The Case of the $5,000 Springsteen Tickets


That didn’t go over well.

“The abuse of our fans and our trust by Ticketmaster has made us as furious as it has made many of you,” Mr. Springsteen said in a statement at the time. The New Jersey attorney general got involved, Ticketmaster settled her investigation, and its chief executive issued a groveling apology.

Since then, Ticketmaster, which is handling most of the U.S. shows on Mr. Springsteen’s tour next year, has tried to wear the white hat, at least some of the time. In an interview in May on a podcast called “The Compound & Friends,” Michael Rapino, the chief executive of Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, noted that many tickets for the best concerts and other events had a much higher street value the moment Ticketmaster sold them. Why shouldn’t an artist capture most of that excess? Prices that are too low open the door for scalpers to make more money — via the profit they gain from selling at the true market price — than performers make themselves.

If artists do want to capture that, Ticketmaster is prepared to help — and to take a fee for doing so. And that’s what Mr. Springsteen seemed to be doing here, using Ticketmaster’s “Official Platinum” system, in which seats are “dynamically priced up and down based on demand.”

You already know what happened next: Those platinum prices were plenty pricey. Outrage ensued. A congressman from New Jersey yelled into the wind.

“This broke our spirit,” said Pete Maimone, a real estate agent in North Brunswick, N.J., who coordinates a face-value-only ticket exchange for longtime fans. He has shut it down for now, he told me, while fighting back tears. “We did not want to participate any longer in this clear-as-day scheme to extract money from fans,” he said.

Over the weekend, in an attempt to quiet things down, Mr. Springsteen’s camp gave Ticketmaster permission to release some numbers. Just 1.3 percent of Ticketmaster users paid more than $1,000 per ticket. Also, 88.2 percent of tickets were “sold at set prices,” according to Ticketmaster, though the remaining 11.8 percent are likely to represent more than 11.8 percent of the revenue per show, owing to their higher face value.



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