If I Was a Big Deal: Fixing the Broken Meet & Greet

Posted by: Pat Watters
July 11, 2015

We don’t do Meet & Greets. That’s not a personal stand. It’s just that we’re not at the level where that kind of thing is necessary. We rarely have a “backstage” area.” And when we do, we don’t spend a lot of time there. I’d rather be out in the crowd reconnecting with old friends, and meeting new people. It’s not uncommon at a PWB show to see one of the band members next to you at the bar or the bathroom sink on a break.

But over the years, as an opening act for a number of Nashville artists who ARE a big deal, we have had the opportunity to participate in a few Meet & Greets. I know to the casual country music fan, backstage is a mystical land where the artists are all comingling, taking shots, and playing cards. But in reality, we sometimes don’t even exchange so much as a “hello” with the artists we open for. And when we do, it’s often as part of the same Meet & Greet line that their fan club members participate in. There’s a reason for that. Headliners have busses… with air conditioning… and working toilets… and cable TV... and catered food. There’s not really a reason for them to venture out into our backstage reality of cold sandwiches, a picnic table, and a porta potty dressing room.

The road managers are typically the “generals” of the Meet & Greet. They usher fans into single-file lines, make sure everything is set up properly, and bring out the artist. I always participate in a Meet & Greet with a very critical eye to how the road manager behaves. I watch for things I think could be done better, and things I would change if I was calling the shots. It’s a natural bi-product of a youth spent wanting to be Garth Brooks. In all of the Meet & Greets I’ve seen, I’ve developed the following list of things I’d do better.

1.Make it Feel Special

This is a big, overarching statement. But the truth is, I think most fans walk away from a Meet & Greet feeling underwhelmed. The reality of the actual Meet & Greet doesn’t quite live up to the expectation they had in their head of what it would feel like to go “back stage.” A modern Meet & Greet feels more like a “point and grin,” picture-taking cattle call than an actual opportunity to meet the artist. Of course, time is of the essence. A meet & greet could take hours if there wasn’t some order to things. But that doesn’t mean it has to be stiff, rigid, and cold.
I have heard of artists staging acoustic backstage mini-shows as part of their Meet & Greet events. I was also at a Meet & Greet with Clint Black where he came out and addressed the group as a whole, and led a Q&A before starting the picture-taking process. It was incredibly unique and refreshing.
Road managers, do your artists a favor. Go the extra mile to make your Meet and Greet experience (especially for your up and coming acts) memorable. This is where your core fans are made. This is the group that will lift your artist on their way to the top, and provide the stable of fans they’ll need years from now to sustain a career on the road when they’ve blown all their cash and their hit-making days are behind them.  
2.Make it Fun

Use the Meet & Greet as an opportunity to showcase some of the artist’s personality that the general public doesn’t get to see every day. Thanks to social media, fans have a closer inside look at the lives of their favorite country music artists than ever before. How cool would it be if backstage, there was a hand-picked playlist of some of the artist’s favorite music playing? What if the area was set up to look like a living room, and you actually got to feel like you were the artist’s invited guest, instead of just another guy in a line? What if you walked back stage and were greeted by someone in the artist’s organization with a cold beer and a handshake? What if band members walked through the line shaking hands and taking pictures while fans waited patiently to meet the headliner?
There are so many ways that a small adjustment can make a big difference when it comes to your 1-on-1 time with fans. The point is to try it! Fans become fanatics due to extraordinary experiences. Use this opportunity to create them.

3. Improve the Picture Taking Process

Most artists no longer allow fans to take pictures with their own camera. And I understand why. It’s much more efficient to have a designated photographer on site with one camera that you know will work consistently. Allowing fans to use their own cameras creates a nightmare scenario of “just one more” scenarios. Participants are typically handed a business card with a web address where they can go and download their photos after the show. Except… it’s not always after the show. Following a recent Meet & Greet with a Nashville act, the photos still weren’t posted to the artist’s website eight full days after the event.

Put yourself in the fan’s shoes. They are here, in this memorable moment, with one of their favorite country music artists in this mystical world known as backstage. When they walk out front and watch the concert, they will be watching someone who they met, perform. That’s something they’ve experienced that 95% – 99% of the crowd hasn’t. You’ve captured that moment for them. But you aren’t delivering on it. The fan’s excitement will never be higher than it is that night. In my opinion, you’re doing your artist a disservice if you don’t have those photos loaded on the website by the time people walk out of the concert. Social media plays a big role in creating superstars today. How many photo posts/shares are you missing out on by not giving fans their artist photo for a week or more after the show? 

4.Don’t Make People Wait

This one is just a common courtesy thing. I’ve stood in line for Meet & Greets for 30 or 40 minutes, just waiting for the artist to show up. I realize time is money, and it’s important to make sure all participants are ready and present before you bring out the artist. But when you keep people waiting in line for the artist, you are inviting thoughts into your fans’ minds. Thoughts like “I wonder what’s taking him so long?” and “Doesn’t he know we’re out here?” and "Who the hell does this guy think he is?" There’s also an element of disrespect for your other artists that this shows. Typically artist Meet & Greets are held during the performance of the artist performing before them. The longer you keep the fans backstage waiting, the more of the opener’s show they’re missing. I don’t think this is an “artist” problem. I firmly believe that if most artists knew how long their fans were kept waiting to meet them before they were told to come out by their road manager, they would be shocked.

5.Be Nice

Like Dalton said, “Be nice.” Every now and then, you’ll come across a road manager that simply has a bad attitude. He’s rude to the fans, barks out orders, and does a poor job representing the artist. I always wonder “what’s the upside of that?” Every interaction with the artist’s crew works together to create the fan’s impression of the Meet & Greet. To fans, a road manager who treats fans like dirt is a reflection of that artist’s opinion of fans, whether that’s intended or not. Make sure everybody who interacts with fans on behalf of the artist does so with a handshake and a smile. It will go a long way.  
A Meet & Greet is an excellent opportunity to engage with your core fan base, and create relationships with fans that could last the rest of an artist’s career. I always look for and applaud artist organizations who go the extra mile to create extraordinary experiences for fans in their Meet & Greets.

“If I Was a Big Deal” is a series of articles written by Pat Watters from The Pat Watters Band, covering things he’d do if he ever got unlucky enough to get a record deal and become an international country music superstar. No one is more thankful than Pat that he’ll never have to worry about living up to any of these proclamations.
Download a FREE Song from The Pat Watters Band

Thanks for checking out our blog! The Pat Watters Band is the 2015 WAMI Country Artist of the Year and a 6-time Wisconsin Area Music Industry People’s Choice Award winning band. Check out our music for free! You can download our breakout song, “I’m Your Buddy,” for FREE.

Check out the video here: