As Amanda and I were preparing ourselves for the presale by understanding what might be available (Is the venue seated or GA? Will their be VIP packages? Where in the heck is Biloxi? Can I fly there from Orange County?), we noticed that the ticketing for this particular show is indeed different from other shows. I’m not sure how many of you have bought presale tickets lately, but “VIP” has a new name. It’s now called “Enhanced Merchandise Bundle” and includes things such as a t-shirt, a commemorative tour laminate, and a photo book. The price for this “bundle” is $125 over and above the ticket price for the show. When we bought our presale tickets for Durham, it was made clear that the seats would still be preferential. (although as I recall there was no firm “first 5 rows” or anything like that given – the seats were merely called “premium”) However, for this particular venue, the floor is GA standing, with seats surrounding. In the past, when there has been a GA gig, there has still been an opportunity to buy a VIP ticket that would include early entry into the venue at the least – and at some gigs there would even be a roped off area in the front for these tickets. In Biloxi though, this is not to be the case. As I mentioned before, the tickets are now called “Enhanced Merchandise Bundles”, and for this show they do not include early entry. You’re simply paying for the merchandise when you buy a GA ticket in this bundle. There is, however, an option to buy a premium reserved seated ticket – and these seats are located in the first 3 rows of the balcony. In both cases, the bundle is an extra $125 above and beyond the ticket price of whichever ticket you purchase. (And yes, there is a hefty price difference between GA and seated tickets!) In the case of Biloxi, these enhanced merchandise bundles were a total of $224.50 for a GA ticket and $288.70 for a seated balcony ticket. Definitely different, if not downright highway robbery.
The questions here are obvious: why on earth would you spend so much just for extra merchandise? I suppose for those fans who haven’t seen the band in a while or don’t have much in the way of merchandise, this is a benefit. The bigger question is whether or not this is going to be the new trend for GA shows, and if so – how does everyone feel about that?
As I contemplated the pricing and the newly named merch bundle, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe this is going to be the new trend throughout all presale ticketing, meaning that perhaps premium seating will slowly be phased out. In the reading I’ve done across the industry, bands are starting to back away from the VIP experience altogether. Many are not comfortable with the idea that their fans can buy their way into areas reserved for friends and family, and they don’t like the idea that the same fans can essentially pay to have the same seats for every show – thus seeming to block anyone else from having the chance to be up close.
From my own perspective, I feel as though if premium seats weren’t offered to the fan community (I must reiterate here that NO SUCH ANNOUNCEMENT has been made by DDM or Artist Arena – this is pure conjecture on my part as I offer the topic for discussion.), I would simply find other ways in which to purchase them. I’m not interested in sitting in the balcony or the back at gigs. I want to be in the front, and as many others like me have said – I’m willing to pay the price to sit where I so choose. I cannot possibly imagine I’m the only fan who feels that way. Perhaps that doesn’t seem fair to other, less die-hard fans. I suppose my response would be that in the many, many cases where I am just a casual fan – I don’t want to pay high ticket prices, and therefore I happily accept less-premium seats. My goodness I’m going to see Def Leppard and Poison (Yes, yes I am!) in June, and I’m thrilled that my seats are way back on the lawn! I paid that $20.00 for those seats with a smile on my face, knowing that I will be well away from the chaos of the die-hard fans that are eager to show Bret Michaels everything they’ve got, and very close to the beer/wine trailer while I enjoy some fantastic rock music and see a great show.
I would also say that while I am no longer a member of DDM, taking away the chance to purchase premium tickets would do absolutely nothing to help the cause of the paid fan community. I certainly would see no reason to rejoin! I know many, many members (If not all) pay their yearly fee in order to have the opportunity to purchase those tickets. I can’t imagine that membership would be all that attractive otherwise. I also have to wonder what is ever going to happen with those “Gold” memberships – did people really pay extra SOLELY for some extra merchandise?
It would seem to me as a somewhat biased bystander that DDM is becoming more and more “merchandise” driven as opposed to actually providing the possibility for unique experiences as a fan. While I can’t possibly know what the future plans for the site or for ticketing will be, I have to hope that the Biloxi presale ticketing is not a sign of what is to come. I’m curious to read what many of you are thinking. I’ll will be continuing to watch presales, and keep you posted!