Story by Shannon Shumaker
If you are an avid concert-goer, there’s a big chance that you are familiar with Sound Rink, as it seems that with every tour announcement comes a VIP upgrade for all die-hard and devoted fans. The VIP ticketing service, founded in 2012 by Cody Delong his partners, Jason Mageau and Scott Lee is quickly becoming one of the top companies in the growing market of VIP concert experiences. Having worked recently with artists such as Bayside and Silverstein, and with current packages on huge tours such as All Stars Tour and Rockstar Energy Drink’s Mayhem Festival, it comes as no surprise that the company has plans to expand even more in the coming years. If you aren’t familiar with Sound Rink, now is a better time than ever to acquaint yourself, as the company only promises to grow with each coming tour announcement.
CEO and Co-Founder, Cody Delong didn’t start his journey in the music industry with the intentions of creating and spearheading a major VIP ticketing service, but he did begin at a fairly young age. The 26-year-old got his start in the music scene as a concert photographer at the age of 13, shooting shows for local publications before branching out and moving up to promoting and booking. It was there, working for The Kenmore Agency in New Hampshire, that Delong was inspired to start Sound Rink.
“I had a lot of bands going out that just weren’t happy with the service that was being provided by other companies,” Delong explained, “So basically, the idea came that we could do this better and we could definitely be able to provide a better service for these artists and VIP ticketing.”
Something that Sound Rink prides themselves on is their great customer service and knowledge of the industry. Combined, Delong, Mageau and Lee have over 30 years of industry experience, and that is apparent when browsing Sound Rink’s website, learning about their various VIP experience packages, and even listening to Delong speak about it. Each package is catered specifically to the artist and their fans, giving them something unique and creative to go along with each experience. “We’re actually very active in creating these experiences with the artists, coming up with new ideas and coming up with unique ideas,” Delong said of the VIP experiences for fans, “For instance, we just did a VIP package that was for Veil Of Maya, and it included a lighter and an incense burner with their name engraved on it. So our idea is trying to come up with better, more creative ideas that really give the fan a unique experience a unique item, rather than just a poster, laminate and a, ‘hey, how you doing?’”
Delong also mentioned that there are some packages that work great for a certain artist or genre, but would fall flat for others. To make sure that these VIP experiences are special for every fan who purchases one, Sound Rink works closely with the artists and their management teams to create something that their fans will love and remember for years to come. Another great example of that unique experience can be found in Suicide Silence’s recent VIP package, which came with the band’s own personalized brand of hot sauce.
“You wouldn’t sell hot sauce for a band like You Me At Six, though,” Delong expressed, explaining the difference between their varying VIP packages, “Their fans wouldn’t react to that, their fans would rather get an exclusive pair of Wayfarer sunglasses with the band’s logo on the side, or they’d rather get a tote bag, for instance. We definitely understand figuring out those niche items for each genre of music that work extremely well.”
Sound Rink is not only a hub for the concert-goer who wants a creative and intimate experience with their favorite musicians, but it also serves as an extra source of income for bands out on the road. Delong is well aware of the changing music industry, and rather than working against it, it seems that Sound Rink is only growing with it. “I come from a booking agent experience, and Jason and Scott both come from being managers, so we feel that we definitely understand all aspects of the model of VIP by being in different aspects of the industry,” he explained. “They understand it from the manager’s point of view and I understand it from the agent’s point of view, whereas there are a lot of other companies where the people who started them or the people running them are either people right out of college, who have never been a manager or an agent, or they’re just people who have always worked on the label side of things.”
What is becoming a norm for most tours in 2015 was merely just an idea for many bands a few years ago, even when Sound Rink first started. For instance, in 2013, the internet (or at least the music scene) exploded with criticism over Sleeping With Sirens’ $80 VIP meet and greet package, calling it outrageous and overpriced. While it wasn’t a package that Sound Rink worked on, Delong was more than aware of and knowledgeable about the story. “I think the way that they approached that was at the beginning of what is now becoming a norm,” he offered, “It wasn’t very generally accepted, and I personally feel that they took it a little bit too far at the time, because that was maybe the first or second time they had done VIP.”
Today, however, purchasing a $40 or $50 VIP ticket isn’t a very uncommon practice for many fans. As Delong noted, the price point isn’t unrealistic, as most VIP packages come with not only a ticket to the concert, but also a t-shirt, laminate and a poster, as well as an item that is unique to the tour or artist. On top of all of that, fans get the chance to meet the artist and have one-on-one time with them in a controlled environment. “Yes, you pay this money and you get to meet the band, but we really try to pride ourselves in providing a value for these smaller artists. Someone can go, ‘Oh, I’m paying $40 for this VIP package,’ but they’re really paying $18 for the ticket, and then they’re getting over $22 worth of items that all combined would probably retail over $40 if they were to buy it at the merch booth. So you’re really not paying to meet the band, you’re paying for the items, and this also guarantees you to meet the artists and have some cool interactions with them,” Delong explained.
