Women in Music 2016

Guns N' Roses VIP Experience Puts Fans Onstage Amid Growing Corporate Sponsorship Trend

Katarina Benzova
Guns N' Roses perform at Paul Brown Stadium on July 6, 2016 in Cincinnati.

Four hours before Guns 'N Roses were set to hit the stage at Dodger Stadium in Los Angles Thursday night, a stagehand pulled off a tarp from the drum riser, revealing the iconic GN'R logo on the bass drum in the middle of the massive stage and an even more enormous corporate-credit-card logo on the screen behind the drums.

"Awesome," exclaimed a tatted member of the entourage onstage, imploring his girlfriend to take a photo of him pointing at the kit. He wasn't a roadie or a tech -- he was a Citi Card member who was hooked-up through the credit card for a "backstage experience," continuing the concert industry trend of VIP experiences that deliver bands to fans -- and money, hopefully, to major corporations who've signed on as sponsors. 

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The package for this show -- which didn't cost more than a typical high-end ticket -- included not just a chance for a photo onstage, but a Q&A with GN'R's affable, longtime production designer, Dale Skjerseth, who patiently answered questions ranging from how the band's getting along to how much the stage weighed, and a limited-edition print and interview with longtime music photographer and Wireimage founder Kevin Mazur, as well as a lounge with free drinks, food and premium seats for the show. (Citi's doing a similar promotion at Coldplay concerts this weekend, while American Express picks up the check and the trend for Beyonce's upcoming Dodger Stadium show).

Of course, these sort of VIP experiences have been a trend in the music business for a few years now -- so much that the upcoming Billboard Touring Conference has a panel exploring the phenomenon, which includes everything from meet-and-greets to cruises with bands to corporate-held blocks of premium seats. It's virtually zeitgeist that fans are more interested in experiences rather than things (and willing to pay for them) than in previous generations of showgoers, and brands are obviously happy to capitalize on that.

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Corporate sponsorship's not very rock-and-roll, but once you're imbedded with a group of people immersed in the experience, it doesn't matter: certainly the two-dozen or so people that huddled around drummer Frank Ferrer's kit and took selfie after selfie didn't care -- the once-dangerous band, like just about any other major touring act this decade, clearly needs corporate money to offset tour costs (during the Q&A, Skjerseth was asked how expensive the show was to put on. He laughed -- and later explained that the band pays at least $100,000 in damages to the grass in stadiums per night).

In a world where bands make less and less of their income from recorded music and more and more from touring, inviting some superfans on stage for a few selfies -- whether or not they're sponsored by a credit card company -- is not just a good business decision, it's the only one that makes sense at all