Music is highly personal, and as such, it is thrilling to make an individual connection with the artists that make the music we love. Meet & Greets have gained popularity in recent years, and serve two main purposes. They are a viable revenue source in a business where making money is getting harder and harder. Also, a formal Meet & Greet can be used as crowd control, keeping musicians from being mobbed, even injured, by overzealous fans. There are as many types of Meet & Greets as there are sub-genres of metal music, but they all have one thing in common: They are not cheap.
The vast majority of Meet & Greets are unfulfilling. With a median cost of $25-35, which can include the show ticket or not, fans do not get the personal connection they seek. The musicians sit behind a table while a long line of people are shuffled through like a lunch line in high school. There is no chance for meaningful conversation when a security guard is right behind you shouting, “Keep moving! No pictures!” Saying hello and being handed a tour poster is not a personal connection, but a poster signed by all the members of your favorite band is still cool.
An event that allows one-on-one interaction is memorable. Meet & Greets that are designed to allow the artists and fans to move freely about the room provide the personal connection they advertise. At a recent Meet & Greet in Cleveland, for the band Alesana, the musicians did not sit behind a table simply yawning and signing posters. The band members circled the lobby, chatting and laughing with fans, stopping for pictures, connecting with the people who love their music. Individually, the artists thanked fans for being supportive over the years and shared memories of past shows. The package included a ticket to the show, the standard signed poster, tour laminate, and other memorabilia. The event was a good value at $38, but the hugs given free of charge by frontman Shawn Milke were priceless.
It pays to be a savvy consumer. In a recent cost comparison of V.I.P. packages for the Crowd Surf America Tour, three bands offered $50 meet and greets, with very different components. Chiodos is the best deal which includes the show ticket, live acoustic performance and a digital download with bonus tracks in addition to the usual poster, photo, laminate, etc. The blessthefall package is simple, it offers a show ticket, poster, photo op, and tour laminate. The surprise came from supporting band Crown the Empire whose $50 bundle contains the standard poster, photo, laminate, but no ticket to the show. To put it simply, Chiodos gives the gift of music in an extra performance and bonus tracks, blessthefall will allow you a memorable picture, but unless you cough up the extra cash for a show ticket, you will not see Crown the Empire on stage.
Meet & Greets are exclusive to those who can afford the cost. The biggest beef about paid Meet & Greets is the assumption that only the fans with money can actually connect with the musicians. Never has this been more true than the current M&G packages for Black Veil Brides. Three separate packages are advertised, none of which include a ticket to the show, and all have ‘fees’ added to the price upon checkout. For $50, fans get to meet the band, but it will cost $75 to get a picture. However, one lucky fan at each show can receive the regular trinkets plus a sweat-soaked shirt worn by frontman Andy Biersack for a whopping $200! I am not sure what the resale value of a used t-shirt would be on eBay, but I am pretty sure that most BVB fans cannot afford such an exorbitant investment.
Meet & Greets are not the only way to meet your favorite bands. Many artists recognize that their fans’ financial situation should not keep them from making a personal connection. After a crowded Meet & Greet and a sold-out show, The Maine stayed for two hours after the performance, signing autographs for every single person who waited in line. And they were not the only band who stayed late to connect. Not wanting anyone to be left out, A Skylit Drive mingled with fans who did not have the opportunity to attend the Meet & Greet, remaining to pose for pictures and sign t-shirts long after their show ended. Musicians like these value their fans and will go above and beyond what is expected to show it.
A personal connection is more than a Meet & Greet. (And costs less too!) It is being able to hug Matty Mullins (Memphis May Fire) and tell him I dig the new album. Or sending a Tweet to Mike Champa (For All Those Sleeping), letting him know that I am excited to see him on Warped Tour. The truth is that a shout out from Joe Boynton (Transit) means more to me than the collection of V.I.P. laminates in my desk drawer. My bedroom walls are covered with signed posters from Meet & Greets, but my fondest memories come from personal connections that were spontaneous…and free.