Most of Sound Rink’s price points for VIP experiences top at the $40 to $50 range, which remains affordable for the fans purchasing the tickets, most of which would usually spend almost the same amount of money at the band’s merch booth during the show. One of Sound Rink’s few VIP experiences with a much higher price point is for the current Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, but even with a highest price of $749, the price point is still significantly smaller than most festival VIP packages, which can run fans up to $1,500 or $5,000, depending on the festival.
Delong also stressed that the Mayhem Festival experiences are different from Sound Rink’s normal packages, as they are higher end and geared more toward the die-hard fans. The lowest tier package for Mayhem Festival (priced at only $149) includes a meet and greet with at least three of the artists on the tour, a shaded VIP tent, a ton of merchandise and early entry into the venue, while the highest tier includes a custom guitar signed by King Diamond (valued at $599), dinner, backstage access and much more. So far, the packages have also been a huge success. “[Mayhem] wanted it to be really interactive, but at the same time a high end experience for those fans who are willing to pay that extra money, and so far, we’ve had a great response from everybody who has done those,” Delong said, “We’ve had people emailing us very happy with the service, and we have staff out on the road for the entire tour that are handling it all and they’re really taking care of everybody.”
Another big focus for Sound Rink is in using these VIP experiences to benefit both the fans who want to pay the extra money for the package, and the artists who want to take the time to have unique interactions with their fans. “The bands that do this do it because they want to meet their fans,” Delong expressed, “They’re guaranteed to meet all of these fans in an environment that they don’t feel like they have to just shoo the next person on. They can actually sit there and talk to them and have a connection. A really good example [of that] is we work with Silverstein and they like to do question and answer sessions, and they really enjoy it because they get to have a conversation with a limited amount of fans and answer everybody’s questions that they have.”
He continued, “Many of our artists have these acoustic sets and question and answer sessions that are limited to 30 per show, and they make fans for life out of those 30 people. Those thirty people also get an experience that they’re going to remember forever and they’re gonna go to the next concert and they’re probably gonna get the meet and greet again, and they’re gonna get those items and wear them and tell their friends.”
In any other environment, it is admittedly hard for an artist to have a unique interaction, or even a conversation with a fan without feeling rushed or interrupted. These question and answer sessions and meet and greets give the bands a chance to really sit down and interact with their fans, and as Delong expressed, they deserve to get paid for their time. As album sales are down, bands are pushing to make more money out on the road just to break even on a tour, and Sound Rink helps them get there, if not putting a little extra money in their pocket at the end of the day. While the VIP packages serve to further those fan/artist experiences, they are also a tool to keep the artists going in the long run.
“Like anybody else, time is money. If a band is going to spend an hour to meet their fans, they need to be compensated for that,” Delong explained, “There are artists who do it really well, and there are artists who take the price too far, and we try not to do that.”
With a solid business plan and countless successful tours and VIP packages under their belts, one can only wonder what’s next for Sound Rink, and unsurprisingly, Delong is already searching for ways to better the company in the future. On top of goals to expand their outreach and musical genres that they work with in the next few years, Sound Rink is also on the verge of releasing an app, making them the first in their sector to do so. Set to release in August, the app will allow customers to not only purchase VIP tickets easily on their phone, but will also eliminate the need for a confirmation email to get into the venue. “A lot of people ask if they can just show their confirmation on their phone, so now you just have to get it on the app, pull it up on your phone and it shows your purchase. No more having to print it out, and it also saves trees,” Delong explained. On top of making the purchasing of tickets and the VIP experience easier, the app will also notify users of tour announcements and ticket sales. Additionally, app users will also receive exclusive discounts.
The concert experience is a constantly changing entity. Just a few years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for fans to wait for hours outside of a venue for their chance to catch a glimpse of or snap a quick picture with their favorite artists, but with inexpensive VIP experiences at their fingertips, it’s no surprise that these packages nearly sell out on every tour. Sound Rink gives both fans and artists a chance to have one-on-one time with one another, all while providing fans with exclusive merchandise and bands a little extra money while out on the road. It’s a win-win situation, and it seems that many people are taking notice. And for anyone who hasn’t yet? Delong insists, “If anybody really wants to try it out and go meet a band, I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed.”
To learn more about Sound Rink and purchase VIP tickets, visit https://soundrink.com/