Thirty Seconds To Mars VIP Packages, and inset: Bon Jovi VIP chair (from a photo by Richard Perry/The New York Times)

Thirty Seconds To Mars VIP Packages, and inset: Bon Jovi VIP chair (from a photo by Richard Perry/The New York Times)

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair, August 15-18, 1969, featuring Richie Havens, Santana, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix… $7 per day. Bon Jovi at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, May 24-25, 2010, the top VIP concert package (with a catered meal, leather bag, and the chair you sit in, custom-designed with the Bon Jovi logo): $1,875. My, how things have changed. In this rapidly shifting milieu of the music business, with a shrinking base of increasingly poor and fewer rich music consumers, new models for generating revenue from the concert-going elite are emerging.

Enter the VIP ticket package. A vast array of ‘perks’ at a wide variance of prices, as limitless as the imagination. And it’s not just the biggest names like the Rolling Stones and U2, but also acts such as the B-52s, Thirty Seconds To Mars, and Emilie Autumn. From admittance to soundchecks, exclusive performances, backstage dinners and open bars, to all sorts of memorabilia and a photo op with the band… perhaps.

When the music itself is devalued and the new album you’ve been working on for ages suddenly pops up for free on the internet months before its scheduled release date, what’s a band to do? You gotta make money somehow. Live appearances, t-shirts and other merchandise, CDs to those who haven’t already downloaded it – what else have you got that people might be willing to pay for? Your time, obviously.

For a new band just starting out, no one knows who the hell you are, you’ve hauled all your gear cross-country in a van and lugged shit up a flight of stairs, and only a handful of people have shown up to hear you play… I imagine nothing is more rewarding than having someone come up afterward to say how much they enjoyed the show. You might be inspired, in such a situation, to kick back with a drink and chat for a few minutes. And as your popularity grows, 25 people, 100, 150 maybe – still nice to talk to a few fans. But how about several hundred, or several thousand, of your ‘close, personal friends’ wanting a quick chat, an autograph, or a photo? When it becomes such a blur of cities and faces that you find yourself dividing people into personality types for amusement, a way to pass those endless hours on the tour bus, you know you’ve crossed the line from unwinding with a few new friends to manual hard labor. Why not narrow down this onslaught of humanity to a more manageable number and rake in a little cash at the same time? Though it might be wise to make this determination based not on financial wealth, but rather mental stability.

I’ll be honest – having to pay to say hello to someone whom, a few months ago, I was able to casually walk up to as a normal person, saddens my hippie heart. But it also got me to thinking. Everyone is so busy these days, we have little time to stop and talk to each other. There are occasions when I feel lonely, everyone racing around in their own little worlds with no time to spare, save for the occasional ‘tweet’. At those times, I would gladly pay someone to just friggin’ stop for a moment, sit down, and talk to me (oh wait, that’s a psychiatrist, isn’t it?).

I was discussing this with my friend Victor Robert Venckus, radio DJ and psychic/past life regression counselor for the past 35 years; well known in the Boston spiritual and college radio communities. I had given him an idea. He wondered if he could charge people to attend his annual birthday party. I mean, why not? He’s a popular guy; people often call him up for his opinion on something, some guidance, a moment of his time. For the privilege of attending one of his legendary soirees, why not charge a few dollars?

You’d do it on a scale, of course, economic times being what they are. Maybe $10 for the party itself, $15 if you want him to actually greet you as you come in, $20 for a hug, $30 for a kiss, and use your imagination from there. No ‘level of access’ is too great. He needs the money.

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