BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (TheStreet) -- The tailgating and sweaty hours of listening to jam sessions in the sun that once defined summer concerts are now signs that you're doing it wrong.
Even in a recession, summer concerts are a huge owner. According by
ticket resale site StubHub, ticket transactions soared 54% last summer behind acts like Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles, Elton John and Billy Joel. Eagles tickets alone averaged $264 in resale value, but venues, festivals and ticket companies are starting to snare more of those high-end prices for themselves.
, for example, offers subscription programs that guarantees buyers quality seats and amenities like food and parking at multiple shows for a premium. This summer, however, there are enough VIP offerings to satisfy even the most casual concertgoer. Here are 10 examples of packages that offer more than just a performance. Bring your earplugs, because it's going to be a long summer.
Since hell froze over and the inoffensive California rock juggernaut regrouped nearly 16 years ago, the Eagles dropped Don Felder but raked in the cash with reunion tours and ensuing live albums and DVDs. This summer's tour with Keith Urban and the Dixie Chicks should be no different, as luxury-ticket group I Love All Access is taking care of the frills. The same people who persuaded fans to overpay to see Journey, Scorpions, Def Leppard, Snoop Dogg and Van Halen are putting together similar packages for the Eagles. For $595, fans get a ticket in rows 7-9 and a yet-unnamed Eagles gift. For $750 to $895, spendthrifts get choice of a ticket in the front row or in rows 2 through 5, a pre-show party including dinner and drinks, the unnamed Eagles gift, "hassle-free" entrance to venue, "crowd-free" merchandise shopping, a commemorative laminate, an on-site host and free parking where available. "Life In the Fast Lane" indeed, Boomers.
Carole King & James Taylor
If you're an aging singer/songwriter charging ungodly amounts for premium seats to your shows, there's only one way not to be branded a sellout: Give most of the take to charity. James Taylor and Carole King are prompting everyone and their parents to dust off copies of
Sweet Baby James
for the summer by reliving their 1970 and 1971 shows at West Hollywood's Troubadour through a world tour. Now that the fans who saw those shows are more well-off -- and likely put off by going to small clubs -- the two are offering their audience VIP amenities. For $1,250, fans get a seat on stage in a fake nightclub setup, access to Taylor and King's sound check, a pre-show reception with beer, wine and hors d'oeuvres, a tour laminate and a commemorative book. Of that $1,250, Tickets for Charity will donate $825 to the National Resources Defense Council and Alliance for the Wild Rockies. Who says nostalgia's self-indulgent?
This generation's Leif Garrett/Tevin Campbell/Aaron Carter is like a ringtone that only really screamy adolescents can hear. The kids love him, but he's like 16-year-old Canadian wolfbane for Gen X parents wondering how the music industry went from Cobain to this. Get that dot-com money ready, slackers, because you're going to need it to make little Cody or Madison feel like a VIP at one of Bieber's squealfests.
If you don't want to be stuck in a re-enactment of Bieber's Roosevelt Field Mall fiasco in Long Island, prepare to fork over a few Benjamins for either the "Love Me" or "My World Ultimate" VIP packages. At $137, the "Love Me" deal offers a mid-tier ticket, a Justin Bieber VIP gift bag, a laminate, lanyard and a souvenir concert ticket. For about $348, though, fans get all of the above with an upgrade to the front floor sections, access to the sound check, a pre-show party with your own private host, an autographed book or program and preferred parking, entrance and check-in. War-weary parents who've already gone this route with the Hannah Montanas of the world will shudder at paying such prices, but newbies may find the price reasonable if only for the parking and exit -- which allows for a hasty retreat.
The Fame Monster was recently called a sellout for pimping brands like
in her video for "Telephone." Sellout? What was she before she was a pop star -- the bassist for Fugazi? This is like calling Madonna or Gene Simmons a sellout. Lady Gaga and her camp just know how to squeeze every dime out of her career, and her Monster Ball tour dates are no different. Aside from Virgin Mobile sponsorship, her tour includes three-tier VIP packaging with something for every Gaga wannabe. The offerings start with the Silver Hot Seat package, which implores fans to pay $205 for a second-tier seat, a piece of merch and the token laminate. For $5 more, however, fans in the "Little Monster Zone" can ditch the seat for early admission to an up-close general admission area, merch, a laminate and their own "event-management staff." If fans really want to roll like they have "The Fame," however, they should surrender $405 for the Gold Hot Seat package with all the perks of the "Little Monster" plan, but better seating and a pre-show disco with live DJ and snacks. Even with that plan, however, big spenders will have to shell out for a cash bar. Who's the sellout now?
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
With Petty's top ticket already at $125, his $300 "Mojo Package" had to include some decent bells and whistles to make it worth the cost. In this case, a seat in the first 15 rows and preferred parking is just the beginning. Fans also receive the Shepard Fairey-designed tour poster, downloads of five Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers albums, a CD copy of the new album,
, and a $25 coupon to the band's store. Petty's common-man appeal should preclude a VIP package altogether, but maybe fans are just lucky his handlers didn't call it the "You Don't Have to Live Like A Refugee" package.
