Once a niche business for a small segment of fans, VIP programs, or "enhanced experiences," are now an in-demand offering for fans and a critical revenue stream for artists and events. The topic will be addressed in-depth on a panel at the upcoming Billboard Touring Conference in L.A. Nov. 9-10.
The panel is set for the second day of the 13th annual gathering, which will take place at the SLS Beverly Hills hotel as the conference moves to the West Coast after 12 successful years in New York City.
The premium sector has evolved significantly in recent years; a decade ago, VIP offerings largely consisted mostly of "gold circle" seating and fan club meet-and-greets. In today's era, where numerous marketing studies point to a consumer shift toward favoring experiences over "stuff," VIP-related packages fit the bill for fans of all ages and economic status. Now the VIP menu for tours and festivals ranges from old-school meet-and-greets, autographs, backstage passes, and bundles with merch, travel and dining; to private performances, sound checks, music-related cruises, and artist-curated destination events in exotic locales.
On board for the Billboard Touring Conference session are a veritable who's who of the VIP world, including Dan Berkowitz, founder/CEO, CID Entertainment; Shelley Lazar, founder/president, SLO VIP Ticket Services; Anthony Diaz, CEO, Sixthman; Josh Moore, partner, Cloud 9 Adventures/talent buyer, Bowery Presents; James Sealy, COO, BKSTG; and Greg Patterson, director of music & live events, Eventbrite.
"As fans of live music are looking for more than just a ticket, the business of enhanced experiences has gone from one-on-one interactions that may or may not have been sanctioned by the artists, to a legitimate piece of many artists' touring plans," observes Berkowitz, who says he's stoked to take part in the discussion.
In setting up premium tickets and unprecedented fan access for acts ranging from the Rolling Stones to Paul McCartney, Lazar "did it first" and has "set the bar super high by creating authentic connections between huge artists and some of their most dedicated fans," says Berkowitz, who produces fan extravaganzas such as Luke Bryan's Crash My Playa in Mexico and lists Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza among his VIP clients. "Anthony (Diaz) and Josh (Moore) were both integral in the introduction of destination festivals, which I believe will become more and more prevalent in the years to come, and James (Sealy) and Greg (Patterson) are leading the tech revolution to make the experience of attending a concert as immersive and seamless as possible."
Given the multiple tactics employed in this increasingly competitive space, Serving The Uber Fan should be a lively session, and Berkowitz is already playfully firing a shot across the bow. "Let it be known," he vows, "this will be the last nice thing I say about any of these folks. Show up to this panel if you want to see me tell you how I really feel about these 'professionals.'"
Registration and hotel room block information coming soon. Click here for more details on the Billboard Touring Conference & Awards.