VIP experiences becoming big business at music festivals like Riverbend

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Festivalgoers listen from the VIP area as the Communicators perform a 90s-themed set of music during the Riverbend Festival on June 4, 2022.

The Riverbend Festival kicks off Friday, and like many other festivals around the country, it has found ways to improve its fan experience — especially for those folks willing to spend more money.

This year for example, couples willing to fork over $6,000 will get a Super VIP experience that includes two wristbands; lodging at the Edwin Hotel, where guests will have welcome gifts waiting on them; a personal concierge, and a golf cart that will carry them to the event from the hotel, as well as dining experiences that could include eating with the artists and their bands. They will also have access to separate food and drink areas and bathrooms at the event.

The package also includes tickets to local attractions that can be visited during off hours for the festival.

The packages are no longer available, by the way.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga Riverbend Festival's Bud Light Stage now called Ultra Stage)

It is all part of a trend that other festivals have introduced in recent years. California's Coachella Festival, for example, offered a package that would set you and a friend back $33,000, and Lollapalooza in Chicago offered a $4,300 platinum package.

The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, has several VIP packages at a variety of costs that have an a la carte option this year to allow fans to buy things like general admission tickets to the main Centeroo area but add on things like VIP seating, bathrooms, food, etc. Fans can choose from several options.

"It's about upping the game," said Samantha Wright, director of sales for Friends of the Festival.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga's Riverbend organizers: Festival drew guests from 44 states, 6 countries in 2022)

Wright said Riverbend sold two of the Super VIP three-day packages but has sold another 13 single-day packages, with similar perks, that go for $2,100. She said people are looking for a unique experience besides just seeing the artists.

"We have a father and son who are on a 14-day trip to celebrate his graduating from college," she said. "This is part of the trip."

Drew Holcomb, co-founder of the sold-out Moon River Festival in September at Coolidge Park, echoed Wright's thoughts on the unique experience. He told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that people want a total experience that they feel is unique to them.

(READ MORE: Two Chattanooga music festivals make Southern Living's Top 10 list)

It's about more than just being in the crowd for a show as fans want to experience a new city or venue or restaurant, he said.

"It's all about the fan experience," he said.

At Riverbend, that will mean air-conditioned areas, upscale furniture, shaded seating and an elevated viewing area, Wright said.

"We have tried to do our research and listen to what people want," she said. "We will continue to add more options next year."

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.