You make up your mind, you choose the chance you take

You ride to where the highway ends and the desert breaks

Out on to an open road you ride until the day

You learn to sleep at night with the price you pay.

All is not well in the Bruce Springsteen fan community. Dismayed at the exorbitant price of tickets for his current US tour, which hits the UK this summer, the much-admired Springsteen fanzine Backstreets reacted by announcing its closure after 43 years of loyal service. 

        I, too, am dismayed. The cheapest tickets for two Hyde Park shows in London – both of which are now sold out – hovered around the £350 mark, of which 100,000 were on sale for both shows which adds up to a gross of £35 million for the cheaper tickets. Add to that 5,000 or so tickets for the ‘gold’ area at around £1,2000 (another £12m), plus VIP tickets that when I went on to the site yesterday could cost as much as £8,653 each (yes, really), then what we’re looking at here is around £50 million quid having been banked by the organisers five months before the two London concerts take place in early July. There are also shows in Birmingham and Glasgow, and a further 26 elsewhere in Europe. 

        The cost-of-ticket situation has been much the same in America where, unless I’ve misunderstood the concept of ‘dynamic’ ticket pricing over there, the cost varies according to demand. In other words, the more demand the higher the price, so for Bruce they inevitably went through the roof and this – tickets costing between $4,000 and $5,000 – is what led to the imminent closure of Backstreets (to which I once subscribed).

        The system is supposedly designed to beat touts – by ensuring they must pay exorbitant prices for tickets they intend to resell – and to ensure more money ends up in the hands of the act. That fans most also pay more, however, seems to be an unavoidable consequence. 

        I first saw Bruce in early 1974, two shows in Virginia on the East Coast of America a year and a half before Born To Run was released. Since then I’ve seen him further nine times, albeit not recently, but I’ve seen plenty of shows on TV or YouTube clips and he’s never been less than brilliant, giving his all for anything up to three hours, loads of songs performed with all the expertise, swagger and emotion for which he is justly celebrated. Having acquired every one of his albums either on vinyl and CD, all sorts of live ones too, a few bootlegs and a slew of 12” singles, I’ve kept the faith but I’m disappointed by Bruce’s response to the ticket price controversy. Reacting to fans’ anger, he was unrepentant, flippant even. “I know it was unpopular with some fans,” he has said, “but if there’s any complaints on the way out, you can have your money back.”

        This isn’t very Bruce-like. He’s always positioned himself as a man of the people, supported the Democratic Party and many worthy charities. The word on the street was that the individual members of the E Street Band have always been paid the same as him for shows. On the current tour, I think the band numbers 13 (three guitarists, including the Boss, bass, drums, two keyboards, Mrs Boss, violin and four brass). So, they all have to be paid and with so many on stage the share probably won’t be as equitable as it once was.  

        Whatever. In announcing its closure Backstreets editor Christopher Phillips claims that fans have been “thrown to the wolves, pushed aside in a way that seems as unfathomable as it was avoidable”, adding: “This so-called premium, algorithm-driven model violates an implicit contract between Bruce Springsteen and his fans, one in which the audience side of the equation appeared to truly matter – and in fact was crucial.

        “These are concerts that we can hardly afford; that many of our readers cannot afford; and that a good portion of our readership has lost interest in as a result.” 

        I haven’t lost interest but I won’t be at Hyde Park.


Richard Houghton said...

We perhaps underestimate the full cost of staging a big event so who knows what the cheapest level is that tickets could be priced at. Personally, I don’t have a problem with Bruce getting more money if ticket prices are higher. It’s the fees that Ticketmaster et al take that I object to. Bruce played the Manchester Arena in May 1999 and I paid (a then eye watering) £8 in booking fees, this after being kept waiting on a premium line phone number for over 45 minutes. The fee for cheaper tickets was less. The amount of work for Ticketmaster? The same. God knows what booking fees are on a ticket costing $5,000.

Dan Timmons said...

I am a long time fan of the Boss as well; first show in 78 and saw many shows here in Minneapolis up to the early 90’s. There is an interesting dynamic on the tix for this tour. Lots of buzz about the pricing strategy and it wasn’t good. Now it’s going the other way people bought tix thinking they could resell at a profit but are having to dump them. Recently three shows in Texas and OK we’re going for less than $10 for upper deck seats. I may try and play the waiting game for a show here in St Paul next month.

A good recap of the situation is here https://lefsetz.com/wordpress/2023/02/14/springsteen-tickets/

Colin Harper said...

A Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde Park character, it would seem.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he was never a man of the people. Maybe that was all just marketing.

As a wise man once said, ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

John said...

£350 per ticket sounds very high. I paid £205 all in for a pair tickets for Hyde Park, so about £102 each ticket. That was in the official Ticketmaster pre-sale last July. By current standards that didn’t seem too bad to me. In comparison, one rear stalls seat for Peter Gabriel at the O2 this June from Ticketmaster - face value, not dynamic pricing nor secondary market - is a staggering £196. In 2013, same venue, same seat, he charged £50. I declined this time.

SpaceCadet said...

Springsteen said something like what about the guys up there sweating for two hours like he was working down a mine and several million quid for one show is a fair wage. Muppet.