Pay To Rock: The Top Tickets Money Can Buy

Zack O’Malley Greenburg/ Forbes 09/13/11

Every time Bon Jovi performs, the group’s biggest fans have a chance to become part of the inner circle, in a physical sense at least. The closest seats form an arc around the stage, encircled by a ring-like extension upon which the band members periodically strut; only those who have purchased VIP ticket packages may sit in this rarefied sphere.
Though nose-bleed tickets start at just $20, fans must pony up for the honor of sitting within spitting distance of Jon Bon Jovi. The average cost of the priciest special package: $2,550 per couple. With the purchase price comes an array of goodies including souvenir lanyards, autographed lithographs and the seat itself—a commemorative foldable chair that fans can bring home. So what is it that keeps the fans coming?
“The message of optimism, if you will,” Bon Jovi told me in an interview for a story I wrote earlier this year. “[It’s] part of that anthemic sound that we’re drawn to … People want to believe. Sometimes they just don’t know how or who or what to believe in.”
Bon Jovi isn’t the only one capitalizing on fans’ desire to get close to their favorite rockers. From The Who’s Roger Daltrey to pop queen Lady Gaga, artists and concert organizers are offering fans ways to live out their musical fantasies. For the artists, special packages can account for as much as 10% of concert revenues despite representing less than 5% of total ticket sales. For well-heeled Baby Boomers and their kin, shelling out for a sprinkling of stardust from a favorite rocker is one way of enjoying hard-earned cash.
Full Coverage: Enjoying Your Wealth
“These people are huge fans of these artists and they want to get as close as they can,” says Marc Feinberg, senior director of premium ticketing at concert promoter AEG Live. “Getting the best seats in the house, getting the tickets from a reliable source, and the added value component … it’s the whole package that encourages the fans to spend money, whether it’s a high range package or something that’s moderately priced.”
The ticket packages in highest demand are the ones where fans can actually meet the artists. For $5,000, Gene Simmons of Kiss offers a metal-head’s dream: a backstage meet-and-greet with the rocker and an autographed collector’s edition bass guitar built in the shape of an axe.
On the cheaper side–starting at around $300 per ticket–Roger Daltrey does meet-and-greets with 30-50 people before shows. Fans also receive a one-one-one photo with Daltrey, as well as an autographed lithograph and a seat in the first few rows.
While there are plenty of pricey ticketing options for legacy acts, a bevy of options also exists for Boomers who’d like to buy a comparable experience for their children and grandchildren. Boy wonder Justin Bieber offers packages that include a private pre-show sound check and question-and-answer session. His mentor, R&B crooner Usher, meets 50 or so premium ticketholders before most shows.
These performers are able to charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars per ticket—often five or ten times the average price—for packages that include meet-and-greets in part because they have such enthusiastic fan bases. Another reason they’re able to get such large sums is that many other artists won’t or can’t spend pre-gig time with fans due to the intense temporal demands of touring.
“We go through a routine of psyching ourselves up, getting dressed, warming up, mentally and physically getting ready to do what we do,” says Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for the Rolling Stones. “Meet-and-greets break up that cycle, so that’s one reason. Another might be that one gets asked the same questions or given the same comments over and over, time and time again, which can get old. Personally, I don’t really mind it, but it does cut into the preparation for a show.”

To be sure, these packages aren’t affordable for many fans, especially during a recession. Even regular tickets for top acts often approach $100 apiece. For music lovers who can’t afford the high cost, there are other options. One example: Madonna and concert promoter Live Nation teamed up with Smirnoff to create a contest that will allow one lucky winner to become a back-up dancer on the singer’s upcoming tour. Entrants need only submit a 60-second video of themselves “busting a move” via Smirnoff’s website; all finalists get to perform in person for Madonna.
That said, dishing out a few hundred dollars for a VIP package may be a more viable option for wealthier and rhythmically disinclined fans. Regardless of how it’s achieved, scoring a moment with a rock star seems to have some level of universal appeal for intangible reasons.
“I think it’s just the opportunity to shake hands and look into the eyes of the artists they follow and admire,” says Leavell. “They take away a memory that is with them forever.”

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One Response to “Pay To Rock: The Top Tickets Money Can Buy”

  1. Women Class Blog Says:

    Strut Like Royalty…

    […] that cycle, so that’s one reason. Another might be that one gets asked the sam […]…

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