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Nita Strauss Outlines Socially Distanced Meet and Greets, Talks Importance for Touring Income

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Shredder Nita Strauss was our guest on this week’s episode of The MetalSucks Podcast. The Alice Cooper, Iron Maidens and solo guitarist spoke with us about all three of those projects, including when her next solo album might see the light of day, but as tends to be the case these days the topic inevitably shifted to what’s at the forefront of everyone’s minds: how the pandemic will affect the music industry going forward.

Even when concerts finally do return, they’ll look very different from what we’re accustomed to, with social distancing regulations in effect, rigid bathroom policies, temperature checks at the door and who knows what else. As if it won’t already be difficult enough for artists to make a living playing to quarter-filled rooms, meet-and-greets, which have become a crucial source of revenue on the road in recent years, are very much in jeopardy. And Nita has some thoughts on that issue in particular.

On how the types of meets and greets she does could work in a socially distant environment, and of the quality of fan interaction she offers:

“I think there’s a way to do it while still being responsible when touring starts up, if we’re still needing to be socially distant and responsible. It might be kind of tough to take a picture and put an arm around each other but in my meet and greets on my solo tours, it’s really like a big group hang, like a Q&A. So I’ll be sort of in the middle of a semi-circle or if there’s a lot of people, I’ll be on stage and people will be on the floor, where the concerts happens, where they’d be standing, and we just hang out. By a show of hands, I take questions for the whole hour, then we do a quick photograph and autograph for everybody, so I think that kind of format is so valuable for fans. They just want to get that experience of hanging out and chatting about music and asking whatever they want to know about without being rushed.

“I think the main gripe for me, about most meet and greets is you’re just kind of brought through and you don’t really get to interact and ask a question or be in that person’s presence for very long. It’s just like, ‘ok here’s your thing, here’s your autograph, take a picture, get out.’ So to have that like, 45 minutes in the beginning of hanging out and if someone wants to say, ‘Hey, what was your first guitar?’ Or ‘what’s your favorite shape of pasta?’ Or whatever they’ve always wanted to ask, they can ask it there.

“What a lot of people don’t realize, and I can definitely say for myself and I know for hundreds and hundreds of other tours out there, it might not seem like much, and people are always saying, ‘you know, bands should just meet fans for free.’ And I agree with that too, and I do go out to merch and meet people for free every single show, even when I do meet and greets before the show. I still go out to merch for free and hang and talk and sign autographs and take pictures. But you don’t get that Q&A, one-on-one experience, that’s a rush.”

On the importance of the income she generates from meet and greets helping to make her tours profitable, and how expensive touring is for bands:

“People don’t realize how much that helps the tour, the lifeblood of the tour. Touring is so incredibly expensive. My meet and greets are $50, and if I have ten people, to have an extra few hundred bucks a night, is the difference sometimes between keeping the tour going and not.

“Because you have to pay your crew, you have to rent your vehicle, you have to feed everybody, and in my case pay your band members because I’m a solo artist, I’m a band of one. So I’ve got four band members to pay and a whole crew and a rental of the van or the bus or the Bandwagon and the gas for the vehicle. The tolls if you’re going in and out of New York, all the different things you don’t realize add up so much that the meet and greet really can be the difference between the tour being able to continue or not.”

“You enter the tour in so much of the red, people don’t realize. You have to hire these busses, a tour bus, a regular tour bus. Not one that has a shower and a jacuzzi, just your normal regular run of the mill tour bus with a driver, costs about $1,000 a day. A day!

“I just feel like I should drive that point home, and if you’re in a van, which people say, ‘tour buses are expensive, you should tour in a van.’ If you’re in a van, then you’re looking at getting hotel rooms for people to shower in. I take good care of my guys so you have to make sure that people are getting a shower, getting a bed to sleep in, making it a somewhat comfortable touring experience – it adds up to almost as much [as a bus].

“There are definitely cheaper ways to do it, to do a DIY tour. The company Bandwagon is really a lifesaver cause a Bandwagon is $385 a day, plus $50 for the trailer, ’cause everyone needs a trailer to carry their gear. But even $385, $400 a day is super expensive for bands that are making $500 a show, $1,000 a show. It’s tough.

“So people that buy meet and greets, they may or may not realize that that extra $50 or extra $100 goes a very, very long way towards the continuation of the tour.”

Listen to the full chat with Nita below.

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