Aerosmith Wheels Out VIP Package

11 Jun


After a year of interpersonal and medical struggles, veteran rockers Aerosmith are reloaded and ready to hit North American amphitheaters again. And, like a lot of their brethren, the Boston rockers are making sure that longtime fans who can afford a little something extra have plenty of choices when it comes to perk-packed VIP ticket offers.

This summer’s “Cocked, Locked, Ready to Rock” tour will again offer a variety of VIP options through the band’s fan club, Aero Force One, which will give diehards a chance to meet the band and get some serious face time.

“We don’t do cookie cutter anything,” said Keith Garde, president of PAID Celebrity Services Inc., the firm that handles the VIP program for Aerosmith and provides online marketing, branding, fan community management, VIP experiences and video production for acts from Patti LaBelle to Deep Purple as well as athletes Laila Ali and Andrew Bynum.

With packages ranging from nearly $1,500 to around $230, Garde said the amount of VIP experiences offered at each of the 18 venues on the summer North American tour is specifically geared to what the facility can accommodate and what is best for fans.

“We advance everything with a fine tooth comb,” explained Garde, who has worked with the band for 23 years. “For example Jones Beach Amphitheater is a fun venue, but it’s old and it has extremely limited capacity for things other than a dressing room in a very tight backstage area. That limits what we can do and we won’t jam people into something because it can increase numbers.”

That is also why the number of top-tier experiences is also limited to around 25 per show for those looking for face time with the band’s formerly Toxic Twins, singer Steven Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry. The top level “Wheels Up Package” includes a meet-and-greet with frontmen, a front-of-house ticket, a pre-show party and photo ops with Tyler and Perry. (Some of the packages are also sold as VIP experiences only, with no tickets to the show.)

At the tour’s opening date at Oracle Arena in Oakland on July 23, the “Wheels Ups” option will cost $1,449 (prices vary slightly from city-to-city depending on availability and market rates), which includes a guaranteed seat in the first four rows, the meet-and-greet with Tyler and Perry, a catered pre-show party with other Aerosmith fans, a photobook of the experience, an official Aerosmith lanyard, collectible laminate and tour pin and an exclusive merchandise package.

There’s also the “Up Close and Personal Package with Joey and Brad,” in which drummer Joey Kramer and guitarist Brad Whitford regale attendees with some stories from the road in an intimate setting for $549 at the opening show. Whitford will also play a little something and share his road tales during the session, which also includes food and beverage, giveaways and a private pre-show party with other Aerosmith fans.

Purchasers are guaranteed tickets within the first 20 rows, the pre-show party, a photobook, lanyard, laminate and pin and the merchandise package.

The four different VIP Experience packages also include the $299 “Top Spot,” with an exclusive pin depicting the entire band that is not available in the other options, as well as a reserved seat right off the floor and the merchandise package. For $229, the “Premium” package includes a reserved seat in the first five rows of certain floor sections or parallel seating areas and the band member pin. PAID has one to three staffers on site for each show to attend to VIP purchaser’s needs.

At press time, a ticket on the main floor in row C for the opening show was available for $227.30, but Garde said for the band’s superfans, the rare collectibles and knowledge that they are buying a guaranteed premium ticket from a primary source is the allure.

Aerosmith is not alone in offering such packages. Bon Jovi fans can get up close and personal seats, a leather bag, catered meal and a take home black metal folding chair with the band’s logo on the cushion for $1,750 this summer. Before she canceled her summer tour, Christina Aguilera was offering a pre-concert photo op for $800 and even fans of teen sensation Justin Bieber can plunk down $350 for a pre-show soundcheck.

Garde has been putting together these VIP packages for Aerosmith for nearly a decade and he said the “Wheels Up” experience is limited to around 50 fans per show, while the “Up Close” one can accommodate around 100.

“Aerosmith is one of the first bands to have accommodated fans, back in late 1980s, when we were just making sure people who were fan club members were given preferential treatment and tickets,” he said, estimating that the deluxe package accounts for between 7-9 percent of tickets sales for each date on the tour.

He said the takers for the most expensive packages tend to fall in two camps: longtime uber-fans who are typically professionals in their 40s or 50s with expendable income who can afford the tab and another tier of superfans “who save their lunch money” in order to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Garde would not talk about the financial upside for the band or the profit margins on the packages, but he said they are priced based on the combination of the cost of providing the personnel to staff the event and the catering, as well as what peers such as Kiss, Bon Jovi and Paul McCartney are charging.

“What does the market bear? We want to make sure that what we do is to remain competitive and responsible while covering costs for the value added,” he said. “Aerosmith puts a lot of value at a substantial cost to make these work. It’s definitely an alternate source of revenue for the band and it has its financial value, but it’s not just that for the band.”

The true value, he said, comes from the fan who buys that premium package, goes online and raves about it to several hundred people, who then pass that on to several hundred more. That good word-of-mouth typically results in a noticeable uptick in ticket and merchandise sales.

The value of the experience is stoked further by PAID, which posts photos and recaps of every show, along with video and photos of fans interacting with the band, which he said has helped grow the band’s network of followers on social media platforms from 170,000 to more than 2 million over the past two years.

The other thing Garde could not quantify is the upside for the venue, which he said likely gets some value from the soft connections between the increased promotion PAID does to sell the packages, with each ad mentioning the venue. The packages also include exclusive early access to merchandise booths, so the house might also get a bump from its cut of merch sales as well. While pre-sales are still rolling out for the dates, Garde said he expects to sell out most, if not all of the premium packages.

“We don’t see these programs as just a way to make money,” he said. “For us, it’s the bigger picture about the longer haul of the relationship between us, our clients and their fans.”—Gil Kaufman

Interviewed for this story: Keith Garde, (815) 479-1833


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