As a musician, marketing your music is essential for building a fan base and growing your career. However, marketing can often be expensive, leaving independent artists struggling to compete with major label budgets. In this episode, Lil Cross, founder of Dead to the World and a rising star in the music industry, discusses how you can scale your music marketing without breaking the bank. Lil Cross shares his own experiences and insights on how to make the most of limited resources, including DIY promotional strategies, content creation tips, and social media. He also highlights the importance of creating actual content, authentic connections with fans, and a unique brand that sets you apart from the competition. Tune in and learn how to take your music career to the next level without having to break the bank.
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Music Marketing: Low-Cost Strategies For Amplifying Your Music Career With Lil Cross
I am here with Lil Cross. We are going to be talking about all things how to make money as a musician, which I know you are tuned in for. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here. Before we jump into all the nitty-gritty details about making money, scaling your business, and all those things, I would love to have you let the audiences know about your background as an artist, how you got into your musical journey up until now, and how you started your current company and collective called Dead to the World.
I want to start by saying thanks so much for having me. I’m a fan of the show. I’m happy to be here. My name is Lil Cross. I’m based in Tampa, Florida. I’ve been making music my whole life. I started putting it out around 2016. I became a full-time musician within the last couple of years. In high school around the 2016 era when I started making music, I was making music with my friends from high school who inspired me to start creating. We call ourselves Dead to the World.
A lot of those people didn’t stick with it, but over time, I continued to pursue it both as a hobby for fun and as a career. I eventually met different artists along the way who I’ve added to the collective who are more dedicated and more passionate and who are people who matched my energy in that regard. Some of them are artists that I work with. Two of those individuals are GumbyDTW and Ethan Marino.
We all three started a company together, which is also called Dead to the World. We released music as a collective as well, but our company focuses on hosting events. We have an event venue and a recording studio. We do session recording as well. Our main offer is a consultation course where we teach independent artists how to monetize and create offers out of their music. We specialize in helping artists host events as well.
That’s awesome. First, I’ve got to say you may be the youngest person I’ve had on this show, which is cool. How did you go from doing the artist stuff, running a venue, running a studio, and all that to the education side of helping artists?
I was in a free-for-all with the original artist stuff in that regard because I was doing whatever I could to make money off my craft. I had moved out. Unfortunately, I got kicked out of college. I was left with no other choice, “I’m either going to keep working at Checkers or figure out a way to make money off the music.” I was already mixing and mastering my stuff, which was, at first, a means to save money from going to the studio. I started hosting studio sessions for other artists, which was in my apartment.
The event, Dead to the World, started me and my friends splitting the cost of a venue. It wasn’t intentional to make a profit, but we did because we sold so many tickets and stuff that it ended up outweighing the cost that each of us spent on the venue. It became a thing where I was like, “If I can learn how to do this more often, scale, sell more tickets, and stuff like that, I can make more money.” I started hosting events and studio time. I came to my friends. It was a thing that we were doing to make money.
I pitched it to them. I was like, “Let’s license this as a business. Let’s go out there. Let’s find a commercial place that we could start renting so that it’s our venue so we can cut down on operating expenses.” We also built a studio in-house so I didn’t have to record people in my apartment anymore. As people were coming in, there were a few things. First of all, there’s a ceiling for scalability with that. We don’t have a massive venue. The capacity is 200. There’s only so much we can make off events by selling out the event. Everyone is buying merch there. Everyone is buying food and drinks.
There’s only so much money we can make, and so often that we can host events. It’s the same thing with studio time. You can only charge so much for studio time. It’s always an hourly thing. There are only so many hours in the day. There’s a ceiling for scalability in that regard. That was something that came to my mind, but in general, we were doing artist consultations. That was out of necessity.
Many artists were coming to us for simple things. They didn’t know how to set up their PRAs, distribution, and that kind of stuff. We would be like, “If you want to pay us for another hour after the studio time, we’re starting the same rate as the studio time but we will sit down with you and help you get it distributed, licensed, and stuff like that.”
I hired some coaches and mentors. They were like, “This is the real moneymaker. Consulting has a way higher ceiling for scalability,” which is what I was looking for. That’s when we packaged it into a scalable offer to where a lot of it relied on modules now and group meetings. It’s less reliant on our one-on-one time. There’s a lot bigger transformation. It’s a much higher ticket now. It’s not like, “Come in and spend $50, and then you can come back whenever you want.” You have to be committed to the whole course. You have to be committed from start to finish, getting from where you’re at to being a full-time musician. We repackaged it in a way that allowed us to increase our fulfillment and be able to scale.
