The Upstate Beat: As show draws near, fans respond to Springsteen ticket price controversy

Bruce Springsteen, left, and Steven Van Zandt perform with the E Street Band at State Farm Arena on Feb. 3 in Atlanta. (Paul R. Giunta/The Associated Press)

Bruce Springsteen, left, and Steven Van Zandt perform with the E Street Band at State Farm Arena on Feb. 3 in Atlanta. (Paul R. Giunta/The Associated Press)

Earlier this month, “Backstreets,” the Bruce Springsteen fanzine that has covered the singer and his E Street Band since 1980, announced it was shutting down in protest over rising ticket prices for the upcoming E Street Band tour, which comes to Albany’s MVP Arena on March 14.

Much of the frustration is with Ticketmaster, particularly the ticket behemoth’s per-ticket fees and dynamic pricing system, in which tickets fluctuate in price, supposedly in response to demand.

Springsteen fans around the country have been outraged and dismayed by prices of thousands of dollars for the most in-demand seats, while average seats can typically be had for closer to $200. Many fans ponied up anyway, for their first chance to see Springsteen with the E Street Band since 2016.

“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,” wrote “Backstreets” Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Christopher Phillips on Feb. 3.

A brief canvassing of die-hard local Springsteen fans prior to the upcoming Albany show finds a widespread disdain for Ticketmaster’s dynamic ticketing system and fees that can be over 20% per ticket. But Springsteen himself does not escape blame.

“The current ticket situation was a tough pill to swallow,” says Eric Christensen of South Glens Falls. “Like many other Springsteen fans, I was elated when a 2023 E Street Band tour was announced. I was certain 2016 was the last ride. Then came the ugly news that Ticketmaster and Bruce apparently agreed to the now popular ‘dynamic pricing’ platform. I had registered as a ‘verified fan’ for the pre-sale and was shocked when I saw the inflated prices due to demand.”

Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing is not new; the company instituted the practice in 2011, stating the goal was to keep tickets from ticket scalpers and other resellers, retaining more money in-house for the artists and venues. Many top acts —from Taylor Swift to Paul McCartney — sell their premium seats through a variable pricing system.

In a statement about the Springsteen ticket controversy, Ticketmaster stated, “Prices and formats are consistent with industry standards for top performers.”

But the sting from high ticket prices seems to burn harder for fans of Springsteen, who made a career of championing working class people.

“I am basically done with Ticketmaster dynamic pricing events and have resigned myself to knowing this will be the last time I see Springsteen and that’s OK. He is 73, after all,” says Stephen Gersztoff of Albany. “This fiasco has ruined any interest in the summer shows. Waiting online at Tower Records with thousands of dollars in my pocket praying I didn’t get mugged was preferable [to this system].”

“I don’t know who I’m disappointed in more, myself for buying the tickets or the Boss for taking part in such a scam,” says Michael Testo of Lansingburgh. “I will never do that again. It feels gross. So much for The Eagles being the scourge of rock shows.”

Springsteen himself made matters worse for some fans with an interview in “Rolling Stone” last November in which he stated, in part, “… the bottom line is that most of our tickets are totally affordable. They’re in that affordable range. We have those tickets that are going to go for that [higher] price somewhere anyway. The ticket broker or someone is going to be taking that money. I’m going, ‘Hey, why shouldn’t that money go to the guys that are going to be up there sweating three hours a night for it?’ ”

“The worst part was hearing Bruce’s reaction to the entire debacle,” says Testo. “To be honest, I’ve felt differently about him ever since.”

“I read the ‘Rolling Stone’ interview where [Springsteen] spelled out that he’d rather the band capitalize on ‘legal’ scalping by Ticketmaster instead of the actual scalpers,” says Christensen. “I suppose I sort of understood, but as a fan who enjoyed working the ticket exchanges and drops for decent seats at an affordable price to catch several shows on each previous tour, I felt left out of that conversation. Diehard fans became an afterthought. The Ticketmaster fees are staggering. They ramp up along with the dynamic pricing. That just seems so wrong, and something that Bruce should stand against. So, I guess I blame them both.”

“I do blame Bruce for this, and I am happy to see ‘Backstreets’ back up their position by doing what they did,” says Gersztoff. “During the pandemic, [Springsteen] talked about eventually getting back on the road to play a giant party to which everyone is invited. Oh.”

Local fans have found workarounds to the high prices. Gersztoff considers himself lucky for finding three upper-level tickets at MVP Arena in the $150 range at the time they first went on sale — although Ticketmaster added an additional $60 fee per ticket.

“It seems like the ticket prices have been dropping precipitously as shows draw nearer,” Gersztoff says. “I wound up getting pretty lucky with tickets. I was not going to pay more than face value for anything.”

“I have discovered that a savvy fan without an endless budget can still get a great seat without breaking the bank,” says Christensen, who ended up with prime 100-level seats ($249.50 face value tickets that came to $331 with Ticketmaster fees) by waiting until closer to the show date. “Like any concert you really want to see, just keep checking because even seemingly sellout shows aren’t really sellouts until showtime. As Bruce would say, ‘Faith will be rewarded.’ ”

Some fans would argue that Springsteen and the E Street Band — who typically play two- to three-hour shows and have gone as long as four hours — are worth the higher prices, especially on what could be one of their last tours.

“Do I think Bruce and the E Street Band are worth the price? Depends on if you’ve seen the band,” says Christensen. “If not, then please just get in the house. A nosebleed ticket will transform you — they’re that good. This may well be the last ride, and from what I’ve seen on YouTube, they’ve been amazing. If you have one shot to see the band, then a pricey ticket might actually be worth it. But do your homework and find a way in that you can afford.”

Contact Kirsten Ferguson at [email protected]

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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