VIP OR RIP-OFF?

Prog - - Letters -

From a reader who lives in Aus­tralia, I would like to re­spond to Chris Robert’s Paper­late piece in Prog 91 about the rise and rise of the VIP pack­ages as a fundrais­ing model for artists of all types (prog and oth­er­wise).

I am lucky enough to know a cou­ple of lo­cal pro­mot­ers, who make two points quite clear. Firstly, Aus­tralia is an ex­pen­sive coun­try to tour if you’re an

over­seas mu­si­cian of any genre. Se­condly, sales of tick­ets to prog gigs in Aus­tralia are of­ten ‘lack­lus­tre’. It’s hard to guar­an­tee a profit for any artist, and sadly in many cases the eco­nomic re­al­ity is that tour­ing ‘Down Un­der’ is cer­tain to make a loss, and there­fore isn’t worth both­er­ing with.

Ob­vi­ously, in the cur­rent day, to make money as a mu­si­cian you need to be a busi­ness­man as well as an artist. Sell­ing the siz­zle as well as the sausage is an es­sen­tial tool to­wards mak­ing ends meet. The num­ber of deluxe vinyl box sets and the like cur­rently on the mar­ket are a tes­ta­ment to this. The VIP pack­ages we see are clearly a part of this sur­vival strat­egy. I con­sider that the VIP pack­ages are a bit like busi­ness class seats on the plane: they help to sub­sidise the cost of the tour and keep the costs down for the econ­omy class ‘pas­sen­gers’.

The re­al­ity cur­rently is that many (prob­a­bly a ma­jor­ity) of artists vis­it­ing Aus­tralia of­fer VIP ex­pe­ri­ences as a part of their tour. The dif­fer­ence be­tween the prog artists and many of the rest is the level of com­mit­ment shown by the artist. Yes, as Chris states, many of­fer nice seats, VIP merch, pre-show par­ties and the like, but no ac­tual in­ter­ac­tion with the artist. In my ex­pe­ri­ence the prog VIP is a bit dif­fer­ent: you get to meet the artist and ac­tu­ally spend some qual­ity time with them.

Yes, I ad­mit I’m one of the lucky ones. When there’s a good gig in town, I’m usu­ally look­ing for a VIP ticket. I don’t mind pay­ing a premium for a chance to say thank you to some­body who gen­uinely has gone to the ef­fort to come all the way to Aus­tralia and per­form live for me here.

I guess that’s the key. Some artists use VIP tick­ets as an easy way to make ex­tra money for lit­tle per­sonal ef­fort for their al­ready prof­itable tours. Many prog artists use VIP tick­ets as a way to sur­vive in a harsh eco­nomic cli­mate and go out of their way to make the ef­fort to look af­ter their se­ri­ous fans. With­out the ex­tra VIP dol­lars, they prob­a­bly wouldn’t be here at all. For that, they de­serve my sup­port, and I ex­pect to con­tinue buy­ing VIP tick­ets into the fu­ture.

Philip Brid­don

ABOVE: PAPER­LATE IN IS­SUE 91 HAS IN­SPIRED SOME DE­BATE…

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