What Not To Do When You Win Backstage Passes
There has always been a certain mystique that surrounds the idea of going "backstage" at a concert. It's not someplace that the average Joe gets to go. Backstage passes are not something you can just walk up to the ticket window and buy. Backstage access is granted to an extremely limited number of people not associated with the performing artist; so, there's tremendous perceived value attached to them. This is why radio stations give them away as often as we can: it gives our listeners a chance to experience something money just can't buy. We consider it a rare privilege to be granted passes, and do everything in our power to make sure it's a great experience for everyone.
That's why I've been following the trial that involves Taylor Swift and a former radio DJ that's currently unfolding in Denver. The whole drama began when Swift accused David Mueller of grabbing her rear end while they posed for a photo at a backstage meet-n-greet in 2013. Members of Swift's management and security teams promptly kicked Mueller and his then-girlfriend out of the arena. Mueller denied groping Swift, but a few days later he was terminated from his job after Swift's mother, through the artist's radio relations manager, made it clear that she wanted Mueller fired. Since that time he has been unable to get a job at any other radio station in the country.
In 2015 Mueller sued Swift claiming that she got him fired. He also claimed that Swift's mother and radio relations manager were complicit by speaking ill of him which prevented him from getting another job. In response, Swift counter-sued claiming that Mueller put his hand up her dress. She's seeking compensatory, actual, and punitive damages along with a verdict that holds Mueller accountable for his alleged assault.
Mueller's case is currently the one at trial. During testimony last week, Swift said that Mueller "...stayed latched on to my bare ass cheek as I lurched away from him." The judge threw out Mueller's claims against Swift, ruling it is not possible to prove she got Mueller fired. He allowed the case against Swift's mother and radio relations manager to continue.
During my radio career, I've been to dozens of backstage meet-n-greets, and when the photo is taken with a female artist I'm always careful about where I put my hands. Usually the artist will put her arm around your waist like "we're all friends here," and this gives you the cue that it's okay to put your arm around hers. If she doesn't make the first move, then I keep my hands to myself just to be safe. In all my years, I've never seen happen what happened to Taylor Swift in 2013. (But I once saw Ted Nugent slap a female listener's behind at a meet-n-greet.)
I've met Taylor Swift a couple of times and her backstage experiences are memorable. On one occasion her mother took winners on a tour of the backstage area, including the wings of the stage, dressing rooms, and catering. Swift is very friendly and cordial, and entirely comfortable with photo ops with listeners. So, I don't know if it was Mueller or not, but somebody was an idiot and grabbed her behind.
Incidents like this are what make artists retreat from public interaction. Going backstage at a concert is a privilege few will ever experience. If you ever get the chance to go, don't be that guy.