That’s smart. Are you doing this mostly in person? Do you have online offerings as well?
It’s all online at this point. The only in-person stuff is someone is at the studio because they’re around us. They know about us. They hear about our consulting. We have a lot of people that are absorbed from the studio time or events to the actual course, but it’s not like we’re driving to each other’s houses to have meetings. A lot of this consulting stuff is daily communication. Even with the people who are within physical reach of us, we’re still communicating with them electronically.
I’m curious. You’re teaching musicians how they can build their businesses and scale all of that stuff. You talked about your journey. Are you mostly encouraging them to do what you did as far as the consulting and where the good money is? I’m curious about this because I know that our industry gets into coaches coaching coaches to coach. It’s this domino effect of everybody coaching everybody else. Who’s out there doing the stuff? Do you have people that are performing out there and maybe also running a studio or teaching as well as maybe doing the coaching that you’re doing for them?
There are a lot of different sides. There’s a lot to unpack there. First and foremost, a lot of the time, the reason why it becomes that linear coaching is that it works. When you’re focused on fulfillment, it’s scary to say, “Let’s sell merchandise,” when it’s ordering some merchandise for $20 instead of selling the sport for $2,000. The amount of clients we need to become lucrative is 100. We’re able to fulfill better, especially because also the business that we have built and the business that we have been able to scale is a coaching-based business.
The best advice I could give is in accordance and in alignment with that. With that being said, I’m very adamant. The whole reason I created this course is to help empower artists and do what they love doing for a living. If they don’t love coaching but love making music, then the path for them is not to be a coach. I do think it’s important to understand a few things. First of all, when you’re starting any business, there are going to be a few months or years of suck before you get to that point where things are a little bit more outsourced, and you can focus on the music.
Regardless of what it is an artist is selling, there’s the actual work component involved. Let’s say it is getting booked for shows because they love performing. They don’t love coaching. Every hour you spend on stage performing, you’re going to spend dozens of hours creating your pitch, sending it to different venues, and learning how that works. You can get to a point where you use your money, time, and knowledge as leverage to be able to focus on music and have passive things generating revenue or things like getting booked for events that are so easy, and you’ve outsourced those systems to other people like booking agents and stuff like that, but to get that point, you’re going to have to do the groundwork.
Sometimes that groundwork is coaching, and then you can outsource the fulfillment to other people. Sometimes that groundwork is hosting events, which is another popular one because people love performing. A lot of times, it’s like, “Let’s do this suck of putting this event together and dealing with other artists so we can make money off of our music and make that money perform.” The offers manifest themselves in different ways, but regardless, across the board, you’re going to have to pick between money and time. Time buys money. The most logical option is to do the most lucrative thing first and then use that thing as leverage to get your time back and do what you work with that time.
I like that you’re saying that. I feel like when I first started coaching musicians, nobody wanted to say that because it wasn’t sexy. It was like, “I want to do music. I want this music to make me the money that I want,” but we have to admit that sometimes, especially in the beginning, that’s not the case. We’ve got to do what we got to do, whether it’s doing something else in the music industry, teaching, coaching, or having a whole other job on the side to bolster yourself up so you can get to that level because it does take a few years to get your systems going and that whole snowball going downhill instead of feeling like you’re always pushing it up the hill.
That’s in any case. We’re more empowered than ever. What I mean by that is we’re less reliant on labels, managers, A&Rs, and other things to take hold of our careers. That means a few things. It means we’re more empowered, but also, now those responsibilities lie upon us. We have a few options. We can make music and hope that someone walks by, holds our hand, label signs us, takes ownership of half of our stuff, and does all that work for us, and we focus on making music, but that’s based on the contingent of getting lucky enough for that label to find you and also based on the contingent of them taking a large percentage of your money away. You can acknowledge that regardless of the path that you take, it’s going to require work outside of music.
I can’t think of a way that someone is getting paid through musicianship that didn’t require work outside of music, even if it’s people who don’t have a big offer or anything like that. They built up a bunch of notoriety. They’re getting booked for shows. They’re getting brand deals and song placements. How do they build up that notoriety? They probably made a bunch of content on TikTok or Instagram murals. That content is not music. You spent hours making content and doing work so you could get attention to the music itself. I don’t know anyone that goes to the studio, makes great music, doesn’t do any work outside of that, and then somehow ends up getting paid millions of dollars or thousands of dollars. I’ve never seen that.
