I Got 150 People Into A Bar's Basement. (Twice)

Here's How I Got 150 People Into A Bar's Basement. (Twice)

Imagine convincing not just your friends but 150 folks to follow you into a dingy basement.

Somehow, I did it twice.

That's me, the Pied Piper of basement parties, minus the flute but with all the charm.

Impressive right? (bit of sarcasm there...although I was pretty proud at the time!)

Failed Print On Demand, Turned DnB Parties

So my journey wasn't aimed at becoming the next big event guru.

I was actually failing at getting a print on demand t-shirt company going.

(I think it's pretty much a rite of passage for most of us entrepreneurs)

It was the first business that I ever made, and I didn't really know what I was doing (still don't). So I tried to differentiate and make something about the brand - ergo, drum & bass gigs.

Venue Vibes: Cosy Over Spacious

On a shoe string budget of £250 for a venue, I found myself a basement which more closely resembled a low-budget horror film, complete with flickering lights and a vibe that suggested the next DJ set might be played by a ghost.

I coined it "cosy".

Basically I aimed for a full house, that screamed "success" rather than an echoing void.

Here's what it looked like in the end:

How Did I Promote it?

Initially, I didn't have much of a plan.

But I eventually found a couple of things that worked.

Free DJ's and Facebook ads.

Free DJ's

I'd go on Instagram and find some DnB DJ's in the area, and just reach out and see if they wanted to play.

I'd give them a plus one, then let them promote it however they wanted.

We had a shared incentive, get as many eyeballs on the gig as possible. I'd promote them, and they'd promote me, win win. 

They'd also often bring their friends, meaning there'd be a few more people through the door.

It worked a lot better than I thought it would.

Facebook Ads

I created a Facebook event and then took the DJ's that I'd brought and made a few random Facebook ads about them, using the content they already had (this meant I didn't have to pay for Ad content).

The Facebook ads were targeted to get people to click "going" on the event.

I used targeting based off Drum and Bass labels I liked, which were relevant to the niche.

The idea was that once I got a few people going, Facebook would promote the event to their friends.

I think this worked. I was pretty bad at social media at the time (again, still am) so it was unlikely they were coming for any other reason.

Here was the best performing video I had in the ads (I think I ended up paying £50 for this guy - he was a friend of mine from years ago - lovely guy!):


Event Number 2

So after to the first event exceeded my expectations, I thought "Great, round two".

This time, I thought I'd try to expand a bit, and bring a couple of DJ's with a bit more notoriety.

After a bit of searching I found two DJ's within my price range, with releases on labels that I listened to. The DJ's were Telomic & Data 3 - they had releases on labels like Liquicity and Shogun Audio, along with a number of others.

Here's a pic of Telomic playing at the event, wearing that sweet sweet Liquicity jacket.



These two added a bit more umph to the event which meant it was easier to advertise. I also used lookalike audiences in the facebook ads.

This time, it cost me around 50p to get someone to click "going" on the event.

Here's what the event looked like on the day....pretty good to me!

Data 3 playing at my event


Why Didn't I Carry On?

My friends apparently loved the events (they asked for more) and I had a blast, but realised it was probably going to be very hard to scale it.

I also took a look at what the end position would look like as a business. I'd probably have to run bigger and bigger events, and each event would have more risk in comparison to the reward.

Also, somewhat primarily, events are stressful. Even small ones.

Final Lessons from the Underground

Facebook ads are gold for events, events are stressful, and never underestimate the pulling power of a random DJ and a plus-one!

Back to blog

Stories for Startups.

Get Smarter Every Week - We Send You Cool Stories About People Making Money, and Tell You How They Did It.

Stop anytime.