$3,740 has gotten me into 54 Springsteen shows. No one should pay $5,500 for one ticket.


I’m guessing that when Bruce Springsteen kicks off his first tour after six years in February, the onstage patter will go something like this:

Springsteen will try to heal the bruised faith of fans with a lame joke about the price of tickets (“How ya doin’ way up there in the $5,500 seats? Hey, Elon, Barack and Warren. How’s it shaking up front?”).

At which point he’ll be greeted by a familiar — but slightly modified — crowd tradition.

“Hey Brucie, I don’t think they’re ‘Bruuuucing’ you,” sideman Little Steven will cackle. “I think this time those really are boos.”

I tried to resist writing about the Springsteen Ticket Crisis of 2022, but realized he is the only constant thread in my journalism career. In addition to tour stops in this media arena …

I wrote about concerts for my college paper at Fordham in 1984 (opening night of “Born in the USA” stints in Jersey, with a $16 ticket).

I had to trust friends to buy me tickets ($17.50) for the stadium end of that tour in ’85 because I was busy interviewing fans in line for a paper in Jersey.

And mostly, there was the first time I wrote a news op-ed in Connecticut, in the May 19, 1988 edition of Greenwich Time.

Looking back at the ’88 clip is a reminder that fans were trying to beat the Ticketmaster system long before the system was scamming us. Fans turned up the night before to be cuffed with cardboard wristbands. A horde of mommies invaded the Mamaroneck, NY, outlet with toddlers whose right hands were wrapped with loose bands. One mom put one on each of her triplets.

“Maybe I should adopt,” I pondered. (I have since adopted The Kid, who has been conditioned by Mom not to encourage my concert addiction.)

The following day, all those toddlers were replaced by grownups with wrists like No. 2 pencils. I scored four “Tunnel of Love” tour tickets for a total of $99. A three-piece stepped out of his Porsche to offer $150 for four tickets .

“Hey pal, I’ll give you four tickets for the Porsche.”

When Springsteen got back on the boards in 1992 with a different band, a news story about the line at Chillybear on Greenwich Avenue included a photo that captured me and a buddy. Those ducats had a face value of $31.75.

For the 1999 E Street Band reunion tour, the queue outside Stamford Town Center was invaded by a van packed with a throng from the Bronx who recognized a financial opportunity. One of them won the lottery and was moved to first in line.

“Born in the USA!” he bellowed, reciting the only Boss lyric he knew. He bought as many tickets as possible and immediately offered secondary market rates to jittery fans at the back of the line.

‘A fair price’?

I’ve only bought tickets from a scalper once. A friend and I drove to Philly on Sept. 19, 1988 on a whim, since there were still tickets available for the Amnesty International concert featuring Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Tracy Chapman and Youssou N’Dour. We would have been happy just to get into John F. Kennedy Stadium, but as we were driving to the entrance early with no one else around, a guy asked if we wanted two tickets for $50 each (face value $35 ). We scooped them up without even taking a close look and landed in the 13th row.

Otherwise, I’ve always bought tickets by following the rules. As hellacious as it is to buy tickets on a computer, it beats the days of repeatedly dialing phones even after realizing all hope is lost. Back in 1978, Connecticut fans had to mail for tickets to see the band at New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum for $8.50 (“include a self-addressed stamped envelope and 25 cents for handling”). Maybe we should go back to that.

Then came the system for 2023 tickets that adds to the concentric circles of hell that are this decade.

Non-fans probably thought stories about $5,500 tickets were published by the likes of The Onion. Ticketmaster explained it was due to “dynamic pricing,” meaning prices of the final batch of tickets soared like last-minute flight to the moon while the planet was burning.

Making matters worse was the lame explanation offered by Springsteen’s long-time manager, Jon Landau: “Our true average ticket price has been in the mid-$200 range. 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.”

Landau kept offices in Greenwich and Rowayton for too long.

In trying to beat scalpers, Springsteen and Ticketmaster became them. When the time came to try to buy tickets for the one show I was eligible for, I executed every trick I’d learned. At 10:01 am, the screen flashed that I was the 1,761st person in line. A minute later it was slashed to 1,554. Another minute … 1,190 … 633 … 419 … 179.

Finally, a mere four minutes in, there was one person ahead of me in line. That final minute seemed to last longer than the pandemic.

When my number came up, I opted to click on four seats in the front row of the balcony behind the stage.

And I got ’em.

Springsteen economics

So here’s a lesson in Springsteen/Ticketmaster Economics. Two of the seats are $99.50 before the charges kick in. The other two — which are right next to them — are $109.50 each. With fees, the four tickets cost $550.90.

Somehow, the same service that cost a quarter in 1978 is now $132.90 for four tickets.

It gets better.

I keep old tickets in a frame. But there’s no longer a physical ticket (damn cell phone won’t fit in the frame). Yet as the price of tickets increase, handling fees rise proportionately.

So, one week later, a single “verified resale” ticket in the same row is priced at $553 (plus fees). But because the price went up, the fees spiked as well, leaving a total cost of $678.07 (or $125.07 extra for one ticket).

Sing it with me from the rafters: “Booooooooooooo.”

We can all be capitalists too. A seat six rows back is now priced at $5,113. If I could sell one of mine for that, I could buy four standing room tickets in front of the stage for $999 each. It’s a profit of $1,114, and I would still have seven tickets to shuffle around until I can afford to buy Twitter.

On Thursday, I consulted Greenwich resident Jane Chester Weisbecker, who has responded to past Springsteen columns and is a member of the “Spring Nuts.” Jane was shut out trying to buy tickets for the same show.

“I have good friends, lifelong fans, who are so disillusioned they can’t listen to Bruce music,” she wrote.

An acquaintance of hers tried to buy two tickets for $399 each, watched them vanish, and ended up with a single ticket for $3,400 after clicking off the page. She didn’t want it. Ticketmaster declined to help. Other fans posted videos of prices increasing from $300 to $3,000 while tickets were in their cart.

There is a way to thwart the system. But that would require everyone in E Street Nation to resist buying any tickets over a reasonable price. If there’s still any confusion, $5,500 will never be reasonable. The sum total of all 54 tickets I’ve bought for myself over the years is about $3,740.

Jane, a lawyer, deemed my purchase “a modern day miracle,” and noted (and this is the important part, as Bruce used to say), that “I’m not sure why this isn’t being corrected. Contracts can be modified.”

They can indeed. Springsteen may find that the contract of trust he nurtured with fans over the past 50 years may feel as tight as a guitar string on his Fender, but it can snap just as easily.

John Breunig is editorial page editor of the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time. jbreunig@scni.com; twitter.com/johnbreunig.





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