Words: Dylan Murphy
Artwork: Paul Smith
In a pre-pandemic world, Facebook event pages were the bustling online epicentre for organising club nights. They were an essential part of promoters’ arsenals for getting heads through the door and a convenient way for punters to connect with like minded people and discover new nights. Though the events page survived the cyclical nature of the internet for much longer than could have been expected, the isolating effects of the pandemic and lack of events killed the events page once and for all.
Before he was Director at District, Craig Connolly ran weekly club nights across the capital and he spoke in memorandum about the Facebook event page, a once essential thread of club culture that took its last breath during the pandemic.
The internet has been changing how we live in radical ways since its inception. It’s no longer something we ‘do’ or a hobby, but a resource as essential as water and electricity for getting through the day. I mean, we laugh about the weekend zoom parties, but can you imagine how unquestionably fucked we would’ve been without the internet in the past 18 months? Forget needing Tiger King to get through 2020, I can’t begin to fathom the media scramble to coin new adjectives describing the hellscape of panic buying industrial quantities of toilet paper over the phone in March of last year.
While it was a solitary lifeline during the last couple of years, let’s not forget that before the pandemic, social media was already at the centre of how we connected. For events in particular, Facebook was essential. Promoters would launch their event pages and drum up the online hype machine in way that just wasn’t possible in the days of traditional flyering. It was a game-changer, not only for reaching more people with incessant invites and fomo-inducing “goings” on the timeline, but because promoters could gauge whether their event was going to succeed or to flop.
But with the rate at which the internet moves and the cyclical migration of people across platforms it was perhaps inevitable that Facebook and the event pages would fall off. While there’s no doubt it was accelerated by the isolating effects of the pandemic, what’s most surprising is how the events page managed to survive for so long. Going strong for over 15 circles around the sun is centuries in social media terms. Yik Yak barely lasted a couple of years, Snapchat’s cohort has been reduced to children, and Vine’s reign on internet culture—though beautiful—was short lived.
If anything, Facebook is the exception to this pattern we’re all familiar with. It had made it through the virtual gulag with one limb outliving the rest of the platform. In the past, entire worlds we created for ourselves gave way to new ones every five to eight years; Myspace fell apart, BEBO tapped out for Facebook, and Instagram sanitised some of Tumblr’s most engaging functions before absorbing it completely. The event page was the last bastion of hope for Zuckerberg holding onto younger audiences and now, it’s all but gone.
At the start, the idea was that if you invite 10,000 people, that would guarantee that three to four hundred people would want to go to [the event] by virtue of how many were invited.Craig Connolly, Director of District
District Director Craig Connolly was a club promoter for over ten years before hanging up his boots four years ago. He’s watched many of these developments happen in real time and in the summer of 2007 he swapped the poster runs at Micromedia in Temple Bar for long and excruciating hours spent refreshing event page attendee numbers. In the time since he has experienced the best and the worst of the event page culture.
Laughing about the impracticality of sharing posters on people’s BEBO walls, Craig explains Facebook event pages turned attendance predictions for events from a series of hopeful prayers into a numbers game.
“When the events page came along, you were able to get all your info across and it was a revelation to be able to do it. I knew promoters that still used posters and flyers, but we were like ‘no, this is it’. As a promoter you sit on Facebook and make sure everyone knows about your event. You’d be on Messenger—and I’d like to apologise to everyone I berated—and you’d be like ‘can you click attending’. I think everyone has been subjected to this person and it was me, ‘Click attending on this and I’ll add you on the guestlist’. That was it, that was the cycle. In theory the more people you had on the event, the more likely it was going to be busy. At the start, the idea was if you invite 10,000 people that’d guarantee you 3-400 people would want to go to it by virtue of how many were invited.
As a promoter you are only as good as your last gig. If you ever have a bad week, could be any reason, could be pissing rain could be another giant gig on, there could be exams, but if you don’t get people through the door, you’d be like ‘Oh fuck the club-night is dying’, and it was not necessarily the case. So the stronger the event page the more relief you felt leading up to the event.”
While the pages eased the pre-event scaries, they also worked to extend its reach afterwards. Photos would be shared into the page in the days after the event and if promoters were savvy they could notify attendees of the snaps and attach details of the next event too. It was a win-win for everyone unless there was a mortifying photo of you sucking the face off someone or a rogue chin swinging between room 1 and 2.
Additionally, it became a matchmaker of sorts, becoming the cohesive glue that connected likeminded Facebook mutuals in its own little online pocket. For young people venturing out for the first time, the posts and comments were equal parts reassuring and adrenaline inducing. Seeing Boiler Room sets thrown in beforehand and requests for track IDs afterwards made the night live beyond the confines of the club. For swathes of young people it was a modern extension of Dance music’s sense of community. Comments, videos and pictures reliving the night became cultural artefacts in themselves.
It wasn’t just vital for music lovers and the nighttime industry either. The very same dynamics that alerted punters to new events became a lifeblood of viral counter-culture. At its best, people clicking ‘going’ on distant and arbitrary pages ensured thousands attended an eight year old’s piano recital and—at its most ridiculous—had hundreds turn up at Area 51.
While there’s no doubting the benefits of the event page, club culture ultimately had to pay a price for the security it brought promoters. Selling a gig, no matter the lineup was often reduced to a process concerned with inflating pages and creating a sense of FOMO rather than building a lasting connection with an audience. And look, not all promoters are puritans dedicated to enriching the culture. In a pragmatic sense, there’s always money on the line. However, it did mean ballooning impression numbers and analysing data was prioritised over winning new fans – a development that can’t necessarily be quantified.
Irrespective of the arguments about the sanctity of promoting, what’s clear is this. The demise of the Facebook event page leaves a one-stop-shop-for-events-shaped-hole on social media. Moreover, as younger users leave behind Facebook’s toxic comment section and migrate to Instagram and TikTok, it leaves us with more questions than answers. The dopamine-fuelled slot machine of TikTok and Twitter rules out detailed event bios and while posters work well on Instagram the comment section is usually made up of momentary positive responses rather than a sustained discourse.
However, Craig suggests that this could be an opportunity to return to the essence of promoting nights rather than a loss for the culture.
“Now that the crutch of the Facebook event page is gone people can spend more time listening to mixes, spend time digging around, spend more time on discourse online about who the next big DJ or act is, and interacting more in a more personable sense rather than just this club night talking out and not getting anything back.
You’d never really know if you’d have a really, really good night unless it sold out before hand. It feels like it is going back to what the truer essence of running a club night should be. At a house and techno night or a non-commercial event it should be about pockets of people coming together. You can still have those conversations whether it’s through Instagram DMs, Discord, or whatever.
In terms of nurturing and building that stuff, the Facebook event actually brought a halt to that [For promoters], it became ‘whats the easiest way I can get 1000 people to click on my event’”.
New challenges breed creative responses. Having had a year indoors to reflect on what they really resonate with, the stage is set for a new generation of digitally-literate young people to push progressive and intimate events in fresh ways.
“That is the innovative way, where if you can’t get across with a thousand word event page what you are about, you know you have to grab people on social media…”, Craig explains.
It’s likely going to be an approach that’s spread across multiple platforms with each doing their own part to express a night’s values and aesthetics. TikTok and Instagram provide more room to add a personal touch to events with BTS footage, witty captions, and inside looks at the people and ethos of the party. All these could go a long way in developing more loyalty and connections that faceless event pages ever could.
“Overall I think the event page, had its time. I’m glad it’s gone and I’m glad that it’s time the more innovative promoters can let their work shine through and let what they are be portrayed beyond numbers.”