Celebrities charging fans to meet them It’s pure greed
16:04 GMT, 21 June 2012
Pricey: Fans have to shell out 1,100 to meet Beyonce
Not so long ago, if you wanted to meet your musical idol backstage after a concert, there were only two ways to go about it — to win a competition, or to sneak past the burly security guards into their dressing room.
Now, however, if you have deep pockets then pretty much anything is possible. The Mail can reveal that a lucrative ‘meet-and-greet’ industry has grown up around pop stars such as One Direction, Justin Bieber and Cheryl Cole.
Meetings last only seconds before fans are sent packing with a photo of themselves with their idol (and a poster and T-shirt if they are lucky), but they pay hundreds of pounds for the privilege.
And it isn’t just teen pop stars getting in on the act — even veteran artists such as the Beach Boys are joining in. Tickets for these ‘meet-and-greets’ start at around 100, but ticket touts are snapping them up, often selling the tickets on for eye-watering sums.
This money-spinning industry hit the headlines last week when Cheryl Cole was criticised for charging 350 to meet-and-greet concert goers. But insiders insist the trend is driven by fans — not stars.
As music PR Stuart Bell, who represents Sir Paul McCartney, says: ‘Some stars’ fan bases are used to engaging with the stars directly through social networking. There is a sense in which they kind of expect to be able to get direct physical access to them as well.’
But he conceded: ‘It’s true that with record sales going down, you have to look at every bit of revenue that you can.’
Meet-and-greets can add up to 600,000 to tour revenues, if you assume two dozen per show on a 50-date tour. It is notable that most pop stars who have been in the business for a few decades don’t do ticketed meet-and-greets.
Neither Sir Paul McCartney nor Rod Stewart offer such packages. Nor does Kylie Minogue. However, they all offer VIP or Platinum packages which allow fans to attend the soundcheck — like a private concert — and get guaranteed front-row seating, gifts and food or a party, too. Rod Stewart sells a ‘Hot Legs’ package along these lines for 1,250.
Fans should be aware that most meet-and-greets tend to be delivered very much on the terms of their idols. In 2010, Sir Elton John sold a meet-and-greet package that came with the warning: ‘Photographs are at the discretion of Sir Elton.’ In other words, if you don’t behave yourself, he jolly well won’t pose for a picture.
Superstar Beyonce has a ‘no hugging’ rule and her security team sternly advises her fans of this before they are ushered into her presence. Some stars object to meet-and-greets on moral grounds, believing they favour richer fans over poorer ones. British band Coldplay believe the system simply enriches ticket touts and agents, and opt to auction their own meet-and-greets directly to fans.
This usually raises around 1,000 per ticket, which the band donates to the homeless charity Crisis.
Cheryl Cole’s PR representative Sundraj Sreenivasan says the star plans to donate the money from the planned meet-and-greets on her current tour to her charity, the Cheryl Cole Foundation.
350: For that price Cheryl Cole fans will get a photo with the songstress, a gift and an autograph
Stuart Bell adds: ‘The old guard like the Stones and Sir Paul McCartney do occasional meet-and-greets with competition winners or for charity, which is how it always used to be. When Sir Paul was touring we had competitions to find the biggest fans in each territory and then he would meet-and-greet ten fans in Belgium, ten in Mexico and so on. It wasn’t for money — they were not paying for it — but he was pleased to do it.’
Although stars stand to make hundreds of thousands of pounds from these meetings, there are risks, too. X Factor winner Leona Lewis was attacked by a fan at a book signing in 2009. The older crop of artists, who may remember John Lennon’s assassination in 1980, are generally wary of getting too close and personal with the public. Usually fans are supervised throughout by experienced security guards.
While it is clear what pop stars get out of the arrangement, fans are increasingly left disappointed by the meetings. After a minute — at most — with the star, some superfans post the picture on their Facebook profile and declare they have had the best day of their lives. But others are not so impressed.
Debra Phillips of Newcastle paid 270 so her daughter Cassie could meet her idols, pop group JLS, backstage in May this year and have her photo taken with them — but was devastated when her favourite singer, JB, was cut out of the image, which was blurry. But then, these very lucrative brief encounters do have a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quality.
ONE DIRECTION: Tickets for VIP meet-and-greets on their current tour of North America were on sale through concert promoters Live Nation for 225, but are all sold out. Ticket Agency USA is offering a meet-and-greet with the boys when they play in Dallas on June 23 — for 1,160 per ticket. That will enable fans to attend the band’s soundcheck, take home a gift and a commemorative laminated pass, meet the band and have their photograph taken with them.
JUSTIN BIEBER: The 18-year-old has an army of devoted fans, and while meet-and-greet tickets are said to be on offer for 350, they are sold out. Fans who want to meet their idol in October in LA will have to pay 1,932 for a single ticket via event specialist American Ticket Broker — cheap compared to meeting him in Minneapolis this October for an eye-watering 2,725.
JESSIE J: For 110, fans of The Voice judge could purchase a Very Important Heartbeats package that includes tickets near the stage and a chance to meet their idol before the show and a signed print and a souvenir pass. Now sold out, they are available on the eBay auction website for up to 600.
MADONNA: She so rarely holds meet-and-greets that there is a single ticket available for her Hyde Park date in July. The cost 1,195. It includes a ‘guaranteed photo’ with the star and one signed item.
WESTLIFE: The Irish band’s ‘farewell tour’ is very popular and many meet-and-greet packages are sold out. But for 433.50 via ticketweb.co.uk, fans can buy a ticket to meet them on June 19 at the SECC in Glasgow, with a ticket to see the show from the first five rows, a photo opportunity, autograph, a watch and a laminated pass.
RIHANNA: Fans who bought the ‘platinum experience’ on her Loud tour earlier this year had a chance to meet the Barbadian singer. Tickets, priced at 340, included a photo, a signing opportunity, a watch and a laminated pass.
KATY PERRY: The American pop princess offers meet-and-greets to competition winners and those who purchase the VIP package on sale for 319 — which includes a gift bag, laminated pass, free parking and a photo opportunity.
LIONEL RICHIE: Meet-and-greet packages are available on his tour. You can say Hello to the soul star — and pick up a commemorative laminated pass and a gift in September in Dublin for 405.
BEYONCE: She caused controversy when she asked for 1,100 for meet-and-greet tickets on her 2009 tour — a big jump from her 2003 tour when they were 285. Only ten fans were allowed to meet the star before each one and they had to observe a ‘no hugging’ rule.
CHERYL COLE: Fans can buy tickets for special Platinum Package meet-and-greet backstage after-shows for her solo A Million Lights tour. The package includes a photo with Cheryl, a gift, a commemorative laminated pass and an autograph, all for 350.
THE BEACH BOYS: You can buy a ticket to their June 29 show in New York — part of the band’s 50th anniversary tour — which includes a meet-and-greet, admission to the soundcheck, a T-shirt, poster, laminated pass and front-row tickets for 241.
BRITNEY SPEARS: Britney released some meet-and-greet tickets on her Femme Fatale tour in 2011, for which one fan paid 644 for one in Jacksonville, Florida, and declared herself thrilled with the experience which included a photo opportunity and signed merchandise.
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