It's the optics, stupid: Why the Springsteen ticket brouhaha is so galling
So I'm starting to feel like the Springsteen/Ticketmaster mess is about 25% pricing and 75% poor optics. (OK, maybe 30% pricing.) Hear me out.
Of course there's the issue of the supposed "face value" of the tickets — $69 to $399 — which averages out markedly higher than even the most recent E Street Band tour. That said, when you take into account the no doubt astronomical increases in tour costs due to COVID, the effects of inflation, fuel prices, and supply chain problems (not to mention when compared to the average ticket prices similar high-tier artists are getting), it seems at the very least understandable and perhaps even reasonable.
But that aside, the real problem is so-called dynamic pricing coupled with Ticketmaster's own secondary market. In the old days (but still in this century), tickets would sell out in 20 minutes, we'd get a "no tickets left" message, and go on with our day disgruntled but understanding that we'd just come out on the short end of the supply-and-demand stick. (Or might have gotten lucky, got through right away, and scored cold beer, er, great seats at a reasonable price.)
But now, instead of being told it's sold out, we're told there are plenty of tickets left — at dynamically priced astronomical amounts, or on sale from fellow "fans" who got their tix and immediately put them back on sale for a tremendous markup. It's galling to say the least.
If what Ticketmaster and Jon Landau says is true — and anecdotes aside it probably is (see this excellent essay on the topic by Shawn Poole) — then the vast majority of fans got tickets in the mid-$200s range, well within the norms of current concert pricing. (My 20-something daughter, who is currently holding tickets for upcoming Bruno Mars and Post Malone shows, can't believe I feel like $200 is an expensive seat.) But it's the experience, and the cognitive dissonance between it and what we feel Bruce would "want" for us, that's so hard to take.
Jon Landau's already-infamous comments to the New York Times — among them, “I believe that in today’s environment, that is a fair price to see someone universally regarded as among the very greatest artists of his generation” — were at the very least tone deaf and certainly indicative that the man hasn't had to try to buy tickets in many decades. As for Bruce's input, we want to imagine him banging his fist on the table and demanding fairness for the fans, not indignation about not being paid commensurate with his status as one of the greatest artists of his generation, or whatever.
In reality it's probably somewhere in the middle — he didn't want fans frozen out, but also wanted to bring in a sizeable haul for himself, his family, his band and the many other people with a stake in this mammoth operation. Ninety percent of fans getting tickets for below $250 each probably sounded like a good compromise in these strange times.
If only we didn't have to debase ourselves to get them. No matter what the financial realities are ... it just looks bad.
NEXT: Can this fan/artist relationship be saved? Check back later this week.