In fairness, Green Day doesn't offer a VIP package or a ticket more than $90. What it does have, however, is a concert tie-in with
that gives the bank's cardholders preferred access to tickets. This is fairly rote in concert circles, as
have offered similar cardholder benefits for years. For a band like Green Day, though, which still manages to hang on to a shred of punk credibility despite selling millions of albums and making millions of dollars, being attached to a bank that received a $45 billion government bailout and still doled out millions in bonuses immediately afterward doesn't exactly jibe with the punk ethos. If you're a Green Day-listening Citi cardholder, though, it's sick, bro. They're totally gonna play a bunch of stuff from "Dookie."
Much like classic rock fans, attendees of Sarah McLachlan's original Lilith Fair have grown older and wealthier. Since this estrocentric event last occurred in 1999, Lilith dropped the "Fair" and added some frills for fans seeking more than the Indigo Girls, Jill Scott, Kelly Clarkson, Mary J. Blige, Martina McBride, Brandi Carlile, Colbie Caillat, Sheryl Crow and Sugarland. For $300, "Lilith Spirit" Silver VIPs get a second-tier seat at the main stage, access to VIP areas at the general admission stages, food and drinks at the VIP tent, merchandise and laminates and staffers to assist them. A better seat awaits in the $450 Gold package, but all the sweet perks dwell within the "Lilith Universe." A $750 investment gets a fan all of the above, plus a front-row seat and a meet-and-greet with a Lilith artist. It's costly, but it beats 90-degree lawn seats and the scent of sodden Birkenstocks.
Give Live Nation this much: It's really sticking to the whole sales-by-genre approach to music. Hoping that country fans are willing to dedicate their entire summer to the genre, Live Nation has begun offering what it calls the "Country Megaticket" -- kind of like a season ticket to one music venue, but just for country acts. For example, if a fan lives near the Comcast Center in Marshfield, Mass., and doesn't get much country in his blue state, he or she can purchase a package that includes tickets to Sugarland, Rascal Flatts, Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn and Tim McGraw shows. While lawn seats go for $225, the $700 platinum package includes an up-close, covered seat, access to the VIP club and all its amenities and VIP parking. In a genre that prides itself on modesty and hatred of all things fancified, such a package is as close to luxury as it gets.
Lollapalooza may have started out as a traveling freak fest, but setting up base camp in Chicago's Grant Park a few years back made Perry Farrell's event less grungy and more genteel. This year's still-unannounced lineup is rumored to include '90s stalwarts Soundgarden and Green Day, but also goes up the social ladder with Lady Gaga, The Strokes and Phoenix, among many others. Its attendees are no longer confined to mosh pits and mud fields, but lay back in the lavish Lolla Lounges.
For $850, VIPs get three days of unlimited lounge access; beer, wine and mixed drinks; catered food; happy-hour tastings by top Chicago chefs; reserved, air conditioned rest rooms, viewing platforms for the main stages; and golf-cart shuttles between the north and south lounges. That may be a great way for swells from sponsors like
, Citi and
to network, but if you're seeking real luxury, try the private cabanas. Starting at $1,250 per person, corporate sponsors can treat clients to a private, air-conditioned lounge; private viewing platforms; access to the Lolla lounges and their amenities via golf cart; personal staffers to fill your drinks and a full buffet. The cabanas accommodate 25 to 45 people and include their own signage: So you can show all of Chicago how you and your fellow Gen Xers sold out just as quickly as the Baby Boomers you once derided.
You wouldn't think that a four-day event rooted in hippie, jam band culture would have VIP offerings, but a lot has changed at Bonnaroo. It turns out that the new people who showed up when the festival started inviting mainstream acts like Tool, Metallica, Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z don't like tents, public showers or other people very much. That brings us to Bonnaroo 2010, where the Dave Matthews Band and Kings of Leon share a bill with Jimmy Cliff and the Flaming Lips, but the VIPs pay to get away from the tented, gray-market masses. The price of segregation starts at $1,349, which includes two VIP tickets, exclusive entrance and exit, one car's worth of VIP parking, staffed showers and rest rooms, a pre-festival dinner and party, exclusive lounges and viewing areas and a commemorative package including a shirt and poster. Another $73 in fees and $12 in shipping aren't included, but that's a small price to pay compared to other upgrades. VIP meal service costs $194 per person plus fees, while a recommended upgrade to an RV costs an additional $150.
With that in mind, it may be worth considering the Bonnaroo Total Access Package. For $18,500, eight fans get full-access credentials to the site. The package also includes a private tour bus near the center of the festival with accommodations for eight, two air-conditioned lounges, flat-screen televisions, a private bathroom, pre-stocked kitchen and wireless Internet connection. Other amenities include on-stage viewing platforms for all shows, private lounges, various open bars, catering, an on-call concierge, 24/7 golf-cart service throughout the site and transportation to and from Nashville or Tullahoma airports.
-- Reported by Jason Notte in Boston.
Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.