Bruce Springsteen fans feel betrayed by high ticket prices

As one of pop music’s most beloved figures, Bruce Springsteen has enjoyed decades of absolute devotion from his legion of fans. A national tour with his E Street Band usually means his hardcore followers hop from state to state, attending as many of the boss’ legendary three- or four-hour marathon concerts as their budgets will allow.

Next year could be different. When Springsteen’s loyal fan base logged on on July 20 to purchase tickets for the seven opening dates of his 2023 US arena tour, Ticketmaster’s “dynamic pricing” program sent the face value of some floor seats to a staggering $4,000 to $5,000 apiece. In an attempt to cut off the multibillion-dollar resale business, ticket prices rose to a “fair value” based on demand to approximate the secondary market. Instead of scalpers, the money would go to the artist and promoter instead.

That has left fans looking to buy a coveted spot near the stage on a financial journey as bumpy as the latest cryptocurrency. Future concert-goers also complained that the final check-out cost could be much higher than the price originally offered, since the handling and other Ticketmaster fees would also be exponentially higher.

Another round of tickets for seats on the 31-date US tour, which begins February 1 in Tampa, Fla., goes on sale Friday morning. No Los Angeles shows have been announced.

It’s not the first time Springsteen ticket prices have angered fans, but for the first time much of the anger is directed at the boss himself. Many fans lamented that Springsteen tickets had become a luxury item with only the wealthiest of fans ” The River” and other working-class anthems would sing along.

Even Backstreets magazine, the most devoted chronicler of Springsteen’s career for decades, tweeted a screenshot of sky-high fares from Ticketmaster’s “Official Platinum” seating program and asked in disbelief, “Tampa Mid Floor at $4,400 each, anyone?”

The outrage caught the attention of US Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey, who directed his disapproval at Ticketmaster over “the latest greedy ticketing monopoly scandal.” Pascrell, who opposed Ticketmaster’s merger with Live Nation in 2009, is also a sponsor of the BOSS Act, which would force some transparency on the ticketing industry. In a statement, he added, “Americans have the right to enjoy live entertainment without being ripped off.”

Springsteen has not commented, and manager Jon Landau declined a publicist’s request for an interview. This initial silence from the Springsteen camp prompted some to confront members of the E Street Band online. Guitarist Steve Van Zandt replied, “I have nothing to do with the ticket prices at all. Nothing. Nada. rivet. Bubkis.”

Landau released a brief statement to The New York Times this week and did not apologize, saying the ticketing policy came after investigating “what our colleagues did.”

He also dismissed reports of tickets priced at $1,000 or more as not representative of most sales. “Our true average ticket price was in the mid-$200 range. I believe in today’s environment that’s a fair price to pay to see someone who is widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of his generation.”

Dynamic pricing has already impacted ticket buyers to Harry Styles and Paul McCartney concerts. And some tickets for the opening of Adele’s rescheduled Las Vegas stay at Caesar’s Palace on November 18 are currently selling for more than $28,000 on resale sites.

Dynamic pricing is also common in sporting events, including Major League Baseball, where fluctuations can be caused by changing demand, weather, and changing players. But not all professional sports teams are on board. The Las Vegas Raiders have so far decided against dynamic pricing.

“There are pros and cons to dynamic pricing,” says veteran rock promoter Kevin Lyman, founder of long-running Warped and Mayhem festivals and now a professor at USC’s Thornton School of Music. “The artist does make more money, but when the algorithm kicks in, it seems like there should be a threshold… It makes both the artist and Live Nation look pretty bad.”

Lyman compares the startling price swings to the cost of flights and hotel rooms when a major convention or festival is announced. “The $200 space is shooting into the $600 space,” he explains, “all based on supply and demand.”

Artist manager Peter Katsis, who has worked with popular acts from the Backstreet Boys to Jane’s Addiction, says an imperfect dynamic pricing process doesn’t necessarily solve a problem in a one-sided market. “I don’t think creating these parameters to prevent scalping really holds scalping back that much,” says Katsis. “We’re seeing a weird world out there right now — both in sports and in concerts — where there’s no real limit to what some people can afford.”

In a statement to The Times, Ticketmaster said that “the average price of all tickets sold was $262,” and that only 1.3% of all tickets were sold for more than $1,000. But fans delving into the prices were unmoved.

