Monday, February 6, 2023

He is the boss. You are the peons. Pay up. Or don't, he doesn't care.

Backstreets, the long-time Bruce Springsteen fanzine, has shuttered in protest over astronomic ticket prices for Springsteen's current tour. Aw, that's cute. You guys thought someone insanely rich and famous cared about you, the little people. Adorbs.

That was mean. I do feel for his fans. They've been devoted and bought into the "everyman" mystique for decades. Backstreets began publishing in 1980 and has been kept going ever since by the fans, for the fans, meaning a lot of people put forty years of time and effort into creating and supporting something in honor of someone they admired and probably in many cases, idolized. And guess what The Boss himself has to say about the pricing? From the Deadline article linked above:

Springsteen himself made no apologies for the rising prices. He told Rolling Stone that he typically told his handlers to align ticket prices with what “everybody else is doing,” then charge a little less.

But that changed. “This time I told them, ‘Hey, we’re 73 years old. The guys are there. I want to do what everybody else is doing, my peers.’ So that’s what happened. That’s what they did…. I know it was unpopular with some fans, but if there’s any complaints, they can have your money back.” 

Unpopular??? How nice. How about betrayed? We all know that that last statement is basically, "If you don't like it, stuff it. Stay home. Keep your filthy peasant money. I don't need it." And if that doesn't sting enough Springsteen faithful, keep in mind it's coming from a man with a net worth of about $650 million. He owns multiple homes. His daughter rides horses that cost more than some of his fans annual income. He hasn't been an "everyman", but a rich, famous celebrity for many, many years. Decades. A lifetime.

I went on TicketMaster to check out tickets and initially it looked like, at least in some venues, you can get in for a decent price if you buy the tickets directly from them, assuming you do it early on. But TicketMaster also has what it refers to as "Verified Resale", which is a boatload of the seats that aren't available for the venue's prices, and that's when the prices start to skyrocket into the high hundreds and even thousands of dollars. There's also something called dynamic pricing which seems to be involved in jacking up prices. Plus, they're selling tickets for seating behind the stage, which to me seems the epitome of greed. Who they hell wants to watch a concert from behind the stage? And some of those seats are a couple hundred dollars. That's crazy.

Oh, and let's also add in the fact that at least in the U.S. the economy is in the toilet, costs of basic needs like groceries, gas, and electricity have skyrocketed, and our dollars are worth way less than they were even a couple years ago. I can tell you from personal experience that many people don't have the expendable income, or faith in our financial situation and future to feel comfortable spending chunks of money that we would have, a couple of years ago. Just a friendly reminder not to vote for someone just because your favorite rock star told you to.

Apparently this kerfuffle started last July, when Backstreets published a piece called "Freeze-Out" about the sky-high ticket prices that included comments like this:

We're feeling old, listening to the outcries of fans feeling similarly betrayed by last week's ticket sales, and remembering that things were different a decade ago.

...when Ticketmaster's first U.S. onsales for the 2023 Tour left many Bruce Springsteen fans in a state of shocked disbelief.

 From our point of view, 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...We believed it because he told us repeatedly it was true. 

Bruce Springsteen tickets have been historically and notoriously difficult to obtain. That's the nature of the beast, with so many wanting to witness the power and the glory of rock 'n' roll, and relatively few seats to hold them. But the issue has rarely been the money.

But the ideals of Springsteen's music put forward - they're still alive, aren't they? ...If one can't say yes - if only for a few hours every so often - then maybe the magic really is just tricks. 

Springsteen has been paid a king's ransom, and we've never begrudged him that, either. Not the reported $500 million sale of his life's work, which hardly fazed us, not the Broadway prices, not the Jeep commercial. We believe in the value of his music, his work; those other transactions and the arenas in which they take place feel beyond out purview. 

My research apparently didn't even scratch the surface - Backstreets included this image at the end of the post:

Jaysus. I can see why they're feeling crushed.

Just below this image is a post entitled "Dynamic Pricing: A Fucking Shitshow" if you want to learn more about that. I don't, this post is about the fans and the artist, not the business side of things. But apparently this is a tool to potentially jack up the cost to fans and in many cases, price them out.

It looks like Bruce feels secure enough in his financial security and legendary rock God status to not even work up the appearance of righteous indignation on behalf of the faithful. His response, via Rolling Stone? The aforementioned "keep your money" comment. Also, it looks like Deadline did a little bit of creative editing on his comments - here's how they actually read in RS (bold mine):

This time I told them, “Hey, we’re 73 years old. The guys are there. I want to do what everybody else is doing, my peers.” So that’s what happened. That’s what they did [laughs].

This is what's known as laughing all the way to the bank. I'm sure his devoted, long-time fans see the humor in that and hilarity will ensue.

But if there’s any complaints on the way out, you can have your money back.

Sure you can. Good luck getting your refund from TicketMaster or any of its "Verified Resellers" after the fact. He's basically telling his fans to pound sand.

All of which has led Backstreets to this. Some excerpts:

If you read the editorial Backstreets published last summer in the aftermath of the U.S. ticket sales, you have a sense of where our heads and hearts have been: dispirited, downhearted, and yes, disillusioned. It's not a feeling we're at all accustomed to while anticipating a new Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band tour.

Judging by the letters we've received over recent months, the friends and longtimers we've been checking in with, and the response to our editorial, disappointment is a common feeling among hardcore fans in the Backstreets community. 

When I revisit that writing now, it reads like a cry for help; most discouraging was that six month went by with no lifeline thrown.

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. (Bold mine - keep in mind these are some of Springsteen's most ardent, long-term fans.)

Whatever the eventual asking price at showtime and whether an individual buyer finds it fair, we simply realized that we would not be able to cover this tour with the drive and sense of purpose with which we've operated continuously since 1980. That determination came with a quickening sense that we'd reached the end of an era.  

Yes, you have.

"I spent most of my life as a musician measuring the distance between the American Dream and American reality." -Bruce Springsteen

Yes, you have.

And it's been pretty damn lucrative for you. But the difference between your American Dream and the reality of your fans - who have made you rich and famous - has become your greatest irony and hypocrisy.

My sympathy to the fans.

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