That’s a good point. Even if you’re a musician creating content, that content leads to the music, but it isn’t the music. You’re creating a whole other thing. It’s a whole other job.
It doesn’t matter how good the music is. You can’t maintain the output and the quality of the content. Everything falls apart. The question is less of, “I can only do music,” and more so acknowledging that you’re going to have to work in some other area to gain some other skill to monetize some music. Pick between all the options that you have to find the one that works best for you. Oftentimes, it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. When we start making music, we suck at first.
The same thing is going to happen with content. You learn to love it. If you’re creative enough to be a musician, you’re probably creative enough to make some cool content. I’m sure that if you applied yourself in practice instead of being uptight and entitled, “I make great music, so everything else should fall into place,” and if you go out there, you might have some fun making some content.If you're creative enough to be a musician, you're probably creative enough to make some cool content. Click To Tweet
There’s none of this entitlement, “I’m an artist. I don’t do that.” In my mind, as artists, we do need to have a way to get leads, fans, or whatever we want to call them. We in the internet marketing world will call them leads. A lot of musicians are more like fans, potential fans, or listeners. How can you attract those perfect people? How do you know who those perfect people are, in your opinion?
The first thing we need to do is make the distinction between fans and customers because a lot of people use these terms interchangeably. If your goal is to make money off your music, I wouldn’t necessarily consider a fan a lead. What I mean by that is unless you have an offer that is directly pertaining to that fan that’s not your music, the only thing they’re a genuine lead to is streaming your song. That’s not a lucrative enough source of revenue for that to be substantial or meaningful. You have a fan that loves you and is streaming you, but if they stream you 100 times, Spotify has given you 1/3 of a penny. That doesn’t amount to anything.
First, you have to make that distinction. Are you looking for fans of your music? Are you looking for validation? Are you looking for a number next to a song? Are you looking for a number in a bank account? Are you looking for an actual lead to who you can sell something? Making that distinction alone is the only thing a lot of people need to move forward and be able to create a path to that goal.
When it comes to genuinely attracting leads, whether that be a lead for the music or a lead for an actual offer you have, first of all, content is a necessity. What a lot of people do is a lot of times jump to marketing. Marketing is great for scaling something that works. Marketing shouldn’t be the thing that makes it work in the first place. What I mean by that is if your content isn’t good enough to generate new fans or leads organically, then chances are when you market yourself, those people are going to start looking at your content. Your content isn’t good enough. That marketing isn’t going to pay off. It’s not going to amount to anything.
The better the organic content is, the better the actual marketing is going to be. First things first when it comes to acquiring leads is making good content that’s in alignment with what the lead wants to see and hear and then using the data and analysis from whatever pieces of content attracted the most leads to then market that. Understand what your audience is, input some of their interests and stuff into a Facebook ad, and then boost specifically the post that was already generating leads organically. It was already working without money put into it.
I like that. For sure, organic is so good for testing. You can throw all kinds of different angles and things like that out there and see what sticks and what people resonate with. You can then put the money behind that. I’m curious. I think of organic also as marketing, but when you say marketing, you’re more like the organic is testing, and the marketing starts when you start paying for ads and things.
When I’m saying marketing, I’m specifically referring to paid marketing. Marketing technically can be organic too. I also want to mention that the testing should be limited. We shouldn’t be throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. What we need to do is identify who our perfect person is. This is a practice that’s done by every business out there but a lot of artists don’t think about the business side of things or they haven’t been educated on it. It’s working backward from who your product is designed for.
If it’s an actual product, service, piece of merchandise, or a show, that’s going to look different than a fan of your music. If you’re making content for someone to buy tickets to your event because you want to get booked for events, then you have to make content that’s not just for someone to become a fan of your music, but it’s for someone who always goes to concerts for artists that they like to become a fan of your music. You have to understand what you’re marketing them to.
If it’s a fan of your music, who’s your perfect client? What you need to do is picture the individual who was most in need of what it is that you’re trying to market. Let’s say it is a song. The song is about a breakup or something that you went through. Who is the person that is most in need of hearing that? Maybe it’s someone that went through a breakup. Get as specific as possible.
If you’re specific in the song about why you broke up and the dynamic of the relationship, then include those specificities in the content so that the actual individual who is most in need and who would be most inclined to be interested in that song is being spoken to when they’re seeing your content. It’s creating a bridge for that individual to understand, “This is an incentive for me to go to this song. I relate and resonate with the advertising for it in the first place.”
