Wednesday, June 10, 2015

“Love” for sale

In the beginning, idols gave autographs. And it was good. At least if you wanted an idol’s autograph. But an autograph, an impersonal touch of the flesh as the idol moves along the rope line…These were for pedestrian, every day, run-of-the-mill fans. Not quite enough for those with the money to buy the kind of experience they want. And fortunately for these superfans, there are plenty of idols out there willing to sell ‘em what they want.

You can share a backstage moment – and here’s betting that such a moment has a stop watch on it – with Maria Carey for $3K. Lady Gaga did a recent group event. Fans paid $1,350 to listen to her talk for 40 minutes, then got an assembly-line handshake and picture take. Kind of like sitting on Santa Claus’ lap. It seems personal while you’re perched on his knee, but there’s someone in an elf costumer moving the line along. But $1.3fK and $3K are just the tip of the love-for-sale iceberg:

The burgeoning business in celebrities selling themselves as much as their talent has been a boon to such companies as XM Concierge. For $20,000 to $150,000, Simon David and his team at XM have helped clients secure elite meet-and-greets with celebrities, as well as private meetings before concerts and performances at weddings and bar mitzvahs. How would you like to spend a few hours roller-coastering at Disneyland together, or grabbing a cup of coffee on your way to work, like old pals—or even taking a trip to Mister Softee with them before taking a leisurely stroll around Manhattan?…

Music promoter Deborah Brosseau estimates that around 60 percent of her projects have added a profit-based, ticketed meet-and-greet component in the last five years or so. “Now that label and book deals are so skewed, in-person events are a stronger income stream, and any VIP packaging is more money for everyone,” she says. “It used to be that you could get a picture with someone as a trade-off for your fandom, but now there are no freebies.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Hey, if you’re an idol, everyone wants a piece of you. Why not make ‘em pay for it.

And, since these idols are performers, they’re pretty darned capable of convincing you that they’re really making a connection, that the real you is meeting the real them.

It’s really difficult for me to imagine any performer with whom I’d like to share a Mister Softee. George Clooney maybe? But the whole time I’d be thinking “This guy’s an actor. He knows I’ve paid for the pleasure of meeting him. I know that he knows. He’s probably thinking ‘how pathetic is this broad that she’d pay big bucks to have a Mister Softee with me.’ And I don’t even like Mister Softee. So the whole thing’s a waste.”

I don’t know if George Clooney even does this sort of thing. Probably too busy trying to figure out how much his gorgeous new wife is spending on clothing. But, of course, those expenses suggest that he might have the need to sell a bit of himself off. He can be off charging some schlump $20K to have a Mister Softee with him while the little woman is off buying a $20K pocketbook. On the other hand, George is an actor and, unlike their brethren in the music biz, actors (at least those of the stature of GC) haven’t yet had their money-making opportunities cut into by technology. You can download a song, rather than the album. Or you can pirate the album. Sure, you can pirate a movie, too, but no one’s going to download a single scene. Anyway, as the music business has taken a hit, more musicians are opting for the free money. On the list (by no means exhaustive) are Madonna and Ed Sheeran,

I suppose if I had to pick a musician, I’d go with Bruce Springsteen. But I would no doubt feel the same way about a paid visit with Bruce as I would about one with George. I’d know that he knew that I knew that he knew. And I’d really feel ridiculous paying to spend time with someone who could just as easily have been sitting across the aisle from me in eighth grade if I’d grown up in NJ rather than in Worcester. I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with my close (and free) encounter with Bruce’s drummer, who I ran into at the corner drugstore when Bruce and the boys were in Boston a couple of years back for a couple of concerts at Fenway. (Great concert, by the way.) Anyway, while waiting to pick up my husband’s prescription, I had a mini-chat about old-fashioned drug stores with a guy who looked familiar. It was only after he left the store that I realized it was Max…

Bruce and George would probably be the type that sold themselves on behalf of a charity, which is a bit nobler than the moi-charity grab and go. (The company that sets you up with charity-focused celebs is BidKind. The one person named here was Carrie Underwood who brought a brother and sister to near tears, and convinced them that she would have liked nothing mor3e in the world than to “continue chatting” with them,)

I did go over to look at XM Concierge, to check out what kind of experiences are on offer.
In addition to celebrity meet-and-greets, they’ll get you into a splashy fashion show, make sure you’re the guest in the talk show audience who gets to ask a question - “connecting you to the crème de la crème of entertainment experiences,” and making sure you have “your moment to shine.” They’ll even rehearse you so that you don’t flub your big moment.

Not for me, I’m afraid. A random free encounter with a celeb is one thing – I was once on a flight with Kurt Russell: we did not speak – but to pay for the experience? Yowza.

Anyway, even if I wanted to madly meet some celeb, I’m about to start a big home reno project, which is where all my extra $$$ will be going. But wouldn’t it be fun to have Martha Stewart come help me pick out a backsplash? Wonder what she’d charge?

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