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Still, if anything, the idea of access has finally become more egalitarian. Two decades ago, you were lucky to find someone who could claim he'd met his favorite band. In the era of the Warped Tour, groups are expected to press the flesh with fans. But if everyone has a chance to meet the band, the story of your 30-second brush with fame makes you a VAP — Very Average Person. Now if you want to feel very important, it'll cost you.
Current hot-ticket acts also offer VIP packages, but they're more VEP (Very Expensive Package) than VIP (Very Important Person). For the ongoing Blink-182 tour, a $250 VIP package includes a shirt, numbered tour poster, laminate and access to the venue's VIP lounge. (The St. Louis date of the tour, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, September 3, is this Tuesday, September 29.) The package doesn't say anything about meeting the band, but you do get a keepsake. Whether or not you buy the package, the chances of trading cell numbers and becoming best bros with frontman Tom DeLonge are about the same. In this sense, the VIP access is psychological more than tangible.
For a band such as Epica, though, Jansen says fans aren't offended when the group offers high-dollar special access.
"Everybody can decide for him or herself to go for this ticket or the regular one," Jansen says. "So nothing changes for those people who buy a regular ticket."
And in some cases, selling top-tier doesn't just mean a few extra bucks for the band or promoters. During Nine Inch Nails' spring tour with Jane's Addiction, Trent Reznor sold VIP tickets to raise more than $600,000 for Eric De La Cruz, a Nevada resident who needed a heart transplant. For between $300 and $1,200, fans could eat dinner with the band, meet the group or even watch the entire show from the stage.
And then there's the metal group Mushroomhead, which has a loyal cult following that's strongest in the Midwest. The seven-man group has been selling VIP packages to big shows for two years. Before last year's Halloween extravaganza, the band let VIP fans watch sound check. The group normally takes the stage in elaborate makeup and costumes, looking like an undead military assault squad. They played the sound check set in street clothes, without face paint. They took requests and let a fan onstage to videotape the experience.
For a certain breed of music fan who needs (or wants) to feel a stronger connection to band — besides, say, in the form of a returned tweet — this VIP experience is more memorable. In a sense, fans feel a sense of ownership of the band.
"I think it's a cool thing, for sure," says Mushroomhead captain Steve "Skinny" Felton, referring to the VIP-tix phenomenon. "If there were some more bands that did it that I liked, I'd [buy tickets]. If they're actually going the extra mile and want to [spend money to] meet you, I'll go for it. When I was growing up, I would have met everybody. I'd spend a hundred bucks. It's all about the story there."