I agree with that. I can imagine that our audiences, at least some of them, might be thinking, “Does that mean that I have different fan bases for each song that I have?” One song might be about breakups. Another song might be about some heavy and serious subject that’s maybe controversial, political, or something like that. We don’t write about the same thing all the time. Is there a transition between those people or an overlap? Are you thinking more of an individual when you’re marketing a song? It’s like, “These are the people for this. These are the people for my shows.” Are these all different buckets, and then there are some that overlap?
There’s genuine overlap most of the time. A lot of times, this is an entry point into being a fan of someone. When someone buys into the song and the brand, then that gives you leverage for them to make the assumption that they’re going to like the next song. Oftentimes, that’s the reason why they even listen to it in the first place and give it a chance to like it. If I think about my favorite artists, I love their next album before it comes out because of the fact that I’m such a fan of their previous work.
I view it as an entry point into the brand and the ecosystem to build that relationship with them. You can branch out. Even if you change the subject matter and the genre, they are attached to you in some way. They want to be interested in it. They want to like it, which is going to increase their likelihood of enjoying it. It’s not that hard to find common denominators. At the end of the day, your common denominator could be that you don’t have common denominators.
If every single one of your songs is a different topic or a different genre, then market your music to people who like extreme variety. At the end of the day, there has to be some common denominator among all the music you create. It depends on your approach. If you’re trying to get long-term fans, make sure the marketing that you’re doing for your most recent single is also in alignment with the other stuff that you put out. If you’re trying to push that single, then you can dive deeper into the specifics of the individual who would be most in need of hearing that song.
I like the idea of the ecosystem with different entry points. We would think of it probably as different funnels that lead into a whole big ecosystem. I like that approach. That’s going to resonate with artists. When you get into this paid marketing stuff, how can you use ads to scale? Musicians are very afraid to use ads, at least some of them because you can burn money easily on ads.
It’s weird because they’re afraid to do it because they have done it before, and it didn’t work. More people should be afraid and take caution before they spend a bunch of money. It doesn’t make sense to market something that isn’t already working. If something is already working, then the marketing is guaranteed to scale. What I mean by that is, first of all, if you don’t have a product or service available and if the only way that you’re monetizing your music is from streams, I can’t think of a single marketing source out there where you’re going to see ROI. You’re not going to see a return on your investment unless you’re selling something.
First of all, make sure that you’re selling something. We have to make this distinction. Some people do it for validation. They do like to have a number next to a song. They like to feel that a bunch of people are listening to them. They’re less concerned with ROI. If that’s the case, go market your music to whoever you want and put it on a Spotify playlist. If your goal is seeing a return on your investment and monetizing, first of all, the marketing has to be conversion-based. What are you converting them to? Where is this point that you’re taking them that’s going to get them to purchase something and that’s going to allow you to see ROI?
Going back to what I mentioned earlier, the key is to do that organically. If you can already create a lead magnet on Instagram reels, use that lead magnet to attract clients, nurture them a little bit, and then eventually convert them, paying to have that reel boosted doesn’t make any sense. The first step is to create an offer. If you want to convert, have something that’s monetizable that is selling at a high enough price for it to even make sense to be chasing customers for it.
Once you have that, then try and generate those customers organically using organic marketing. Once you’re successful in that regard, that’s when you would scale and do paid advertisements and stuff like that. At that point, it should be easy. Bad marketing with a good offer, good branding, and good content and creative is going to still be a much better effect than good marketing but bad offers and bad brands. You’re taking them to a funnel that doesn’t work.
It doesn’t require that much marketing knowledge to scale. Do a little bit of research on Facebook ads. You should already have customers. Find the common denominators among those individuals so you understand what your demographic is. Who are these people that are purchasing my stuff and listening to my music? What age are they? What gender are they? What are their common interests and stuff like that? You input that information into Facebook and target those individuals when running your ads.
The only other thing to guarantee ROI is making sure they’re going through the same funnel and process that the organic people went through that led them to make a purchase. You have to understand that if someone enters your ecosystem three months ago, and you’re posting daily reels, and then three months later, that’s when they’re buying the product and service, understand that every single one of those reels got them a little bit closer and more familiar with you and what you do to finally get them to the point where they’re comfortable enough to convert.
