Highly charged: Pink. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
How much would you pay to see one of your favourite bands live? For Craig Williams, a Tool fan from Brisbane, the answer is simple: $634.
In April, the 30-year-old desktop publisher bought a $130 ticket for Tool's gig at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre and then took up the limited offer of a $504 VIP package that gave him access to the American quartet's pre-concert soundcheck, exclusive merchandise, a Q&A with the band's guitarist, Adam Jones, and early entry into the standing section in front of the stage. And that's how he spent a bit more than a third of the average Australian monthly mortgage repayment on a gig.
''I didn't tell a lot of people because they would have thought I was nuts,'' admits Williams, a self-described ''pretty big'' Tool fan who has seen the band live half a dozen times. ''It is a lot of money.''
Meet and greet: Justin Bieber. Photo: Getty Images
Williams is one of an increasing number of music fans opting to enhance their concert experience with extras, be they access to the artist or added amenities. And international artists, who now primarily make their living from live performances, are happy to add what can be a six-figure sum to their gig's gross.
On Pink's current Australian tour, for which tickets begin at $150, the $400 True Love package provides a VIP entrance to a prioritised seat, merchandise, a gift and an hour-long pre-show party with food and drink.
In November, for just shy of $500, Justin Bieber fans can buy a VIP experience that includes a seat in the first five rows, priority check-in and a dedicated host, and the opportunity to meet the teen idol and have a photo taken (in groups of six) backstage.
Diamonds are forever: Rihanna's VIP package promises to be an unforgettable experience. Photo: Getty Images
''What it's born of is a little more sophistication in the area of creating options for a growing class of ticket buyer who want something a notch above the normal venue experience,'' says Roger Field, vice-president of promotions for Pink's tour promoter, Live Nation. ''They want an assurance of a certain quality of seating and experience in the course of the evening.''
The availability, and the public's embrace, of the VIP package has grown in the past decade. A pioneer in the field was veteran hard-rock band KISS, who on their Australian tour in February were offering a variety of added options that culminated in a $1500 Ultimate Fan Experience, which included access to the soundcheck, autograph and photo sessions, and a pre-gig party.
KISS are renowned for their voracious commercial outlook, but Tool are practically the opposite. The band are media-shy and low-key, and had never offered anything like the VIP packages they provided on their Australian tour. Many members of Tool fan sites, such as the Australian-based fourtheye.net, were scathing, but Williams was happy to spend the extra $504, believing he got what he paid for.
While there was a wait in getting in to the soundcheck, which varied in length from night to night according to the band's mood, Williams now has an autographed limited-edition poster framed in his home, and at one point during the 30-minute Q&A found himself holding Jones' guitar. He got what the concert industry calls an ''aspirational package''.
''People are looking for the more bespoke, artisan experience whenever they can, and they're willing to pay for it,'' says Johanna Greenway, the director of marketing and PR for the Big Day Out music festival.
After 20 years of one-size-fits-all tickets, BDO introduced its own VIP component for the national festival in January. The Like a Boss package was $265, $100 more than a regular ticket, and the allocation of about 1000 a show sold out in Melbourne and Sydney, providing lockers, phone-charging, executive toilets and access to a cocktail bar.
As the festival market has become more competitive, promoters are looking for ways to entice older music fans back to events they once frequented.
BDO once created an oasis well away from the main stage, but the feedback they received was that Like a Boss ticket-holders wanted to enjoy all the trimmings while being close to the main stages. Next year, Like a Boss patrons will be able to have their cake - in the form of watching Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire and Blur in comparative comfort - and eat it, too, albeit paying ticket prices of $285, as opposed to $185, for the privilege.
''We've been finding a place for people of all walks of life to come back to the Big Day Out,'' Greenway says. ''People are looking for more in a festival. At this point they don't necessarily want to stand in the sun and watch 100 bands.''
At April's Bluesfest in Byron Bay, 120 fans bought $1199 VIP packages (on top of $585 tickets) that gave them reserved seats on platforms next to the main stages, preferred parking and a backstage tour. The high-end tickets sold out weeks before the standard variety, and it's a trend that looks set to grow as music fans accept that up-selling is now part of the live-music scene.
''As much as I love Tool, at the end of the day it's a job for them and they have to make a living,'' Williams says.
''They probably make a good living, but paying [$634] hasn't changed my perception of the band at all.''
Show me the money: what big bucks buys
PINK September 1-5, Allphones Arena; True Love VIP Party Package: ticketek.com.au, $399.90.
Includes VIP entrance, pre-show function; exclusive tour gift, laminate, on-site host.
In your dreams Pink tells your underachieving partner to shape up or ship out.
RIHANNA October 3-4, Allphones Arena; Diamonds Ultimate VIP Party Package, ticketek.com.au, $550.
Includes Seat in first 10 rows, pre-show function; exclusive tour gift, early access to merchandise, on-site host.
In your dreams Getting in among one of Rihanna's selfies.
ONE DIRECTION October 5-6, 23-26, Allphones Arena; Sound Check Party, ticketek.com.au, $399.
Includes A seat in first 10 rows, pre-show sound check, refreshments afterwards, program and laminate.
In your dreams Hair-styling tips from Harry Styles.
FLEETWOOD MAC November 10-11, Entertainment Centre; Dreams: Ultimate VIP Party Package,ticketmaster.com.au, $950.
Includes Front-row seat, VIP function, best-of album, VIP merchandise, gift pack, poster, laminate, on-site host.
In your dreams An aura reading from Stevie Nicks.
JUSTIN BIEBER November 29-30, Allphones Arena; VIP Justin Bieber Experience, $494.10.
Includes Seat in first five rows, VIP check-in, tour gift bag, meet and greet and photo with Bieber in groups of six.
In your dreams The Bieb's abandoned pet monkey.