There have been many changes in our business over the years; there was a time when bands toured to support album sales, but now they tour to make money. The recent rise in popularity of the 'VIP package' is a fine example of one such new revenue stream a band can generate while on tour. Here to shed some light on the subject is Willow Findlay, VIP Co-ordinator for the Queen + Adam Lambert tour.
“I started doing production work when I was about 16, just helping at festivals and events during the summer holidays. I started working for Harvey Goldsmith while studying at university and I had just graduated when I heard about a production role going on the last leg of Peter Gabriel's Back to Front tour. As it turned out they already had someone, but they asked me if I wanted to run the VIP packages on the same tour. Now, I’m here on the Queen + Adam Lambert tour doing the same thing.
So, what does the VIP Package coordinator do? Well, a lot of what I do is pre-production. At the start of the tour I contact all of the venues to confirm where the guests should meet and what spaces we are able to use. I also contact all of the VIP guests to let them know what to expect, where to meet and what time. With the Queen + Adam Lambert tour we have two VIP packages. The first is billed as the ‘Ultimate Onstage Experience,’ which is limited to only ten people each show. They get a backstage tour, a limited edition t-shirt, hand-printed poster, a souvenir laminate and, as the name of the package suggests, they get to watch the show from the stage (we have a platform that's attached stage right for them to sit on). The guests really like the interaction with the band and with the crew as well. There are some people who come to multiple shows, so we end up getting to know them quite well. The other package on offer is called ‘I Want It All.' It's a little less exciting, but the guests get very good seats close to the stage along with the same merchandise.
For me, show day starts at around 7am and I'll be helping the Production Co-ordinator until my cases come off the truck. Once I've got all the show merchandise ready it's time to chat with the venue contact and make sure we both know what’s going to be happening. It's also my job to make sure security are aware if people are to have early access to the venue. Before the VIP guests arrive I'll set up the merchandise and accreditation, which is usually somewhere in the foyer close to the box office. I’ll be there to greet them when they arrive and give them their merchandise. The onstage guests then get picked up and taken on their backstage tour.
It was a similar role when I was working the VIP Package for Peter Gabriel, but that involved a lot more hospitality. The sound checks would often feel more like a private concert for a handful of special guests. At a show in Graz, Austria, there was only one VIP! It was amazing to be able to do something that special for someone. She was a huge fan of Peter and we put her on the stage and provided her with in-ear monitors, so she could hear what the band were hearing. She met Peter at the end of the experience and she was shaking. It's great to have the ability to be creative like that, and that's one of my favourite things about doing this job.”