Understand that it’s not just running the actual ad to find that individual in the first place. It’s replicating the nurturing process that worked on the previous individuals. Once you see success organically, replicate that process. Try and find someone that looks exactly like the customers you already have. Walk them through the exact process that you walked your current customers through to make the conversion. There shouldn’t be any reason why they wouldn’t convert unless you’re misidentifying something or forgetting something that you did along the way with those customers in someplace where you engage with them or interacted with them to get them to the point where they’re converting.
It’s reverse engineering. I do this all the time with emails because it’s much easier to do. If someone buys my big program, I would be like, “How did they get here? What did they do on the way? Which emails did they open? Which smaller products did they buy? How long does it take them?” It’s harder to do on social media? How would you track that with somebody that was on Instagram reels or TikTok and then bought from you? How can you figure out what their journey was?
The key here is for your content to be intentional in doing that in the first place. When you’re posting those 30 reels organically to get your initial customers before you’re doing marketing, the idea should be that those 30 reels are going to nurture and convince that person to become a warmer lead so you can eventually close them. Over time, you should be able to speed that process up. It’s hard to know which reels they saw and interacted with, but we can also study analytics.
Instagram gives us everything. It gives us how many people saved the posts, how many impressions it got, how many people watched it all the way through, how many people left a like, and how many people left a comment. Use those analytics to gauge the success of your content and the success of moving it along. A lot of it is going to be intuition based. You’re going to have to have that figure-it-out-ness. If you’ve had this lead for months, and then you post a piece of content, that’s what caused them to DM you, and then you eventually book them.
I would highlight that piece of content and be like, “This is something that pushed them over the edge,” replicate it, post more of it, and see if that was a fluke or if it does it again. You’re going to have to do testing in that regard, but the content should be so intentional to target and nurture these individuals in the first place. You should be walking into it with the mindset of already analyzing from the start even when you’re doing organically what’s working and what’s not.When creating content, it should be so intentional to target and nurture individuals in the first place. Click To Tweet
That makes sense. What would you say to someone that maybe has a few hundred followers on a social platform? How can they get the numbers that they need to test things before they go out and buy Facebook ads? What I see artists do is, “I don’t have followers. I’m going to put money into ads so I can get this in front of more people.” It’s the opposite of what you say to do.
You have to go back to what I said earlier and understand that if your content isn’t bringing in new followers, then marketing that content doesn’t make any sense. Your content isn’t good enough to attract new people, keep them there, and make them hit follow. In paying to get that content in front of people, the issue isn’t people seeing it. The issue is the content being good enough to draw them in. You’re always going to have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to make good content to attract followers.
I would also argue that there isn’t an ideal amount of followers that you need to be able to start selling. There are businesses that generate hundreds of thousands of dollars off of a couple of hundred people. If you’re able to identify the process to monetizing those couple of hundred people, that’s a lot more powerful than getting 1,000 or 10,000 but only making money off those individuals off streams. Put some merch out and figure out how to sell it to those 100 individuals. That gives you a lot of leverage. Even if you do want to spend money in marketing, and you fail, at least that’s not coming out of pocket. At least that money was coming from customers that you sold from your music.
It sounds like you’re saying that the content that we create needs to run the gamut. There needs to be some content for getting followers and attracting people, and then there needs to be some intent that’s more for converting them and creating customers.
I can’t imagine a world where you would have a successful brand if you didn’t have those components, whether that’s on Instagram, TikTok, your website, or even Spotify. The content on your Spotify is your music and your profile picture. These things matter. Where are we marketing people to? If it’s an amazing ad, and you’re like, “I’m going to click on this profile and check it out,” and then they check it out, and the content isn’t good enough to entertain them, then none of it matters.
Where you’re sending people when you’re marketing has to be engaging. The only exceptions would be if it’s a direct-to-purchase thing. If your offer is so incredible that the individual seeing the ad that has no idea who you are doesn’t need to know who you are and become more familiar with you to purchase your product or service, then you can run a direct conversion ad. They don’t have to go to an Instagram page. They don’t have to go anywhere and be entertained to be engaged and stay there.
