We've all been there. You get a cool gig or show and you want there to be a good turnout. So you ask yourself “how to get friends out to my shows?”
You decide to spend the next two weeks feeling like you're spamming the crap out of your friends on social media. You get a lot of likes on your posts and even some supportive comments.
Maybe you even go the extra mile and directly text a bunch of friends to tell them about the gig and ask them to support you. They reply enthusiastically: “Yess! I'd love to go!!”
Then the day of the gig comes. One or two of your friends shows up, but where is everyone else? Does nobody ACTUALLY care?
Then you get a handful of stray texts from friends that say “Sorry… not going to make it after all. Good luck tonight!”
Should you just quit music? I mean if you were an actually good musician they'd do whatever they can to attend, right? There's no point in even trying to promote these shows and gigs, right?
NOPE. As I said, we've ALL had this happen, and it really doesn't mean anything (aside from the fact that you have flakey friends).
Your Friends Are Not True Fans (and That's OK)
It really boils down to the fact that your friends are not inherently true fans – which is ok! It's music – one of the most personal things on earth. You can't expect all of your friends to love your music. Not all of your friends like Taylor Swift. And even among your friends that love Taylor Swift, not all of them are driven to go to her shows when she is in town.
Let me share a framework I've come up with to help you understand the different levels of fandom, David's Hierarchy of Leads.
As this chart illustrates, the largest group of people is ALWAYS going to be your non-fans. People who either don't know about you or just don't click with you. That's just life. It applies to Taylor Swift too.
The next level up is the 2nd largest: Casual Fans. It's self-explanatory in that some fans are naturally not invested. That's ok. I guarantee you are a casual fan to hundreds if not thousands of artists. They're the artists that if it comes on shuffle you're down, but don't really seek out to listen to, don't go out of your way to make sure you go to their shows, etc.
Casual fans is the level where most of your friends will fall under. It's just math. It doesn't mean they're bad friends (unless they're being dicks about your following your dreams… that's a different story).
Beyond that is a more exclusive level: True Fans. These are people that don't just have some passing or fleeting appreciation for your music – these are people that go out of their way to listen to you, to support you, to go to your shows, buy your merch, etc. They are people that are more willing to move from awareness into desire and action for you.
Past that, you have Super Fans. These are the biggest, most invested true fans. They will do ANYTHING for you. They will buy almost everything, they will give you thousands of dollars to your Indiegogo, they will drive states away to see you.
Basically, the point I'm getting at is having different levels of investment is natural and it's completely fair for your friends to not be Super Fans. Sure, invite them to your shows and be glad when they support you, but don't take it as a sign that you're a terrible artist.
A Prophet Gets No Honor In Their Home Town
You could make the best music on earth, but you're still up against a huge problem – your friends know you.
People have a subconscious bias to think that people they grew up with are somehow different than the people they only hear about in legends. If your friends grew up with Taylor Swift, I guarantee they'd be like “lmao I can't believe freaking Taylor is the biggest pop star in the world.”
In the same way, I guarantee half of the smallish artists you listen to live extremely normal lives and run into the same issues among their close friends they grew up with. You just see the side of them that's created an image/artist persona/etc.
This phenomenon has been known FOREVER. Like it's literally in the Bible that “a prophet gets no honor in their home town.”
You can't take your friends' lack of investment too seriously. They are not the end-all-be-all benchmark for your worth as an artist. All you can do is focus on building connections with the people that DO connect with you and your music.