitors, was always designed to spawn communities, and that’s exactly what a fledgling band needs as it ventures into unknown territories. Now they’re getting wistful about good old fashioned word of mouth.
“We don’t have a band Facebook page because updating band Facebook pages makes me feel deeply lame,” says Greg Katz of L.A. band Cheekface. “We’re trying to make the best records we can make and play the best shows we can play. When I think someone’s records and shows are good, I will listen to their records more and go to their shows more, and I’ll tell other people. So quality is its own best advertisement, I hope… Also, Instagram.”
Besides event invites, what Facebook still has over Instagram is help with booking tours. Among the musicians (based in New York and beyond) polled for this story, booking was the number one reason they find Facebook indispensable. Ivy Gray-Klein, who fronts the Philadelphia band Corey Flood, says she doesn’t use it much for “personal stuff” anymore, but relies on its DIY tour groups to help her book shows in cities she’s never been to. By allowing her to “cobble together a lot of resources through friends of friends and these groups,” the platform is personal even when it’s professional.
“I might make a post on my personal account about needing a show in a certain city and make it public,” she says. “Then friends of mine will tag their friends who may have resources or connections in those cities. It may sound kind of trivial, but having that more personal connection really helps, like recognizing you have a lot of mutual Facebook friends with that person… Especially within DIY, leveraging that community can be helpful. I don’t have a professional booking agent who has established relationships with venues.”
According to Morgan Schaffner, marketing manager for Brooklyn-based concert promoter AdHoc, Facebook still dominates promotion. “People’s decision to attend a show is often based on social reasons, and Facebook does truly make it very easy to see which of your friends are ‘attending’ a show… I think it’d be very challenging to as easily find such a large target audience.”
Schaffner says that AdHoc does book bands without Facebook pages, although they “do see less organic engagement on the event.” As for alternatives like Instagram and Twitter, she noted that competing platforms “will come and go,” but that building your own website is the only way to have “complete control” as a band. Of course, the question of who will ever see that website nowadays will strike fear in any young band’s heart.
“Or even better,” she adds, “start your own zine.”