I would argue that’s hard to do. Oftentimes with artists, that’s not the goal of what we’re doing. We’re trying to retain people and keep them as fans. The idea is if you want a fan base, you have to have an ecosystem. First of all, you have to have a place where you can communicate with them, show them content, and tell them that you’re releasing. That would be your social media, Instagram, or TikTok. If you are not entertaining on these platforms, then your posts will not show up in their feed. They will not know when you’re releasing and selling products and services. They will unfollow you because of the fact that they’re looking at your content, and it’s not engaging. They don’t like it anyways.If you want a fan base, you have to have an ecosystem. Click To Tweet
At the end of the day, regardless of how good the music is, when it comes to your ecosystem and being able to communicate with your fans and tell them about what’s next, leverage those fans to make more money to even go out there and get more fans for you by telling their friends about you. To do that, the ecosystem itself has to be one worth staying. It has to be one where the fans are entertained. They want to go back to the profile and check out the most recent post because it’s entertaining enough and intriguing enough for them.
Let’s talk about converting people into customers. When you teach musicians how to do this, is it more in DMS? Is it sending them to a page? Do you even encourage them to get on the phone with people or all of the above?
All of the above. Regardless of what it is that you’re selling, it is going to be easier to sell it on the phone than it is over text. That’s a universal truth. It comes down to a compromise and sacrifice thing. Are we going to compromise our money to save our time from hopping on sales calls? Are we going to compromise our time so we can make more money by closing more by getting on the phone?
It’s also a priority thing. Maybe the top priority is money, but once we reach a certain threshold, the top priority becomes time. Once we have taken enough sales calls, we’re making $5,000 a month consistently, and that’s all we need to get buy-in and make music without having to work another job. Now, maybe we could chill out a little bit and try and close more in the DMs and stuff like that because we don’t want to scale more. We don’t want to make more money. We want to buy our time back.
When it comes to converting, I would always suggest getting on the phone. There are instances where it makes more sense for you to try and sell online or via DMS instead of wasting your time trying to sell on the phone because we would want to outsource that immediately. The only examples of that would be lower-ticket stuff or things under around $200. There’s no point in getting on the phone for an hour to sell someone a $200 product. That’s not a good value for your time. Even if you have a 100% conversion rate, you’re getting paid $200 an hour. There’s a ceiling to that.Sometimes it makes more sense to try to sell online or via DMS instead of wasting your time trying to sell on the phone. Click To Tweet
If it’s very low-ticket, I would suggest hopping on the phone at first to understand sales tactics and how it works because the best place you’re going to grow is on a phone call face-to-face to make a sale. The end goal would be creating some funnel where the content and the DM messaging that you have is strong enough to be able to close the sale without a face-to-face interaction but with high-ticket, it’s the opposite. It would almost be impossible to sell something for $10,000 without a phone call.
It’s phone calls, Zoom, or whatever it is that works. You need to communicate with the person if they’re going to trust you with that money. Let me circle back because I want to talk about your experience with live venues. You have a venue because you were very successful at booking shows into other venues. What are your secrets? Everybody that’s here is going to want to know. How did you do that? Have you been able to do that since COVID and all that stuff?
I started hosting events during COVID. I’m based in Florida. It’s a free-for-all over here. It’s not someplace where it’s locked down.
I’m in California. It’s the total opposite.
I had a little bit of leverage from that perspective. It’s not that hard. That’s why I suggest so many artists do it. It’s simple, and it requires no capital because you can book slots in advance and use that money to go out and rent the venue. It boils down to a few things. The first thing to cover is minimizing input and understanding the ceiling for how many people are going to show up to your first event. If you’re not going to have any more than 200, then don’t book a venue that holds more than 200 people. Find the cheapest venue possible that can still accommodate the number of people that you have.
Some things to keep in mind with that are lighting, sound system, these things that the venue provides, or the things that you’re going to have to rent outside the venue. Compare those things, “This venue is cheaper, but it doesn’t have speakers. If I rent the speakers from someone else, it’s going to add up to be more money than if I got this other venue that’s more expensive but it comes with speakers.” Minimize your input. The only things that are 100% necessary for an event to run would be a venue, a DJ, a sound system, lighting, and security. If you have those five things, everything else on top of that is a plus. It’s not a necessity for the event to be run.
If you want to minimize input, get those five things as cheaply as humanly possible. Oftentimes, if you go out there and sit online for a little bit, you could probably find a DJ to come out for free to get another gig on his resume and stuff like that. They give you leverage or time in that regard. It should not be that hard to minimize the input. Typically, for a starter event, I’ve seen people be able to get all those accommodations between $500 to $800. The typical minimum output from an event is around $4,000 to $5,000 for a starting event. We’re talking about a $4,000 profit. You’re putting $1,000 upfront and generating $5,000 on the back end.
