Having released their self-titled debut album last year and now touring, Nothing But Thieves are getting an insiders view of the music industry. That includes the fan 'meet 'n' greet' a relatively new and often charged for offering for the superfan. Guitarist Joe Langridge-Brown has written us a guest column on why money for meets seats uneasily with the Southend band.
'Meet and greet' may or may not be a term you are familiar with. The same event may also go under the equally unsatisfying guises of 'fan hang' or even 'band party'. As ugly as the wording is, the concept means well: fans of a certain band or artist meet them and equally, the band get to meet their fans. Sometimes, especially in the US, a radio station will bring a band and their audience together, during an acoustic session, for example.
It is the practice of artists charging for these 'meet and greets', however, that our band has increasingly developed a vendetta against. Recently we sent a friend who helps run our website and social media sites into total meltdown by calling out a certain huge pop band on the issue of paid 'meet and greets'. Sorry mate.
Let's break down what the term actually means. First, the fan of a particular band or artist hands over a sizeable sum of money. Usually there are different levels of exploitation that the fan can choose from. The more money you pay, the closer you can feel to the artist. A meet and greet would typically happen before a show, where the fans are lined up like cattle for the chance to stand next to a dead-eyed, stoney faced musician, get a singular photograph and if they're extra lucky, maybe even a free poster. Lastly, they are then moved on briskly to avoid any awkwardness for the artist.
Now, since when did it become acceptable to charge a person money simply to be in your presence? Worse than that, how did we get to the point that, in some circles, it is actually expected for this to happen? This blatant narcissism becomes even more nauseating once you realise that the price being charged to simply meet the artist is often five times the price of the gig itself. How does that even make sense?
A long time ago I decided that, for me, music falls into two categories: firstly, music that is created purely for fun. I'm thinking, Gangnam Style - it's an undeniable tune. The second category of music being that which is truly meaningful and has substance. Music that is meant to move the listener, to make them think and feel. This is what we as a band, at least attempt, to write. Sometimes, music falls into both categories. Both are fine. Both have a place.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that this sort of exploitative meet and greet tripe is strictly limited to category one. Usually larger than life, prime-rib, pop stars. Just another cog in the big, greedy, money making machine. Regrettably however, it is not. More and more, the paid 'meet and greet' has plagued the world of musicians who claim to be making music to create something meaningful. Those who claim to be making music for music's sake. It takes a special piece of work to write a song about the pain of being an outsider and then, when people who relate to this feeling start showing up to gigs, charge them £100 for the pleasure of a handshake. (Sometimes, if you look really closely, you can see them mentally count the dollars per handshake.)
We have reached the point now where in some cases, new bands and artists (and audience members) think paid meet and greets are the norm. It is here that we must speak up and whole heartedly object to it. At base level, it's downright insulting.
This isn't to say that artists should be banned from diversifying in order to make a living. With record sales declining and when a year's worth of streaming revenue equates to roughly a bag of chips, it's not unreasonable to expect them to find other methods of making money when necessary. An obvious example of this is merch - which from experience is the only thing that keeps a band afloat in its early years.
Maybe charging tickets holders a reasonable sum to see the band figure things out in soundcheck is ok. Maybe. I'm still undecided. If your most loyal fans are willing to go the extra mile, as an artist, you should be willing to reciprocate. Skipping work to be the first in line to a show or to attend a radio session should be met with more than a $2000 opportunity for photograph with life size cardboard cut-out of the artist. Yes, that happened. The point is that it has to be about the music, man. (Peace sign held aloft). After all, that is the real connection between artist and their audience, right? The shared love of a collection of songs and what those songs represent, rather than fans being treated like cattle at a meat market.
Take it from a guy who spent years playing in toilet tour venues, to no one but the sound guy and any friends we were able to bribe to come along. Having real fans who appreciate your music is an absolute privilege. Leave the exploitation to those soulless few who've already lost sight of what music is about. We're better than that. Joe Langridge-Brown @NBThieves
For more head to Nbthieves.com.