Somewhat recently, I’ve attended gigs with two very different experiences with meeting the band that merited my unsolicited opinion on the matter.
In the past, I didn’t mind paying to meet the band because I was so excited to meet them by any means necessary. However, after several artists speaking out against other artists who make fans pay to meet them, I’ve come to change my mind.
Now, I consider meeting the band and a VIP experience two different things. Meeting the band is usually a simple “hello” (and on occasion a short chat), a picture and an autograph. A VIP package may include watching the band’s performance from the side of the stage, a professional picture with the band, some “free” merchandise, early access into the venue to guarantee the best spot to watch the performance from and more depending on the artist. However, if a band has paid VIP packages available, they will usually not come out after to meet non-paying fans in order to be fair to those that did.
Enter Shikari have spoken out about artists who make fans pay to meet them. I have met the band on several occasions and they are really down to earth people, open to grab a drink and have real conversations with friendly fans. As long as I’ve been a fan (which is admittedly only a few years), they have not done a paid VIP experience for their shows. Rather, they make plenty of opportunities for fans to approach at shows them including letting people into their soundcheck, loitering around the merchandise booth or in the crowd while the opening bands are playing and coming out after the show. At the last show I attended, I really felt like one of the boys when they let me pack their instruments. Now, that’s what I call a close encounter! With Enter Shikari, you’re not a fan, you’re family.
On the other hand, Icon for Hire does things a little differently. During their most recent tour, they offered VIP passes for $60, which included: private meet and greet with the band, autographed tour poster, VIP laminate, early entry into the venue and a photo with the band (note: it didn’t include a ticket to the show, which is another $20). Although my brother Kyle and I did not get VIP passes, we were eager to meet them after the show. I was talking to Kyle about the best way to get a picture and someone on their crew mentioned to me that “they’re not doing pictures at this time.” I wasn’t too disappointed, but I was slightly offended when they wouldn’t shake my hand and gave me a fist bump instead. Maybe they’re germaphobes, or maybe only the paying VIPs are deserving of such gestures, I don’t know. Not to mention that forming an orderly queue maybe it feel a little forced and hurried (usually, people waiting to meet the bands sprawl out outside the venue before eventually drifting together to talk about the show while we wait for the band). Ironically, the lead singer of the band Ariel made a video about meeting your favorite band for the first time and emphasized that these band members you may put on a pedestal are still human and should be treated as such. Also ironically, Icon for Hire recently got out of their record label that they didn’t see eye to eye with and counted on fans to raise money for their new album that has been out for about six months now. These paid VIP experiences are kind of a slap in the face to how much fans have already supported the band and further separates fan from band by allowing only the most privileged fans meet them.
No matter the popularity of the band or artist, everyone had to start somewhere and it’s important to stay humble and recognize that without the fans and their support, they wouldn’t be where they are today. While fans are not entitled to meet the band members, it’s a nice gesture of appreciation to those who buy their music and merchandise, play the band’s music to their friends and come out to their shows, some traveling from far and wide and attending multiple tour dates.