Bruce Springsteen fans like to think of him as tougher than the rest, not pricier than the rest. So there were inevitable eruptions of anger when fans logged on for the first day of sales for the opening shows on his 2023 arena tour and found tickets going for as much as $4,000-5,000 for mid-range floor seats, and into the four-figures for other, less desirable tickets that remained. If these were being offered on the secondary market, offers that exorbitant might be expected… but what gave fans sticker shock was that these were face value tickets, with no middleman jacking up the price.
It was an introduction for many fans to Ticketmaster’s “dynamic pricing” program, in which “platinum tickets” — which may be placed anywhere in the arena, from the front section to the back rows — fluctuate in price, in what is said to be ongoing reaction to demand. The system lets ticket prices quickly rise to a level it’s believed resellers would get for them, keeping that extra money in-house for the artist and promoter. But as Wednesday’s ticket sales went on and went up, even some concert veterans who know and accept the idea of variable pricing wondered: Would even scalpers ask close to $5,000 for a good but not directly front-of-house seat?
Fan ire was quickly evident in responses to an early tweet from Backstreets, the Springsteen fan magazine, which posted a screenshot of the price for one seat on the tour’s opening night and wondered: “Tampa mid-floor for $4,400, anyone?” (That’s an amount that included $3,819 in face value plus $569.50 in fees.) Other perturbed fans quickly joined in with screenshots of the unusually costly offers they were getting, once they’d gone through Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan system and waited in an online queue.
Tampa mid-floor for $4,400 each, anyone? #catchandrelease
“Ticketmaster’s Official Platinum seat program enables market-based pricing (adjusting prices according to supply and demand) for live event tickets, similar to how airline tickets and hotel rooms are sold.” pic.twitter.com/8qyanN0OQA
— Backstreets Magazine (@backstreetsmag) July 20, 2022
If the Verified Fan system and fast-escalating prices were designed to thwart scalpers, there was some question how successful that was. Late in the day, the seating chart for the Tulsa, Oklahoma show appeared to show about a fifth of the seats in the arena already having been turned around and put up for sale on the secondary market via Ticketmaster’s resale program, where individual sellers who want to pass on their tickets are free to set their own prices.
Of course, demand will drastically outstrip supply for all of Springsteen’s one-night-stand arena dates, which count as a drastic underplay by his usual multi-nighter standards. This is not the first time in recent years that the dynamic pricing system has angered fans, who have watched in wonder as coveted tickets for a Harry Styles or Paul McCartney rise right before their eyes. And, let’s face it, even under the best of ticketing circumstances, complaining about ticket prices is a national pastime. Still, even given all that, few observers of the live business can remember tours in which the face value for most seats grew by 10 times or more across an arena in the course of a few hours, landing at a point where it costs $4,000 or more just to get on the floor — with tickets reportedly maxed out at $399 when the on-sale started.
Springsteen’s camp declined comment, and Ticketmaster had not responded with a comment at the time of this writing.
— Steve Leibowitz (@StevenL57) July 20, 2022
The only person associated with the tour to publicly respond so far has been Stevie Van Zant, who tweeted, “I have nothing whatsoever to do with the price of tickets. Nothing. Nada. Niente. Bubkis. Dick.” The veteran E Street Band guitarist’s disavowal did little to dissuade fans from further demanding that he take their outrage directly to the Boss.
I have nothing to do with the price of tickets. Nothing. Nada. Niente. Bubkis. Dick. https://t.co/NsDJvoLMWu
— 🕉Stevie Van Zandt☮️ (@StevieVanZandt) July 20, 2022
Only the first six cities on the tour went on sale Wednesday — Tampa, Orlando and Hollywood, all in Florida, followed by Tulsa, Denver and Boston. The rest will come over the next nine days, with St. Paul being next to go on sale, Thursday morning. If the system remains the same, and face-value prices go as high for the on-sales to come, that could result in a lot of fan dismay to be staggered over the course of the next week and a half.