In terms of the different sources of revenue and maximizing outputs, you could do all types of formulas. I want to keep this simple for people. We typically do a showcase formula. That would be having local artists, especially if you’re an artist yourself and you want to headline. Let’s say you’re renting a venue for four hours. You have a 30 to 45-minute set at the end. The first three and a half hours are openers. You leverage that time and sell opening slots. It is not hard. There are artists in every city. If you throw a pin on a map, there will be hundreds of thousands of artists in that city. A lot of them are willing and ready to pay for a show slot.
People say, “I’m not in a big city. There are not a lot of artists here.” I view that as leverage. If there’s not a huge community of people already having events or artists already doing things, the event is going to be more meaningful and valuable to all the artists that are out there because it’s not something that they see often. When it comes to generating revenue from events, one of the biggest ways that you could do that is by booking opening slots. I typically do anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes and charge $50 to $200-plus based on the value that we’re providing through the event like how many people are going to show up.
In terms of finding these individuals, a lot of artists have friends. They go to studios. They can ask their engineers who the other clients are. With a little bit of figure-it-out-ness, it’s not that hard. At the end of the day, worst-case scenario, do some cold targeting. Out of the thousands of artists that live in your area, it comes down to a volume game. If you hit all of them up, 40 of them will pay $100 to book a slot for your show. That’s $4,000.
One of the main ways to maximize revenue from the show is by booking up a bunch of opening slots. One thing to mention there is making sure that you’re providing value. We don’t want to be charging people for some show where no one is going to show up. Here are a few ways to provide value to justify charging for slots. You can price the slots based on value. If you’re afraid fewer people are going to show up, charge $50, not $100. That’s why we have a range.
There are a few things. First of all, as long as you’re getting 50-plus people there, you’re good to go in terms of providing value because most artists are paying for show slots. They’re desperately in need of a way that they could gain 50 new fans in one night. It’s not only that. From that perspective, let’s say you booked 25 slots. All you have to do is have each artist bring one friend. Now, there are 50 people there. A network of artists is powerful in and of itself. Book 25 slots even if no one shows up. You are in a room with 25 other artists. I’m not saying to do whatever with your show, but I’m saying it’s up to the client a lot of times to extract value.
I could make being in a room with twenty artists worth spending $50 any day of the week. Don’t be afraid to charge for your slots in that regard. I also like the ticket split formula where you give artists tickets and split the money with them. If you’re selling tickets for $15, they get $7.50 a ticket. You get $7.50 a ticket. It allows them to potentially make a profit. It also puts things into their hands. If they don’t receive value from the event, then it’s because they didn’t go out there and sell enough tickets. It’s lifting the responsibility from your shoulders. It’s also incentivizing them to sell tickets because now if they sell tickets, they make money.
More people are going to show up to the event, which is going to be more value for the other artists. It’s all around a good idea to provide as much value as possible. A great way to do that is by splitting ticket sales with the artist. There are plenty of other ways that you can monetize the event. I would always suggest selling as many tickets as possible before the event. For some reason, I run into a lot of event hosts that rely on door fees. I never understand why they do that.
Sell as many as possible before the event. Let people come in at the door. I typically charge a little bit extra at the door to incentivize them to purchase beforehand if you’re scared that enough people aren’t going to show up to do the vending slots based on commission. If you’re afraid to ask a food truck for $500 to come to your show because you don’t know if $500 is worth the amount of money you’re going to make back, say, “Come to the show and give me 25% commission of what you make.” It shouldn’t be hard to get vendors, especially if you’re doing commission-based.
There are ticket sales, slot sales, vendors, and drinks. You do require a liquor license to sell drinks. You have a few options there. If you can, seek out bars since drinks are such a great way to make money. Bars are charging $10 a shot. You can come to an agreement with the venue owner and get a percentage of drink sales. There are legal options for selling drinks where we don’t require a liquor license. I would suggest doing your research on things like having a free drink come with a ticket, and then charging more for the ticket. Ways to sell drinks without breaking a law is a great thing to look into because of the fact that drinks are lucrative.
Even if you go out there, get a liquor license, add that to the expenses, walk through that process, and spend a couple of hundred dollars, the ROI on that is crazy. You will see thousands of drink sales by having 100 people at an event. Last would be selling photos and videos back to the artists. It’s hiring photographers and videographers to come to the event and record, paying them a flat rate hourly, and then after the event, offering different packages with options of edited photos and videos back to the 40 artists who booked slots.
