Scrolling through my newsfeed recently, I’ve come across quite a bit of banter surrounding paid meet and greets, and it seems a vast majority of people don’t particularly like the concept. I’m therefore writing this article in direct response to the negative position, so if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to first establish a few “truths”, if you will, along with a form of common ground that both sides can agree to, from which we can then make the following points:
1) A band is a business
2) The music industry is a shadow of its former self from a profit POV
3) It is becoming increasingly difficult to make a living from being a full time musician alone
Now, I think these three points can be agreed upon by anyone arguing either for or against, so with that in mind, let’s have a look at what that actually means in the context of this discussion. Firstly, a band is a business. We all know this, whether we like it or not. A band is a collective of musicians working together to ultimately make a living (whether extravagant or otherwise) from the fruits of their combined talents. Whether they are mainstream or not, if they want to support their lifestyle from music alone, they must, to a certain degree, keep the consumer happy. For the most part, that is done by doing what they do best … making music. It isn’t always that simple, however. Consumers want merchandise, interaction, accessibility (particularly in the digital age) and much more beyond than just the music itself. It therefore makes sense to deliver what the fans want, and logistically this isn’t always an easy thing to achieve, especially in the case of face-to-face interaction. We’ll get to that in more detail later, but the basis here is that where there is demand, so too should there be supply. It’s a basic tenet of business, and it is as essential as oxygen.
Secondly (and I’ll cover both points here because they are closely tied together), the music industry is a shadow of its former self from a profit POV, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make a living off being a full time musician alone. This is a crucial motivator when it comes to meet and greets. Gone are the days where you would expect to put out a CD and make an absolute mint off it. We are coming to the close of the first year in history that there has been no platinum albums. Let that sink in for a minute. I think we’re all guilty (some of us are quite unapologetic, too) of downloading/torrenting music, when once that just wasn’t possible. The closest you could come to that was taping a mate’s CD or taping from the radio, but the point is that the technology to achieve peer to peer file-sharing is so omnipresent that we’re almost to the point of forgetting that it wasn’t always this easy. What this means for artists, obviously, is that they’re not getting anywhere near the return for their craft that they once did, and therefore need to look at more inventive ways to stay afloat. Sound familiar? It should.
So now that we’ve established this factual basis, let’s have a look at some misconceptions of both method and theory that seem to be doing the rounds. We touched earlier on the fact that a band is a business, so let’s continue down that vein for just another minute. As any smart businessman or businesswoman knows, the most important asset is the staff, and in this case that means the band members. Without them, you have no music, so it stands to reason then that if the biggest asset is the members themselves, particularly in cases where you have outspoken, extroverted personalities in play, you should seek to turn them from an asset into a commodity. Why leave any stone unturned, as they say?
To give an example, I recently purchased a meet and greet package for the Brisbane leg of my favourite band’s (Periphery) tour with Animals As Leaders as support. The package included merch, hanging out with the guys from both bands, a bunch of exclusive extras (like a tour poster and lanyard, etc.) and also the privilege of watching the concert from sidestage if we so wished (which we did, for a few songs anyway). This was an extra $150 from memory, to which I can already hear the dissenters complaining about the seemingly exorbitant price tag. That being said, there was roughly four or five different packages and I chose to get the most expensive one, partially because of the sidestage option and partially because it’s my favourite band, and I wanted to support them as much as possible. The experience was amazing; easily one of my most cherished memories, as I got substantial one-on-one time with everyone, and chatting with my idols was priceless. I would purchase the same package again, for sure.
In my eyes, the meet and greets are a great way to guarantee some much coveted time with your favourite band. I say favourite because I can’t imagine many people purchasing the upgrade unless it was indeed for their favourite band. I’m not one of those people who has the luxury of being able to hang around the loading zone of a venue in hopes of catching a meagre five minutes with a band, nor do I feel comfortable going out to a succession of clubs trying to spot that elusive, yet familiar face amidst drunken crowds (however, I know quite a few people who do). Therefore, the only real chance I’d ever have to meet a band would be in a controlled, paid-for setting at both parties’ luxuries, such as a meet and greet.
In addition to the social element that meet and greets offer, from a fan’s perspective it’s yet another way in which to help keep your favourite group of musicians doing what they do best. It’s a little hard for said band to write/record/tour/whatever if they’re still pulling part-time at a call centre to try and make ends meet (particularly because most of the “fans” are not paying for the music they spend thousands of dollars to make). Personally, I was more than happy to shell out $150 plus admission as a thank you to the band for making music that has had such a profound impact on my life. I was also happy to drop $80 on pre-orders for the new album, not to mention I now have a $600 permanent advertisement on my leg. You see my point, though? It’s kind of my way of showing my appreciation and trying to make up for the fact that I did actually torrent their catalogue before I had really gotten into them properly, as I’m sure many of their fans have. It’s my choice to spend the money in the hope that Periphery see some fiscal reward for their hard work and exceptional talent.
The main argument I hear against meet and greets seems to be along the lines of: “If they’re arrogant enough to charge you for the privilege of their presence, they aren’t worth it”. Personally, I find this argument a little strange. In my view, aside from the fact that with musicians in general a certain amount of egocentricity is implied, it is less about the fact you are paying for the opportunity and more that you get the opportunity in the first place, regardless of any transaction. If you are a band offering these packages, you would have to be big enough that it is warranted, which in turn implies that there are presumably quite a number of people who would WANT to meet you. If that’s the case, it is logistically unfeasible to offer a free service as it dilutes the quality at best, overcrowds the venue at worst. It’s one thing to have a quick photo op with old mate in the crowd, but we are talking about more than that in most cases with meet and greet packages. Hell, in amongst talking/getting photos with everyone, I managed to get Spencer Sotelo to hand-write my favourite lyrics onto the back of my tour poster. You have NO idea how important that is to me as a fan, and it is something that I will always cherish, regardless of what happens in my life. Like I said before, this sort of experience is priceless.
At the end of the day, meet and greets are not really any different to merchandise or any other extracurricular endeavour that bands’ utilise to beef up their bottom line. It’s not like the fans are strong-armed or coerced into purchasing the upgrade, it’s purely a “premium” option that you either choose to go with or you don’t. That’s it. Everyone seems to decry the rise of “stealing” music and how little musicians make from their craft and yet they seem equally as quick to crucify them for providing a service that is obviously in demand to try and make some cash. Seems a little rich to me ….
Publisher at IPHYB
Chris Giacca just may be the worst writer in the world, but it doesn't matter because he probably still has a bigger audience than you, so he is by default automatically right about everything. No exceptions. He's currently writing a novel which will be uploaded in single chapter installments as spoken word on bandcamp. Physical releases will be on laser disc only, limited to 17 1/2 units. Don't ask about the half.
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