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They're ready to rock, not rough it

Not everyone wants the communal experience summer music festivals offer, so they pay extra for some pampering.

June 13, 2007|Kristin M. Hall | Associated Press

NASHVILLE — Warren Weitzman is 40, and there's no way he's going to share a portable toilet and camp out with thousands of other people just to see the Police perform at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival this weekend.

"I don't do that. I won't," said Weitzman, a businessman from Syracuse, N.Y.

Instead, he'll have access to a real bathroom, enjoy free and discounted food and drinks, and then he'll be driven to a hotel 30 miles away from the festival site in Tennessee.

"I will go VIP or not go at all," Weitzman said.

Bonnaroo draws 80,000 people to a farm in rural Manchester, 65 miles south of Nashville, but not all of them want to sweat through four days of music under sometimes inclement weather, crammed into the crowded tent city.

Summer music festivals attract fans like Weitzman by offering VIP packages, promising a hassle-free weekend for an extra price, sometimes two to three times more than regular tickets.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 14, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 73 words Type of Material: Correction
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival: An article in Wednesday's Calendar section about people paying high prices for VIP treatment at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee this weekend said that one of the attractions was seeing the Police for the first time since the band broke up in 1984. While the group did break up in 1984, its members performed together again in 1986 at a series of Amnesty International benefits.

Music fans will pay extra for two reasons: priority access and reducing annoyances, says Ray Waddell, who covers the touring industry for Billboard magazine.

"For some consumers, there's no price tag too high for that," Waddell said.

At Lollapalooza in Chicago's Grant Park, private cabanas on the shore of Lake Michigan cost more than $32,500 for a party of 30. Air-conditioned viewing stands were available for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and Bonnaroo artists will perform a private show for VIP guests on opening night Thursday.

"There's a psychological effect that comes when you know you're doing as much as they allow anyone to do," Weitzman said. "From the moment you get off the plane you don't have to worry about a thing."

Weitzman says he has no spending limits when it comes to the music festivals he attends every year, like JazzFest, Vegoose in Las Vegas and Gathering of the Vibes, a jam band festival in Bridgeport, Conn.

If he can buy VIP tickets to these festivals, Weitzman will, but he says Bonnaroo's package of amenities is the best for the price he's paying: at least $1,300, including airfare.

"The hotel is a bonus you can't get at other festivals," Weitzman said. "It's all a question of what's important to you."

Travel provider Target Sports Adventures adjusts its hotel and air travel packages to the customer and the musical event, whether it's Bonnaroo in Tennessee or Vegoose in Las Vegas.

Sam Comerchero, director of operations, says the Police headlining this year has made it easier to sell $800 hotel packages to 30- and 40-year-olds who were interested in seeing the band for the first time since it broke up in 1984.

"They were a band that was popular in the '70s and '80s," Comerchero said. "That demographic will turn out for Bonnaroo."

Still, the VIP crowd at music festivals typically makes up only 10% of the total tickets sold, says Waddell.

Bonnaroo sells about 2,000 VIP tickets, says Richard Goodstone of Superfly Productions, which runs both Bonnaroo and Vegoose.

"It's not a profit center for the festival," Goodstone said. "We make sure that the packages are well priced."

Waddell says there's a limit to what music fans are willing to pay.

"You always have to be careful about pricing a segment out of the market," Waddell says. "But the VIPs help subsidize those other ticket prices to keep them at a more affordable level."

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