That’s smart because artists do need that stuff. Sometimes they’re struggling to find somebody to video or take photos. That’s a great service. I love that. If you’re getting 40 artists, are you allowing them all to sell merch at the show and get fans on an email list and that kind of stuff?
This is customizable based on the value that you’re able to provide. It depends. If I’m charging them cheap for slots, then I’m probably not giving them all these extra benefits. If they’re paying me $200 a slot, and they’re serious artists and they’re selling a lot of tickets, then I want to provide them more value. I have to provide them with more value to justify that price point. These are variables that are going to depend on what you’re charging and how many people you think you could bring to the event.
You’re charging vendor fees regardless. Unless it’s built into the slot price, you should be charging artists to have a vending there because that’s a completely different benefit. They’re going from the benefits of making money off selling tickets and performing in front of a local crowd that they could potentially use to sell tickets to the next event and garner a new fan base. You’re changing that value to something that’s way more, something that has an upsell, or something that drastically increases ROI. You’re going to charge more when you provide more value.
Either build things like that into the slot price if that’s what all the artists want to do, or if that’s something unique to maybe outlier artists, which I find typically to be the case. Most artists that are paying to perform anyways don’t even know how to set up merch tables. With that being said, it’s mostly going to be outliers. If they are outliers, charge them an extra fee and maybe give them a discount on a vending slot because they purchased the slot for the show.
I like that. That’s cool. Are you curating these people? Are you trying to keep them all in a similar genre? Are you making sure that the artists are any good? I would not want to come to a show where it’s like, “These people are R&B, hard rock, and country.”
These things vary from event to event. One thing to think about is the rest of the structure of the event. For example, if I’m headlining but I don’t have a lot of fans, and 100 people are going to show up because I booked 30 slots, but I only sold 10 of those tickets, then most of the people there aren’t coming to see everyone else perform anyways. They’re specifically coming to see the artist that they bought a ticket for. Oftentimes, if you’re putting this event together and you’re only booking R&B artists, it doesn’t even matter because people show up to see the artists perform and leave afterward anyway. They’re not even staying to see the other people by the time.
It depends on the structure of the event and also personal preference. If you want to brand yourself as someone who puts on events where the artists are always good, that has leverage for the future. That makes it so that when you’re hosting events ten months down the line, you have this standard in terms of the artists. Also, you’re sacrificing money in the short term because there might be people who would be willing to pay for a slot, but you don’t view them as good enough, so you don’t accept that money.
You have to weigh out these pros and cons. That money is leveraged to build up your events and do more things in the future. If the whole reason you’re getting into event hosting is to make money, and it’s not because you genuinely want to be an event host for the rest of your life because it’s your passion, then focus on converting. It sucks that I have to say this. Provide value. Do not scam people. Do not sell them a slot and don’t do any work to put together an actual good event. At the end of the day, if you’re optimizing for revenue and not longevity, scalability, and stuff like that, then I wouldn’t overcomplicate things and add limitations in terms of how you’re able to make money.
Those are all very valid points. That’s cool. That’s something we have never covered on the show that I know of. I’m glad we talked that through. We had a great conversation. I hope it sparked many ideas for people. How can they get in touch with you if they want to check out your amazing content on social media or get in touch with you about doing some coaching?
You can always reach out to me via Instagram @CrossDTW. Our company Instagram is @Dead.ToThe.World. You can DM us on either of those pages. Our website is DTWHeadquarters.com. If you want to follow, follow. If you want to stream, you can look up Lil Cross on any streaming platform. If you’re interested in the services in particular, shoot me a DM. That’s the best way to get ahold of me quickly. We can book a call together and have a conversation.
Go out, follow him, and check out all of his great content and all the other people that are working with him. Thank you so much. It has been great to talk to you. I loved all these conversations. Deep diving into this marketing nerdy stuff is one of my favorite things to talk about. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much for having me. I can’t express how grateful I am for this. I am very passionate about helping artists and empowering artists. I love your platform for doing the same thing. It makes me happy that you gave me a voice. Hopefully, because of that, some people’s lives are being impacted. I’m extremely grateful for you giving me the platform.
About Lil Cross
Lil Cross is a musician and business owner, part of a collective called dead to the world. He has a versatile discography but is biased towards hip hop. He owns and operates a recording studio, concert venue, and most importantly, an online music monetization course that teaches artists how to turn their passion for music into a full time career.