“In their attempt to replace the scalpers, they became the scalpers,” says Pete Maimone, 65, who lives 20 minutes outside of Bruce’s base in Asbury Park, NJ, as he and other devotees began the new “dynamic.” pricing” experience. System, many were stunned by the numbers.

“I’m crying my eyes out. It was unbelief,” he adds, his voice cracking. “We just felt so betrayed.”

Bruce Springsteen in 1979.

Bruce Springsteen in 1979.

(Joel Bernstein)

Maimone first saw Springsteen in 1972 at Rutgers University. In the years since, he’s become a “ticket angel,” helping desperate fans find tickets at face value, or sometimes even free. It’s a tradition inherited from the Grateful Dead’s caravan of followers.

“We’ve helped thousands,” he says. But since the definition of “face value” is a wildly fluctuating number, he suddenly had to shut down his private Facebook group. “We don’t know what the true face value is.”

Despite their shock and sadness, many of those fans still rave about the impact Springsteen’s live performances had on them.

“Even at 72 he’s still playing these marathon shows. There’s nothing like going to a Springsteen show,” said Howie “Chaz” Chazanoff, 53, leader of the 40,000-member Spring Nut charity fundraising fan group known to the boss.

“I’m pretty much behind everyone else,” says Chazanoff of ticketing. “It’s been a very disappointing and frustrating time, to say the least.”

“He’s a super positive role model,” says Donna Gray, 52, who runs the Bruce Funds community, which finds tickets for fans, with or without money. Gray doubts Springsteen or his management ever attempted to purchase tickets through the system, an experience she described as “instant panic and anxiety,” with software glitches and tickets disappearing from the site’s shopping cart before they were purchased be able.

“It’s already such a heightened, insane experience, and adding that dynamic pricing aspect is just emotional overload for a lot of us,” says Gray.

The sentiments are only heightened by the contrast between the ticket prices and Springsteen’s career-long image as a working-class hero. An outspoken advocate for social justice, he is celebrated by a wide range of fans, from radical rocker (and occasional collaborator) Tom Morello to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

In 1999, on the first of four nights at the newly opened Staples Center (now Arena), Springsteen brought his reunited E Street Band to town and noticed the pricey luxury suites. “Too many skyboxes,” he joked from the stage, as the Times critic Robert Hilburn wrote. “It’s important for you up there [in the suites]… coming out of your rooms to see a rock show … mingle.”

In 2002, angry fans wrote letters to the editor complaining about the $75 price for a Springsteen ticket. In 2015, high prices for Springsteen tickets at Madison Square Garden offered by ticket resellers ahead of the sale date caught the attention of the New York State Atty. General Eric Schneiderman.

And as of 2017, tickets for his acclaimed series of shows at the 960-seat Walter Kerr Theater on Broadway sold for between $75 and $850 (although scalper resales were again in the thousands).

“People are angry, they’re panicking,” says Aron Kozin, a fan since 1985 who runs a YouTube page of found live Springsteen videos. He takes a Zen approach to evaluating his seats. “Nobody needs a ticket until February, March or April next year. I’m sure I’ll get one – and the longer I wait, the less I’ll pay.”

He’s been arguing online with fellow fans that prices will go down, bad as it may seem, though Kozin admits he’s an outlier among Springsteen hardcore.

“Anyone who is crazy throws up a screenshot on their social media of the top two seats in the house for $5,000 each and yells that they can’t afford to go,” says Kozin. “But that’s not the price you get in the arena. Not everyone can sit in the two best seats in the house.

“Scalping, dynamic pricing, scalper bots are all scapegoats. It’s simple: it’s really hard to sell 20,000 seats to 90,000 people.”

As angry as many fans are, and some even planning to step away from Springsteen for the time being, the controversy is unlikely to create a lasting rift with his fan base, says Katsis. “It’s hard to say there’s any long-term effect for an artist like Bruce Springsteen.”

Long gone are the days when fans would snag valuable seats for one of several dates at the LA Sports Arena after camping by the Ticketron window.

“It would be nice if the regular fan could get this ground map at cost,” says Lyman, “but it’s a whole different world now.” Bruce Springsteen fans feel betrayed by high ticket prices

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