When it comes to country music, I’m not ashamed to say that I’m what you would call a “super fan”, and I’ve been fortunate to meet some of the biggest names in the industry. Over the years, I’ve learned some helpful tricks for getting great seats to shows (that’s me up there photographing Gary Allan), invites to some once-in-a-lifetime events and opportunities for up-close and personal encounters with your favorite artists.
Join their fan club
This is by far the most important thing that you can do if there’s an artist that you’re obsessed with. Most fan club memberships range from between $10 to $30 a year, which really isn’t a terrible price for all of the perks you receive.
Keith Urban on tour with Kenny Chesney. I took this from the front row. My tickets were purchased through Kenny’s fan club.
Probably the number one reason to join a fan club is for pre-sale opportunities. There are a lot of different kinds of pre-sales, but they are all designed to make sure that fan club members get access to the best seats in the house without having to go through a scalper.
My meet and greet with Josh Turner.
Meet and greets
Meet and greets are another great perk that many fan clubs offer. Keep in mind, the bigger the star, the harder it will be to get a meet & greet, but it does happen. If you’re’ going to a show, you might as well put in for a meet & greet. It’s usually included in your membership fee, so it won’t cost you anything extra, and you might just get lucky.
Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton at his fan club party.
Fan club parties
One way that artists really elevate their opportunity to meet as many fans as possible is with a fan club party. Of course every party will be different, but the one thing a fan club party almost always guarantees is an up-close-and-personal experience with the artist. Some artists will take the time to meet every person at the party, and some will give intimate and rare performances. Sometimes you’ll even get the chance to get drunk with your favorite artist. (I’m looking at you, Blake Shelton.)
Alan Jackson signing autographs after his show. He signed my copy of his album “Drive”.
Buy their merchandise
So, now that you’re so close that your favorite artist is nearly sweating on you, you probably want to know how to get their attention. The key to that is merchandise! If you’re near a celebrity signing autographs, having some of their merchandise is a great way to catch their eye. If you hold up an artist’s CD insert, for example, chances are pretty good that they’re going to notice you.
That’s me in the pink, looking like a gigantic dork at an Eric Church show. The ticket cost me $20. Needless to say, it was worth every penny.
Discover them early
Obviously, this isn’t the easiest thing to do, but my advice would be to pay attention to up-and-coming artists. I became a fan of Eric Church the first time I saw him live in 2006. He wasn’t a huge star back then, so I was able to see him in small, intimate venues. In fact, a local car dealership was doing a giveaway, and Eric was their special guest, so I saw him play a live acoustic set outside of the dealership with a crowd of about 30 people. Years later, when I saw him open for Kenny Chesney, I looked around at the 50,000 people singing “Springsteen” and said, “I saw this guy play a parking lot.” So you just never know.