Workshop: VIP and premium ticketing
Chair: Allan McGowan, IQ Magazine
Hosts: Sarah Woodhead, VIP Nation (UK) | Jacqui Harris, AEG Live (UK)
Harris said the nature of the VIP ticket has changed since its introduction: from an add-on (akin to a spontaneous upgrade to business class on an aeroplane) for those who just “wanted to feel special” to the preserve of those who identify as “festivalgoers.” “Festivals have become an experience and a destination” in their own right, she explained, comparable to a “holiday in Greece.”
IQ associate editor McGowan asked if there is ever any hints of a “class war” at festivals with VIP options, with those with general-admission tickets clashing with the VIPs. Woodhead said when VIP tickets were first introduced there “may have been some resentment at people who felt like ‘second-class citizens,’ I think it’s an accepted part of the festival landscape now.”
In terms of ticket options, Harris said that promoters need to be “clear” to avoid confusing buyers. “If people land on your page and have to keep scrolling and scrolling through pages of tickets, they probably won’t even remember why they wanted to come in the first place,” she commented, adding festivals should offer “no more than seven to ten” different tickets.
Harris suggested it’s better to upsell through the purchase process, rather than including T-shirts, park-and-ride packages, etc., in the ticket format.
Woodhead said VIP Nation actively solicits suggestions from festivalgoers for VIP options. “People ask for things like welly-washing facilities, ice deliveries, buggy services,” she explained. “There’s no value to these things in isolation, but when you bundle them up they can contribute to the VIP experience.”
While revenues from VIP tickets have become crucial to many promoters’ bottom lines, McGowan expressed his concern that festivals are “at the risk of creating small towns.” Playing devil’s advocate, he said: “You’re making it so comfortable that the original idea, of frolicking in the woods, is becoming lost… We may as well just move indoors at this point!”
The demand is clearly there – Woodhead showed how revenues from VIP experiences had grown exponentially in recent years at festivals such as Download and Latitude – McGowan admitted his reservations are “only because I’m old.”
“You’re our target market!” retorted Woodhead. For many years, she continued, VIP tickets were a “massive afterthought, but now everyone appreciates the value of VIP – it’s the same as sponsorship – as a huge part of their income.” She said VIP options “need to be factored in from the outset, or you’ll never make the most of the opportunity.”
Harris added it’s “one of the first things [promoters] should be discussing: You don’t want to plan your entire festival then find you don’t have enough space for your VIP areas.”
‘Traditional’ VIP options, with a separate golden circle area for certain ticketholders, however, aren’t for everybody: “Not everyone likes to segregate the audience,” said Woodhead. “It’s a hard balance to strike to make everyone feel special.”