Who Should Get The AAA Pass?

The AAA – access all areas – pass is the revered token that denotes hip rock n roll success. You either have one, or you don’t. Having an AAA pass means you are in the band, in the crew, or are so close to the band they deem it necessary for you to have the same access privileges to those special places – the dressing rooms, the green rooms, the ‘artist only catering’ areas and so on. But if everyone you know is special – who is special?

Touring artists and their crew will receive AAA passes from the tour manager. These passes are usually in the form of a laminated picture or graphic, worn on a lanyard around the AAA holders neck and are good for the whole tour. The tour manager gives security and stewarding personnel working the show a pass sheet (see figure 1); pictures of the various show credentials on this sheet enable the security team to know which passes allow the holder into which areas. The promoter/organiser will issue their own temporary passes for the night, (which may replace the artist’s own passes) and, unlike the laminates, are temporary for the one show only. You stick these passes on, and so I refer to them as ‘stickies’ or ‘silks’. Passes issued by the promoter will designate various categories and privileges:

  • Working: Stage hands, caterers, drivers – no ‘back stage’ or dressing room access
  • Press – journalists, bloggers, and photographers – limited back stage or dressing room access
  • VIP – issued to ‘important’ working people – local record store owners, radio station heads, regional record company employees, regional booking agents – allow access to meet and greet/VIP area after the show with little or no dressing room access.
  • Access All Areas – as it says on the tin – the bearer can go anywhere.
A back stage pass sheet
Figure 1: A backstage pass sheet showing the various accreditation for tonight’s show, and the level of access for each.

Heads of record companies, artist managers, guitarists’ boyfriends, and booking agents, will often insist on being given AAA tour laminates even though they might only turn up for the LA show (for instance) Being given an AAA laminate shows they are ‘one of the club’ – important beyond being the mere head of the record company.

Politically, it is a good idea then to give out AAA passes for your agent, manager, label people, and boyfriends – these people are important to the continued success of your band – they are all working hard on your behalf and should therefore be given the same status as the rest of the touring organisation. However, it is not a good idea to give all these people the same access privileges as the full-time touring party; you really do not want guests (however important they may be) escorting a load of their drunken friends to the backstage areas. The backstage area of a modern concert is a working environment. Production offices filled with laptops and printers, clothes, and personal effects, and there is sound and light equipment everwhere. Amplifier racks, lighting dimmer racks, mains distributions boards, hundreds of cables, and other trip hazards – there may even be pyrotechnics. It’s not a safe place to be if you have had a few beers.

So you need to give “higher” access to these VIPs, and you need to control just how much access they have without pissing them off. You will risk offending these special guests if you give them a lowly sticky pass. You also have to decide who is eligible to escort other people into certain areas. Ideally, no-one except the tour manager, or the artist themselves, should be able to usher non-AAA pass holding human beings into certain designated areas. The reality is different, and all those important-but-not-important people with an AAA pass will insist of waltzing pass security accompanied by their niece, personal trainer, or someone else they are trying to impress. And you can’t say to the security people, “This person with an AAA can escort, but this person with an AAA cannot.” So how do you get around this problem? A common solution is to have ‘dots’ on the laminates—small sticky stars or circles (or whatever) that signify special privileges. The guests can still go anywhere they want, but they cannot bring non-AAA guests with them. This way everyone ‘important’ gets an AAA pass. Everyone important also has an AAA pass, and dots, and they can get where they want, and be able to escort, bloggers, radio station presenters, and friends. No one is offended, and everyone is granted a sensible amount of access.

Wherever possible, I restrict escort privileges for the band members on a tour. In my experience the musicians get far too much pressure from friends and family; everyone is asking for everyone else to get into the dressing room. I am not trying to create a bizarre personal kingdom by limiting access. The backstage area of a modern concert is a working environment, and safety is of the utmost importance. Therefore, I always feel it necessary to restrict the number of people traipsing through these areas to the working personnel only. There is always the hotel bar for socialising!

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