How I Lost $20,000 on a Failed Event

Before starting Audience Republic, I was a music event promoter — a high risk job involving booking artists and selling tickets to events. It’s amazing when things work out, but devastating when it all falls down around your head.

This is the story of how a failed event became the reason why I started Audience Republic.

‘A Heartbreaker Right from the Start’

It was the night before the gig, I had booked Canadian electronic duo MSTRKRFT. I had this sinking feeling because I knew, tomorrow night, I would lose $20,000.

Every 30 seconds I was refreshing the ticket sales to see how many I’d sold. I needed to sell 700 tickets to break even, and I had sold just 400 (in a 1,200 capacity venue) 😭.

My first ever event, just a few months earlier with electronic act The Bloody Beetroots, completely sold out in just a few weeks. And as an ambitious 19 year old, I remember thinking: ‘This is easy! If I do just 10 of these every year, I’ll be a millionaire’.

Fast forward to MSTRKRFT, where I stood on the balcony to a half-empty venue watching them play Heartbreaker, trying to figure out where I went wrong.

Listen to “MSTRKRFT — Heartbreaker (ft John Legend)” while you read! 🎶

‘All My Friends Said You’d Break My Heart’

I realised that I pretty much made every mistake you can possibly make. This is where I went so very wrong. Here are just a few of them:
 
 #1 Booked the Wrong Artist — I booked MSTRKRFT because I loved their music. Turns out not quite enough people thought the same way in that particular market. Note to self — don’t book artists purely because you like them.

#2 Overpriced the Tickets — After the first event being a success financially, I got greedy & overconfident. For MSTRKRFT, I increased the ticket price way too much, and it was just too expensive. Had I been a bit more reasonable with the ticket price, I probably would have been far better off.

#3 Overpaid the Artist Fee — If you’ve ever booked an artist you’ll know it’s way too easy to get emotional about it. I certainly did — and it cost me. After negotiating with their agent, I probably paid twice as much as I should have for the artist fees.

#4 Failed to Realise There is a Fixed Market Size — There were a number of competing events on that night, meaning I was behind from the start. It doesn’t matter how big the artist is, there is a certain point where the market hits saturation due to competition.

‘I Tried So Hard’

Even though the MSTRKRFT gig wasn’t a success financially, it was a bloody fun night, at least that’s what I kept telling myself!

I did suffer a massive blow to the ego. Thankfully the first event more than covered my losses — otherwise it would have been over before it began.

Eventually I managed to pick myself up after this epic failure, and went on to do about 20 other music events over 3 years (like Boys Noize, Kill The Noise, D.I.M., Sampology and Miami Horror).

Some of them did really well, and others not as well. Thankfully none quite disastrous as a $20,000 loss.

In hindsight I learned nothing from the successful events, I learned most from the failures.

The Bloody Beetroots. Photo Credit: KOOL KAT

‘Remember When I Caught Your Eye’

According to CEO of Live Nation Michael Rapino,“78% of events don’t actually sell out,” so this was a massive problem affecting a large number of event promoters — I certainly found this out the hard way.

“78% of events don’t actually sell out,” — Michael Rapino, CEO Live Nation

I realised what I was missing wasn’t something that ticketed the events (e.g. Ticketmaster), but something that helped me sell the tickets — that’s how you make money after all.

This is when I knew I had to create Audience Republic — it’s what I needed for myself as an event promoter. It’s a software platform that powers the marketing for events, helping sell more tickets.

‘That’s When I Knew There’s No Turning Back’

The most important thing I learned from running music events, is something that every promoter knows… If your friend is going to an event, that makes you 10x more likely to buy a ticket.

If your friend is going to an event, that makes you 10x more likely to buy a ticket.

Audience Republic is built around this concept, making sure that event promoters can leverage word of mouth and groups of friends to sell more tickets.

Being invited to an event by a friend is just so much more powerful than a sponsored post or an ‘influencer’ flogging tickets to people they don’t know.

How it works: Audience Republic amplifies word-of-mouth between friends. You can create campaigns that incentivise your fans (with things like exclusive tickets, discounts and prizes) to invite their friends to buy tickets — regardless of which ticketing provider you use.

We also make it easy to understand more about who attends your events, helping you sell more tickets. We provide insights like your most loyal/highest spending fans and top influencers, along with their interests, artist preferences, age, gender and location.


We’ve been proud to power the marketing for events featuring artists like Chance The Rapper, Martin Garrix, Ladyhawke, Fat Boy Slim, Julio Bashmore, Basement Jaxx, Sticky Fingers, Hot Chip, Hermitude, Mac Miller and Rufus.

The $20,000 loss is still a painful memory for me, but thankfully it’s turned into one of the best investments I ever made.


Want to find out how you can sell more tickets? Click here to find out more about Audience Republic.