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July 26, 2022

Bruce Springsteen ticket crisis is torturing his true fans

The sale for The Boss's show in March at the Wells Fargo Center sale was pretty shady

Music Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen E Street Band 2023 Tour Danny Clinch/ShoreFire Media

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band have announced 31 United States dates for their 2023 international tour, including a stop in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center on March 16.

It took me four hours and four minutes to get a chance to buy Bruce Springsteen tickets Tuesday, after getting into their "queue it" system just before tickets went on sale at 10 a.m. for the March concert at the Wells Fargo Center.

Every single ticket was gone. Every. Single. One.

I have been to a lot of Springsteen shows – 30 to be exact. And I have always been confident in my ability to afford to go see him. And why shouldn't I? He's rarely charged more than $100 or so for face value, and he recently sold his catalogue of music for half a billion dollars. He may not be a blue-collar worker, like so many of his best protagonists are, but he doesn't need to nickel and dime his fans.

He has no qualms with me keeping a little bit of my hard earned cash in my pocket. 

At least he didn't for a while.

For whatever reason, Tuesday morning (and other dates stretching to last week for other cities) unleashed a hell for Springsteen fans, resulting in some who got into line punctually when the sale began – like myself – unable to even attempt to purchase tickets. My colleague Shamus Clancy was able to buy four tickets on the floor about 20 minutes into the sale. 

Reached for comment, Shamus said, "Nothing like spending a month's worth of rent to see a man with more zeroes in his bank account than I could fathom sing about working all day in his daddy's garage." 

Why? There should be some kind of meritocracy for the ticket selling process. 

After about two hours of waiting, I gave in and checked in on Stubhub, where I was able to buy a pair of nosebleeds for about $260 apiece in seconds. 

Aside from an ordeal where I accidentally bought fake tickets off Craig's List in 2012 for a show at Mohegan Sun, this is by far the worst experience I have ever had buying tickets to see the artist I consider to be the best live performer living today.

I have been to some incredible shows – I can show you them thanks to, which is a website tailored specifically for Spring Nuts like myself. Here's a look at my Springsteen ledger:

Springsteen shows MacyScreenshot/for PhillyVoice

I have not paid more than $150 to get into any of those shows – except for Bruce on Broadway – in the 20 years I have been seeing Springsteen live. The vast majority of my ticket purchases were made through official face value sellers.

Variety talked to Ticketmaster – the company selling tickets for nearly every single show on the 2023 Springsteen Tour, though interestingly not the Wells Fargo date, which handled Tuesday's ticket sales itself. An excerpt:

Ticketmaster and the singer had previously not revealed any fixed costs for tickets, although fans quickly figured out that the first ones to get through the queue each day were able to buy in the $60-400 range… only to have those immediately snapped up, leaving the more exorbitantly priced ducats – with values inflated as much as 10 times the original value – as what most would-be buyers see when they log in.

Ticketmaster is highly unlikely to dump the "platinum" program that has proved so unpopular this week, designed as it is to devalue secondary ticketing sites like StubHub and put extra money in the hands of the artist and promoter. It did appear by the third day of on-sales Friday that caps were being put on the highest platinum values, as a survey of seating charts in different cities showed those tickets maxing out in the low-to-mid 2000s instead of $4,000-5000. But it’s also possible those seats were being priced lower in response to perceiving less heated demand after the huge surge of national interest the first day.

While there was speculation that the highest prices being disseminated were determined by an algorithm, sources say the dynamic pricing is not actually rooted in an algorithm but set by promoter pricing teams, which would explain some of the big differences in pricing for platinum tickets from city to city.

Via Ticketmaster's prices at the time of this publishing, a fan could get two tickets to see Springsteen perform in Houston, plus round trip airfare and a hotel, for cheaper than the price of one general admission ticket to his date in Boston, which is roughly $880 per – without including fees.

This trickles down to the secondary markets too. According to resale website, Springsteen's average ticket price for his 2016 slate of dates was $417. The website says the average price right now for a ticket is over $1,300. Honestly tell me, what couple can afford more than a month's salary for a pair of concert tickets?

There did used to be a system that gave everyone a fair shake. I feel like a boomer for even suggesting this, but there used to be an actual physical box office that you'd physically get in line for, buy your tickets and have them in hand. Instead, it feels like you're playing a slot machine in a casino every time you want to go to an event like this. You trust that the gaming commission is regulating the machine you are playing and giving you a fair chance to win, but there is always that doubt that technology can really, really rip you off and you'd never even know it.

Springsteen will be turning 73 soon. Time is running out on an era of music that is seeing artists like Elton John and Paul Simon retire and other singer-songwriters aging out of live music relevancy. 

The money grab for live events hurts fans and should lead everyone involved to question what the point is of any of this. I'd rather be ripped off by a grifter on Craig's list (side note: I was able to buy seats at the box office at that Mohegan Sun show after my fake tickets were rejected, by the way. Fun fact, Springsteen used to keep lower-level tickets for last minute box office sales for most of his shows) than have corporations and shady technology screw me out of an experience I desperately want to pay fair value for.

Down here, it's just winners and losers and "Don't get caught on the wrong side of that line" 

Well, I'm tired of coming out on the losing end...

Follow Evan on Twitter: @evan_macy

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