Jokes abounded on social media amid the flames. “I assume when Bruce shouts ‘Is anyone alive out there?’ on the next tour,” wrote @clevenbrown on Twitter, “it will be more of a medical check-in on those who had to sell a kidney to be able to afford tickets.” Wrote another fan, “Let’s see, I can pay my mortgage for two months or I can buy a Tampa GA,” as she attached a shot of a Verified Fan platinum offer to buy a standing-room ticket for $1,350 plus fees. (That would have been a relative bargain compared to the $2,147 base price another screenshot showed the same GA ticket going for in Boston.)
Even John Eddie, a singer-songwriter who used to run in the same New Jersey circles as Springsteen, had some fun with it: “Elon Musk was going to buy Twitter but then he decided to buy a pair of Bruce tickets instead.” The most arch tweet response of them all, perhaps, amid the fury, from the Twitter user @wiggenstock: “Dynamic pricing seems to be a really cool new feature that everybody loves.” (See a sampling of other social media responses, below.)
Yet it wasn’t a downer day for all Springsteen is a fan. Some of those who made their way through the queue when the doors opened, and before the prices skyrocketed, were pleased with the initial ticket costs. The original base price for the tickets was reported to be a not-so-out-of-line $299-399 for floor seats and a reasonable $60 for the most distant sections; indeed, some satisfied fans who purchased upper-level seats earlier in the day reported being able to get out the door for less than $100, even including fees.
The Ticketmaster site is transparent about exactly what’s happening with variable pricing, even if the changing costs can seem arbitrary from moment to moment. The FAQ page establishes that “these aren’t resale tickets. Platinum tickets are being sold for the very first time through Ticketmaster. The prices are adjusted according to supply and demand, similar to how airline tickets and hotel rooms are sold. The goal is to give the most passionate fans fair and safe access to the most in-demand tickets while allowing the artists and everyone involved in staging live events to price tickets closer to their fair value.” The text goes on to remind buyers that these should not be confused with the VIP packages that some tours (not Springsteen’s) offer.
Here’s a sampling of tweets that came in Wednesday, as fans took to social media to share the offers they didn’t feel were too good to refuse. Some waxed more philosophical about the principles of supply and demand, like one who blamed the $4,309.30 price he was seeing on the fans who might be willing to pay it:
You can be confused and angry at TM, the secondary market, Bruce, capitalism, the state of the world, whatever, but it is the person willing to buy this ticket who really makes it possible to begin with. Don’t buy and the price wouldn’t exist. pic.twitter.com/UktP0Tfk1w
— Bruce Funds ® (@BruceFunds) July 20, 2022
Elon Musk was going to buy Twitter but then he decided to buy a pair of Bruce tickets instead.
— John Eddie (@JohnEddieMusic) July 21, 2022
Unfortunately, ticketmaster is using the on-demand ticket pricing.
The more people interested in the tickets, the higher the price.
Section 300 can be $199 one minute & $699 the next.
— Lydia⁷🦩🐙 Part of the 90% (@The_LadyLyd) July 20, 2022
#BruceSpringsteen do you know about this? #Springsteen are you ok with this? #TheBoss, is this the way you wanted to treat your diehard fans? To score #springsteentour2023 tickets, you have to take out a reverse mortgage? @springsteen @backstreetsmag pic.twitter.com/kgbsWmZt0h
— Craig Semon (@CraigSemon) July 20, 2022
Although many users reported being offered tickets in the lower, mid- and upper 4000s, a survey of social media users posting their screenshots turned up one would-be buyer whose platinum offer from Ticketmaster did actually hit the $5,000 mark for the Seattle show, prior to fees:
— jo arlow photography (@joarlow) July 20, 2022
99.9% of the people complaining that they can’t get tix or tix or too pricey have seen #Springsteen 10x or more in their lives…. #GetOverIt. No one is a bigger fan than me, and I can’t go. Yet, the Sun will rise again tomorrow… There will be MILLIONS who cannot go. https://t.co/EBbkpdBrPK
— Tony Fontane (@TMAN1138pm) July 20, 2022
— wigginstock (@wigginstock) July 20, 2022
Additional reporting by Michelle Amabile Miller.