I am a huge believer in artists taking the time to meet and greet with their fans, the people who spend their hard earned and sometimes hard to come by money on their music. The fans are the ones who support, love and basically make or break an artists career. The meet and greet is an integral part of fan outreach and a way of saying thank you for what these everyday people do to help YOU, the artist. They spend every last dime they sometimes have just to be able to attend your show, so the chance to meet you is a huge deal to them.
I write this because it seems that the "meet and greet" is getting more and more impersonal and more and more obviously "obligatory". This past summer, I attended a show of an artist I had met on more than one occasion and his past meet and greets have always been friendly, personal and he always made sure to have a little bit of one on one with each fan, even if it was just 2 minutes. This time, the whole process was terrible. This was through NO FAULT of the artist, he was very cordial and inviting. His staff, however, was a different story. They were somewhat rude to those waiting after a long day in nearly 100 degree heat. They made an announcement that there were to be NO photos taken with personal cameras, only the tour camera. It was said that if you were seen with your personal camera out, you would be asked to leave, not to put your camera up, but to leave! The tour manager would take the photo and then they would give you a card with a site to go download your photo. This right here seems very impersonal because the guy taking the photos did not take time to make sure the photo was framed correctly or that it looked ok to the person in the picture. It also makes all pictures look the same and not personal to the fan. It was "click" and move on, next! They also made an announcement that the artist would not be signing anything at all, except for these two people already at the front of the line. This announcement, combined with the photo announcement, actually discouraged some people enough to leave the line and go home a little more than disappointed, more borderline angry and complaining. This artist, following the announcement by their tour manager, looked a little taken aback, like he had not been the one to make that decision. He then made his own announcement that he was more than happy to sign whatever we had ready and looked at his tour manager with a confused look as to why the previous announcement had been made at all. We got our quick "click" photo, barely a handshake and proceeded to the waiting area for the photo cards to be distributed. This wait took about 30-40 min AFTER the photo was taken. We got the card, but it took a little over 48 hrs for the pics to FINALLY be uploaded to the website for fans to download! Not very fan friendly at all. I am grateful that my passes were complimentary and I had not had to pay extra for this "meet and greet" debacle.
Examples of wonderful meet and greets I've attended include the Oak Ridge Boys and Montgomery Gentry. These are probably two of the best, most personal meet and greets I've ever been involved in.
The Oak Ridge Boys know that without their fans, they wouldn't be the legends they are. They wouldn't have the luxuries of life that they have now. They are four of the most humble and down to earth artists out there. They are so appreciative of each and every fan, going out of their way to honor special requests, take care of longtime fans and make sure to speak and take time out for each person in their meet and greet. They each walk around the room, approaching each person, shaking hands, hugging, making eye contact and even asking how families are and how each person is doing. They pose for pictures, usually multiple photos and they'll sign anything. They don't show any sign of being "put out", "bothered" or "tired" of meeting fans. This is what makes them so endearing to people the world over, their friendliness and love of their audience. They even take time after a long show, no matter how tired they are, to come out of the bus and greet those stragglers who crowd the bus hoping for a glimpse of one of the boys. They're amazing people and I love them so much.
Montgomery Gentry is another example of how artists should treat their fans. Eddie and Troy NEVER complain about being tired, short of time or not wanting to interact with their fans. They know their longtime fans by name, know their stories, ask how their kids are, hug, kiss on the cheek, pose for endless photos and actually carry on conversations with each person in line. They don't rush you through the line or make you feel like you're a part of an assembly line. They make each person feel special and like they matter. They're always smiling and very cordial and approachable. This is why nearly all shows are sell outs. They don't let their superstar status equal superstar attitude. They appreciate those that are from "where they come from" and they let them know it. Granted, the artist isn't required to even do a meet and greet, they don't have to do them at all. If they're going to do one, at least make sure it's a memorable occasion for those who paid probably more than they could afford to see you. They could have seen anyone else but they chose to spend their time and money on YOU. Be appreciative, let them know you know they could have made another choice.
ADDITION TO ORIGINAL POST
Now, that being said ... as a fan, you also have certain responsibilities at a meet and greet in order to be courteous to the artist and to others in the meet and greet with you.
1.) Don't bring 4 gazillion items to sign. This takes up unnecessary time. Keep in mind the artist has other people to meet as well and is usually on some kind of timeline to get this done. Don't be a time hog. Bring one or two items MAX to sign and for God's sake, don't have the artist write a novel on your item. Sign, be done, move on.
2.) Picture Hogs - If you are allowed to use your own camera, please don't take enough shots to fill a photo album. If the artist is kind enough to take more than one, make them quick, have the other people that you want in the pic ready to go and press the shutter button.
3.) Personal Stories - For God's sake, don't sit there and monopolize the artist's time as well as those waiting to meet them with stories from your childhood, your mama's childhood, your milkman's cousin's sister's friend's childhood. Tell them your most important and heartfelt memory related to their music. Be courteous to others around you and to the artist.
4.) And finally, if the artist is going through something personal that has been all over the news such as a death, a divorce, etc ... OFF LIMITS. Would you want a total stranger in your business? They might not want to talk about the situation. If they bring it up, fine. If they don't, there's your cue to keep your piehole shut. I know you think saying "I'm sorry about your favorite grandfather's death" or "your ex wife is a bitch to do what she did" is the appropriate thing to say, but it's not. You don't know how hard of a time the artist might be having and it is over and beyond for them to even have a meet and greet during a personal crisis so just use your "not so common anymore" sense and avoid those topics. Talk about how much you like their music, what a great performer they are, their latest cd. Keep it real but keep it appropriate.
Meet and greets are a courtesy, they don't HAVE to do them. It's nice that they do and as a fan of music, I appreciate the opportunity to personally thank them for what they do and let them know I appreciate their work. If they don't have a meet and greet, chances are there is a good reason. Case in point, Gary Allen didn't do them for a long time after the untimely death of his wife because of the constant condolences and stories of "I know how you feel, this is what happened to me". Hell, I would have stopped too. Just be nice, courteous and "not creepy". LOL!
I wish music would get back to what it was originally about before corporate America got involved - the music itself and the relationship between the fans and the artist. And artists, please be cognizant of how your staff treats your fans, they are a representative for you and their treatment reflects on you.