During an appearance on “One Life One Chance”, the podcast hosted by H2O lead singer Toby Morse, SACRED REICH frontman Phil Rind offered his views on artists monetizing — directly and on their own terms — enhanced fan experiences in the form of VIP meet-and-greets. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “We started doing meet-and-greets. We’ve never done it before, and I am really opposed to the whole idea (of) charging for access. I hate the idea, but when I did the budget for this tour, I’m, like, ‘What the fuck are we gonna do? My wife’s not working and I need to to pay my bills. This is my job.’ And when you start at a really big deficit, when you go out and you’re like, okay, ‘We’re at this much of a deficit. And we’re hoping we can make it up and then make some profit at the end.’ Well, this was one of the things. And Dave (McClain, SACRED REICH drummer) was in MACHINE HEAD, and they used to do meet-and-greets. He goes, ‘Look, man. These are strictly voluntary. Nobody is making anybody do anything.’ He goes, ‘And people wanna do it. People wanna meet the band.’ I said, ‘All right. I’m gonna relent. We’ll try it.'”
Rind continued: “One of the unexpected things was meeting people who the band means a lot to and hearing their stories one-on-one. Because sometimes it would be one person — just one person at the meet-and-greet. At the most it was, like, eight or nine. It was not big. So it was more intimate. We got to hang out. And some people fucking made me cry. So that was kind of a really cool, unexpected part of it. And this is why we’re doing it ultimately. So when you really get to make those connections with people… I’m looking out in the crowd every night at the people looking in their faces, because that’s what I’m looking for — those connections with people. That’s why we do this.”
“V.I.P Packages” seem to be the only way for fans to meet the bands they admire these days. Some of these come at a really inflated price on top of the standard ticket costs and include anything from a signed item, a photo to watching soundchecks or a collectable lanyard.
Paid meet-and-greets are becoming staples of the touring circuit and are seen by some artists as a necessary evil to survive nowadays. Other musicians object to meet-and-greets on moral grounds, believing they favor richer fans over poorer ones. Similarly, many people view the fact that groups charge fans to meet them as completely exploitative, since artists are usually aware that young admirers are prepared to pay any amount of money to see their favorite band, sometimes at their parents’ expense.
A few years ago, Canadian musician/producer Devin Townsend defended the culture of “V.I.P Packages,” telling Noisey: “A lot of the times, fans may think bands are taking the piss by simply doing a meet-and-greet, but if we don’t do them, we simply can’t do what we’re doing. It’s not like we do them then get a bonus at the end of the tour. On the other side of it, if you’re in the band and you’re hypersensitive to people’s energy, like I believe I am, meet-and-greets fucking beat the shit out of you. Not because you don’t want to meet people, but because in order to do it correctly, you really have to invest yourself and be present and ready to talk to people and sometimes accept hyperbolic praise or criticism, and you have to be emotionally resilient enough to not let either… I mean, it’s about them. They’re paying for a moment and your job is to be present and that’s really challenging on tour.”
Y&T frontman Dave Meniketti made headlines in 2016 when he said he was completely opposed to fans paying for meet-and-greets, explaining that “we should be paying (them).” “Some bands will charge for meet-and-greets or they’ll charge for some special types of meet-and-greets,” Meniketti said. “I don’t like to do that. I think that’s gouging the fans. I think that’s a little too much of trying to get every last dollar out of everybody, dollaring people to death. I don’t like that whatsoever. To me, your fanbase is golden. They’re the people that are keeping us going. They’re the people that love the music.”
He continued: “Why do we want to charge them to meet us? That, to me, seems like the most bizarre thing you can do and too opportunist. That’s not my thing. They pay for a ticket. Come see us live, that’s what’s going to keep us alive. Buy a t-shirt, something like that. But don’t pay to see me. My God. I should be paying you guys. I’m happy to shake a hand, take a picture or listen to a story or something like that. In fact, more than happy. It makes us all feel good. It makes us feel connected to our fans.”
Former METALLICA bassist Jason Newsted called the paid-meet-and-greet practice “bullshit” in a 2012 interview. He explained: “My guys had been talking to me about doing those things, and they talk about KISS making money for this meet-and-greet. People will pay it, but that’s not the point. I don’t want to take money like that. If they want to buy a t-shirt and have something to show for it, that’s what we do. You can’t download a t-shirt.
“There are certain things that make sense to me. I have never charged for my autograph up until (I launched my own) web site. That is my first time in my thirty-year career that I have charged for my autograph, and I have signed for hundreds of thousands of people.
“I don’t feel comfortable with charging people to meet me; I don’t feel comfortable with charging people to get me to sign something when they are standing with me. If they buy it off the Internet and want an 8×10 or an autograph CD, they have that momentum. That’s fine, but I’m not going to charge people to meet me. I just don’t feel that’s right. I’ll pay to meet one of my old sports heroes, or something like one of the cats from the 1970s Orioles. I’ll pay a couple of bucks for something, but I’m not going to pay for Gene Simmons. It’s ridiculous; that’s not what it’s about.”