Can You Say “VIP” Without Cracking Up?

You should know, I like selling tickets. I like seeing the venues of Goldstar’s partners packed to the rafters and their bank balances go up. I also like seeing a room full (as opposed to a room half full) of people having a great time at a live event. That’s just how I am.

So I’m on record a bunch of times in support of things like premium pricing, even so-called “VIP” packages. As a rule, when a fan wants to pay you more to get more, you should find a way to make that possible.

But there’s an important “if” that should be attached. I read this piece in the Los Angeles Times about VIP packages to see Britney Spears in Las Vegas. You can spend up to $5,000, but for a mere $2,500, you get a pretty good seat, a look backstage and a chance to meet Britney.

Now, if you’re not among those who think that sounds like a good deal, you probably don’t place much value on meeting Brit-Brit at any price. Don’t worry … I’m not here to judge you either way. Even if you’re not that person, you must acknowledge, because it’s reality, that there are those who pay it and are happy about the transaction.

People want access, and people who really care a lot want more access. I think it’s a great idea for live entertainment organizations, perhaps a little less famous than Britney Spears, to design ways for people to get more and deeper access and connection than just a choice of three or four tiers of ticket prices.

But only IF they can make sure that the people who buy in at those deeper levels walk away feeling special, feeling as though they’ve made a truly unusual connection to either the artist, the organization or the work in some way. If it becomes routine, sanitized, productized, paint by numbers, eventually these VIP programs will catch up with you. You’ll build resentment among your most passionate fans and plant the seeds of their loss of interest in you.

Put differently, if you don’t crack up saying “VIP” when you’re talking about the people you’re selling your VIP packages to, maybe it’s OK.

Years ago, I met Bob Farrell, founder of the formerly legendary California ice cream parlor, Farrell’s. Farrell’s was the kind of place you went if you were a California kid in the ’60s and ’70s to celebrate your birthday, so if you sat in the restaurant for a while you’d hear quite a few renditions of “Happy Birthday.” It doesn’t take many repetitions of the song to push an adult to near-madness, but Bob Farrell told me something that stuck with me about that. He said that he always made sure that every time the employees of the store sang “Happy Birthday” to a kid, they did it with as much enthusiasm as they did the first time that day because to that kid, it was the first and only time he’d heard it.

So IF you can deliver VIP experiences with the same enthusiasm every time as you will the first time, by all means do them.

If not, they’ll be a short-term revenue win and a long-term loyalty loss.

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