You queue for the concert; you have a great time watching the concert; you go to the stage door and wait for the band to come out; you spend a few minutes getting autographs; you go home. For many people, this has been the way to enjoy a concert for decades - but it seems that more and more artists are unwilling to sign autographs for free. Before going into this, I want to stress that I do not expect anyone to sign an autograph for me if they do not want to - I am not that selfish or arrogant. Anyway, I feel that it is a pretty sad state of affairs if something so quick as an autograph is so often now becoming another way to get money out of the fans and the bottom line is that I refuse to pay! Recently, I saw a pre-show meet and greet being advertised for Michael Schenker's upcoming show at Nottingham Rock City on the 'Temple of Rock' tour. Seeing no price, I decided to email to show my interest. A week or so later I found an email in my spam folder from Schenker's people saying that if I was still interested in doing the meet and greet I needed to send £200 to a paypal account. Needless to say, I emailed back saying that I was no longer interested and was a bit put out because there was no mention of the £200 charge on the advert on Facebook.
Charges for these VIP packages are almost always on top of the ticket for the show, just further adding to the cost of going to a concert - especially with all the excessive service charges and forced posting options added on these days (some venues even charge for you to pick tickets up at the venue!). Most of these VIP packages also mean that the holders get early access to the venue, which totally ruins the fun of queuing up early to get the front to see your favourite bands up close. More and more bands are now using this as a way of avoiding signing autographs for dedicated fans who are willing to wait in the cold after the show for the band to come out to the bus - which I see as disrespecting the effort made by real fans who would rather you were honest and just said you did not want to sign any. If I see that there is a VIP Package at a concert, I rarely bother to take any CD inlays or a sharpie along to that gig anymore because I know the band are highly unlikely to come out and sign any autographs after the show.
I am sure to some that this seems like a totally selfish rant, but to me it creates a whole snobbery around the live experience. Now, people with more money who perceive themselves as themselves as 'bigger fans' can buy VIP Packages and to me this just ruins the notion of an audience where everyone is just having a good time. I have read about a few bands who have spoken out against such things, most notably W.A.S.P. who cancelled a show in New York because of a promoter selling these packages to the fans against the band's will. In a statement they said: "We are saddened that it had to result in the
cancellation of our performance for this evening, but we believe this
unfortunate situation amounts to nothing more than our fans being ripped
off. We have never changed a fan for an autograph and WILL NEVER
charge any fans for an autograph." Now I met Blackie Lawless in 2010 and he happily signed me an autograph and shook my hand - and I have met plenty of other 'big' names who were more than obliging and really down-to-earth people. I will also stress that I have never been refused an autograph. My long-winded point to this is that I believe a VIP experience at a concert is totally against everything that music is supposed to be about. I find it particularly hypocritical of bands like Mötley Crüe who sing about fighing against the system and then charge fans extra to meet them or to be at the front. So many hardworking bands out there always take time for their fans and sign autographs and here and now I say thankyou for making those concerts even more special. However those who think it is alright to rip fans off for an autograph, you really need to get over yourselves. If you do not want to sign autographs after a show, then just say so and be honest! We all appreciate how busy you are, just don't rip us off instead..
See W.A.S.P.'s full statement here: http://www.ytsejam.com/modules.php?name=News&file=print&sid=8604