As I write this, it was 15,201 days ago that I attended my first Bruce Springsteen concert. December 12, 1980 behind the stage at the the then Hartford Civic Center. My ticket, which I had camped out for all night a few months earlier, was $8.50. Yeah that’s what we did for big shows, found a Ticketron outlet and camped out. As for the price, Google tells me a dollar from 1980 is worth $3.55 now.
Music kept me sane. As a teen, endless hours of the Rolling Stones in my headphones, to numb that pain living was bringing. Bruce came along in the depths of depression over a relationship in college. The music had all the feels, going deep into your heart and soul, but also celebrating in so many ways that we can survive.
So it’s been a long and wonderful trip for decades, a soundtrack that worked as I got older, got married, had kids, got divorced and needed to find myself again. It helped get me through the trauma of the unexpected loss of my older brother in December 2015. My brother had been extolling the magic of this music before it clicked for me. The last time I saw him, 4 days before he passed, we were talking about Bruce’s upcoming Feb 2016 show in Boston. He didn’t have tickets yet and said, something will pop up. I went alone that night, wrapped in every emotion possible and once again at the end of the night, felt a little saved, felt my compass was put back in a good place.
So the years have passed and there was Springsteen on Broadway that people saw, too rich for my blood. I was already skeptical of a top price of $875, I believe, which some said was the same as Hamilton. Of Course Hamilton has a few more bodies and stage decorations, no? But OK, I saw it on …. Netflix? It was what it was.
So a lot of this in between time since the last tour has been under the pandemic. The band did record an excellent album, Letter to You, just before the chaos began. It was consistent with Bruce’s idea of this ongoing conversation with us. It was grown up rock music, about people who have been with us for the long ride and those we have lost. But a tour would have to wait.
The news broke not long ago of summer Europe dates and more recently, early 2023 US dates. It was going to be a tough ticket, virtually all 1 and done stops on this leg, and the dates were such that there was no time for a second show to be added. When a band is in their 70s, they are not doing back to back nights or 3 nights in 4. Totally understandable.
Now we enter the world of dealing with Ticketmaster. No one likes Ticketmaster. It’s a monopoly and starting there, it hurts fans. We start with registering to be “verified fans” This had nothing to do with being a fan. It was to gather information and slot people to what they were calling presales to specific shows, or in many cases, “waitlisted” and not get any early access to tickets. A good friend, who saw the Broadway show TWICE, was waitlisted. That was one of the reasons you can eliminate the word “fan” from this process.
The second one being, many of those “fans” immediately put their tickets up for resale on Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster collects an initial fee from the sale and another one on the resale. It would be nice to know their fee money is split up, if at all. But again, this is nothing to do with fans, the people that have followed Springsteen for years, for many shows, for many albums. Fans that have believed in the relationship between artist and the crowd, not a perfunctory, “we love our fans”, but an integral part of the story. Rent the documentary, Springsteen & Me, sometime.
And now NOW we get to dynamic pricing. Ticketmaster has tied themselves in knots to explain this. The NY Times carried a weak justification from Springsteen’s long time manger, Jon Landau. Back in 2016, with fees, I paid $365.48 for 2 General Admission tickets to see Springsteen, in that front, standing in front of the stage area. With “dynamic pricing” I could now sit on the floor, behind the GA section for over $2000. I believe one thing it is safe to say is that dynamic pricing is setting a crazy ceiling. A scalper can say, well if they are charging $2K, I can look good at say only $1900?
Ticketmaster has tried to argue that only 11.8% of tickets were dynamically priced. They do NOT say what percent of the gross they were, which would be much higher. And don’t for a second think there are not more tickets out there. On the day Mohegan Sun went on sale, I waited until after the presale, looked and no tickets. OK, maybe the smallest arena of the tour. Later that day — BEHOLD! Platinum (the name they give this ripoff system) tickets appeared. Same with Boston. Ticketmaster should account for how ticket distribution worked for presale, what has been held back or otherwise distributed to anyone but online sales.
They also tried to argue that this pricing is like airlines and hotels. Wrong. Hotels and airlines are not monopolies. If I’m traveling to some city, I can look at lots of hotels, or AIRBNB, etc, many airlines. I don’t like that hotel price, I’ll go to a different one. Should I go see a Bruce cover band instead?
Here’s your better example. We have seen supermarket items become scarce at different times. Remember what it was like to get a can of Lysol? Remember people going on EBay and selling Lysol for ridiculous money? Scalping Lysol. What you do not have a market doing is looking at a diminishing stock and say, hey, we can make more money selling the last of whatever by 10x what we usually do.
People would be furious at the immorality of it. Just like people are doing for dynamically priced tickets. Some bands do not allow it. Some bands do not allow or really restrict resales. Throwing up your hands to the lowest common denominator is not a proud place to be.
But it is exactly where Bruce Springsteen finds himself. All over social media, some of his staunchest supporters are furious, including Backstreets Magazine. Bruce Springsteen recently sold the rights to his music for $500 million. He worked his ass off creating that music. And the value of that catalogue is reflected by the millions and millions of units sold over nearly 50 years, It’ll be 50 in January 2023. If Springsteen does not understand the depth of hurt out there, then this relationship has irrevocably changed. Just because you can do something, does not mean you have to.
I bought my tickets, for next year’s Boston show at normal pricing, seats you consider, well at least I’m in the door. $238 for 2 balcony, back corner seats. In the past, there was the idea that maybe something better will drop. And then maybe I can make sure another fan who wanted to go, could go, at face value. The Springsteen community is filled with stories of ticket angels doing that. People that were in the past hopeful that something would become available are now thinking, but I won’t be able to afford it. It would not have taken much work to avoid this.
“nobody wins unless everybody wins.” Bruce Springsteen