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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Big bucks for starry perks

Prices for gigs are rising, with fan packages that include benefits such as dinner with the artists.
The Straits Times - October 20, 2012
By: Rachael Boon
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Big bucks for starry perks For the upcoming 2NE1 (above) concert here, fans can pay an extra $88 for soundcheck passes. -- PHOTO: YG ENTERTAINMENT

More concert and showcase promoters are coming up with new ways to get maximum monetary mileage out of performers, charging big bucks for fans to get a special stardust encounter.

These fancy fan packages go beyond just meet-and-greets to include priority entry and dinner with their idols. And making an entrance on the scene are special tickets where fans pay just to watch and hear the acts do soundchecks.

Getting in on the add-on act is American pop trio Jonas Brothers who are performing here on Monday at Fort Canning Park. Hand over $550 and you get a VVIP ticket that includes all kinds of benefits including priority entry, access to the private VIP hospitality suite, and a meet- and-greet.

That is $300 more than the next highest-priced ticket - the VIP category that does not include a meet-and-greet. Tickets at the door, without any frills, cost $125. The VVIP tickets are almost sold out.

Paying extra for a meet-and-greet with stars or a short showcase performance on top of the concert itself is nothing new but what is different this time is the extent of the offerings up for grabs if you are ready to part with top dollar.

Fans of K-pop boy band Nu'est, who debuted only this year, lapped up such a deal for a showcase gig to be held here next Friday.

On offer was a $500 "Ambassador" package that, as well as the usual fan merchandise, includes dinner with the band after the showcase, and allows fans to follow the band on their itinerary from their arrival at Changi airport to their departure.

And it has already sold out, says media platform Kpopgaga which is bringing in the five-member band.

They are unable to disclose the number of packages sold. The next highest ticket price is the VIP ticket at $200, which does not include following the band - and that one is sold out too. Fans can still buy the $78 free-standing ticket which includes a poster and an autograph session.

Kpopgaga's managing director Nicole Tan says that the Ambassador package was created because "we want to fulfil the fans' desire to follow through their idols' itineraries".

She explains why costs are so high: "The Ambassador package takes into account various expenses that we have to incur to ensure the follow-through is smooth. This includes transport, meals and security as well as merchandise and souvenirs for the fans to remember this experience."

Another value-add fan concept being brought to Singapore is the soundcheck "party", where a limited number of passes are made available to fans to watch their favourite stars rehearse right before the concert.

Artists such as pop star Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers have held soundcheck parties overseas.

Event management company Launch Entertainment is charging $88 for tickets just to hear the soundcheck of K-pop girl group 2NE1, who will perform at their first solo concert here on Dec 1 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Public sales started yesterday at 10am and more than 70 per cent of the tickets have been sold so far.

A limited number of soundcheck passes are on offer at $88, on top of tickets from $168 to $288. Only those ticketholders will be able to buy one pass a ticket, while stocks last.

The move follows positive fan reaction after Launch Group handed out 150 free soundcheck passes for K-pop band Big Bang's concert last month to contest winners of Korean electronics giant Samsung and OCBC cardmembers. They were also given priority entry into the venue.

Fashion buyer Chew Jia Lin, 25, attended it and says it was a great experience because "they sang at least three to four full songs, and Taeyang (one of the Big Bang members) was so nice, he came down from the stage, and he was dancing right in front of us".

However, she is undecided about whether she would have paid for the passes as the "tickets were pretty expensive already".

The tickets cost from $128 to $288. "If I hadn't gone for it, I don't know if I'd have paid but the fact that you get to see them up close, I thought it was a priceless experience. I'm sure people will pay."

Student Yen Mei Ting, 21, will be buying mosh pit tickets for 2NE1's concert, but not the soundcheck passes.

She says: "I feel that it isn't worth it since I'd already be attending the concert, so why spend the extra amount? I do think it's a rip-off, unless of course they are for sale apart from the concert tickets, so people who cannot afford to attend the full concert would be able to buy it."

Fellow 2NE1 fan Stacey Cheok, 21, whose sister went for the Big Bang soundcheck, says $88 is "extra for an unnecessary soundcheck pass because you can't make direct contact with the band members nor get them to sign autographs or get a handshake. It's basically just like the concert - not much of a difference".

However, the student, who wants to buy the mosh pit tickets, might "reconsider if there is priority entry for 2NE1's soundcheck pass, as it helps me to save the time spent on queuing for entry".

Mr Ngiam Kwang Hwa, managing director of music label Rock Records, whose concert production arm brings in acts such as popular Taiwanese band Mayday and American rock band Chicago on Oct 29, says he would avoid offering such passes.

The only good enough reason would be "to cash in on the curiosity of fans," he says. "While it might be a good thing for fans, it's a no-no for artists such as Mayday, who do not allow anything to disturb their preparation on the concert day."

A spokesman for local concert promoter Running Into The Sun says: "It is really dependant on artist management, and definitely not a common practice we would imagine. Sound checks for artists are usually private and we would have to clear the venue when they are on stage."

For 2NE1's stop in New Jersey earlier this year, VIP ticket holders of the concert were given access to the soundcheck party, and waited 11/2 hours before they were allowed to enter.

The managing director of Launch Entertainment, Mr Amos Boon, explains why the passes to soundchecks in Singapore are ticketed separately from the concert itself.

He says: "In the United States, promoters have more flexibility in terms of pricing, especially with bigger audience numbers. Tagging the soundcheck passes to the concert tickets would raise prices, and not every concertgoer might want to attend the soundcheck party."

But Ms Cheok would prefer otherwise. She says: "The tickets for K-pop concerts are getting too expensive. And soundcheck passes should be given out or won - treat it as a special service for the fans.

"Reward us a little bit - we have been investing so much time and money for the band, what is a mere soundcheck pass to them?"

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