Do you remember back before All You Need is Now? What about before Red Carpet Massacre? How about before Astronaut? Okay…what about back when the band offered Travel Packages? They’d announced the reunion, people were clamoring to see them. Meet them. Hang out with them. Do you remember any or all of that??
I feel just a little bit grandmotherly today as I’m typing the words, “Way back when, this band used to offer extravagant travel packages, where you’d pay one price for an entire show package – the gig, a special concierge, a party and even a special time where you’d meet the whole band!” My memory is very fuzzy on the details now as I look back today, but I can remember the uproar it all caused at the time.
In full disclosure, I never bought one. I had a friend who did though, I can remember being on the edge of my seat as she shared the whole experience with those of us who couldn’t quite scrape together the $2,000 to go. It all sounded like a dream.
That’s right. Those packages were not cheap, although today as I sit here typing the cost out I’m thinking “That really wasn’t that bad.” After all, in today’s terms, we are currently talking about shows for other artists that are tipping $500 just to get in the building, much less offering an open bar, hotel stay, show ticket, and party with the band. I don’t even know if bands still do anything remotely like that at any price!
I should also explain that these parties were not the same as the VIP parties one might attend if they paid for a VIP ticket, back in the day.
These parties and packages were a cut above. The parties were exclusive. The meet and greets were real. They weren’t just the “meet in a backstage hallway for five minutes, get your picture, and move on your way” sort of thing. They weren’t even the “VIP-Platinum Backstage Tour” type of experience. These parties with the band were seated. You, and perhaps four or five, or maybe even ten other people, sat at round tables (maybe one or two people per table), waiting for each band member to make the rounds. The band members made their way to each table, one at a time. There was time for a conversation (assuming one could actually find words in their head with John Taylor sitting at their table next to them).
Now, if you weren’t in the fan community at the time – you missed out on the never-ending discussion that took place when these were offered. If you thought that fandom is about the haves and have-nots now, well, you have no idea what it was like back then. When these packages were offered, people lost their sh*t, and I don’t just mean from excitement. Oh no. There were fans who were furious that it took money to meet the band. Real money. Keep in mind, this was nearly twenty years ago, and $2000 back then wasn’t chump change. Nowadays, you could probably be lucky to find front row center seats for that price – for some artists anyway. Back then – you could likely buy the front row – for other artists!
The discussion of what a band should or should not offer to their fans for purchase was very real. I have seen very few times where the collective fan community was truly up in arms for months on end, but the words “Travel package” created nothing short of near-rioting online. For months. I can remember posts going on for what felt like forever, discussing what was fair or not fair; what was indeed “selling out”, and what was not. All of the sudden, fandom was no longer about just buying the music. It was about buying the band, their time, and whether or not that was right. I can distinctly remember my friend not talking about her experience, and not because she didn’t have the time of her life (she did), but because she didn’t want to have to justify why she paid the money to go.
In my mind, there was no reason she needed to justify a damn thing. Had I had the money at the time, I would have bought the package, no question asked. I had two babies – seriously little ones – at home, a husband who was hardly at home for more than a few days at a time, and a ridiculous mortgage that needed paying. I couldn’t afford the price tag. That didn’t mean I didn’t want to go, or make other people feel bad for doing it. That’s why after my friend returned from her whirlwind trip of a lifetime, I gleefully sat down to listen to every single detail. Over the years, my memory has dulled to the point where I can’t remember everything she shared. Even so, I know that it was very much the moment of a lifetime that I would never begrudge my friend for taking. Good on her.
As someone who spent most of their time, at least up until I began writing the blog, feeling as though they were on the outside looking in, it is clear to me that the travel packages were one of the first obvious signs of a sort of hierarchy developing within the fan community. Those that could afford, went. Those people tended to rise above the rest of us commoners who stayed at home. In some strange way, the fans who bought a travel package and talked about it on the message boards, at any length, became a sort of celebrity within the community. There weren’t many of them, and they represented an experience that only a select few were privy. I not only envied those who went, but looked up to them with a sort of reverence. Nowadays, I don’t think I could name one travel package attendee beyond my one friend who went to Chicago. Things have changed so much since those days.
Shortly after, as “travel packages” began to offer less and less, going from full-fledged concerts and parties to more of a “brief encounter” and photo opportunity, VIP tickets became more and more of the regularity. The contest of who would get those tickets, and the “meet and greet lottery” became the norm on the message boards after that. The arguments over how much was too much to spend, and what really should constitute a “VIP experience” continued on for many years. People would complain about the cost, then fight like hell to be one of the lucky few who nabbed tickets, along with the chosen-by-lottery meet and greets with the band. It’s funny, because for as many VIP tickets Amanda and I bought, we never once got the lucky front row (does anyone remember how back in the day you’d buy a VIP ticket and not know where your seats were until the day of the show when you’d be handed your tickets in an envelope at the VIP entrance?!?), or meet and greets.
Yet, we survived, as I’m sure many of you reading did. Some might even say we’ve thrived.
*the laminate I chose for today’s photo is from the Astronaut tour in 2004. I couldn’t find a photo of anything from the reunion tour that would be meaningful – but it is important to note that DDM began October 2 of 2003, and the paid fan community is what organized the travel packages from that point on.