Long-running Bruce Springsteen fanzine shuttering following $5000 ticket controversy
Long-running Bruce Springsteen fanzine Backstreets is shutting down after 43 years. Editor-in-chief Christopher Phillips, who took over operations in 1998, shared the news in a letter, writing that he'd been "dispirited, downhearted, and, yes, disillusioned" after tickets for Springsteen's 2023 tour, which recently began, topped out at $5000 due to Ticketmaster's "dynamic pricing" system. "There's no denying that the new ticket price range has in and of itself been a determining factor in our outlook as the 2023 tour approached — certainly in terms of the experience that hardcore fans have been accustomed to for, as Springsteen noted, 49 years," the letter reads. "Six months after the onsales, we still faced this three-part predicament: 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."
The letter continues:
We hear and have every reason to believe that there will be changes to the pricing and ticket-buying experience when the next round of shows go on sale. We also know that enterprising fans may be able to take advantage of price drops when production holds are released in advance of a concert. 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.
Know that we're not burning our fan cards, nor encouraging anyone else to do so. In fact, as diehard music fans, we have every hope of rekindling enthusiasm for what we've always believed to be a peerless body of work. If any of this is to reflect on Bruce Springsteen here at the end of our run, we'd like it to be that his extraordinary artistry inspired an extraordinary fan response that lasted for 43 years. That's extraordinary.
A final issue of the magazine will be published, and while they plan to maintain their social media and email list, their ticket exchange message boards will close after a couple of months, and they're "freezing the website." Read the letter in full here.
Backstreets had previously addressed ticketing issue in a July editorial, writing:
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.
Over many years, there have been continuous, clear efforts made by the Springsteen camp to keep things fair and as fan-centric as possible, to foil scalpers, to give average concert-goers and fans the best shot at a reasonable price in a world where bots run rampant and scalpers rule.
For decades, Springsteen kept his ticket prices significantly lower than what the market might bear, which felt in keeping with his brand, his stated philosophies, his belief in community, and his clear view of what a concert was supposed to be, as for three hours or so — and sometimes more — he and the band gave us a glimpse of a better world.
The tent over E Street has always been big, inviting, and open, but what about the question he began to ask in 2012… are we missing anybody? After this week, it sure appears the answer has changed.
What were we to think when we made it through the queue on Wednesday morning to find that tickets — initial sales, not resales — were on offer for thousands of dollars? In the past, no matter how difficult tickets were to score, persistence paid off. Now, it seems, persistence just ratchets the algorithm up another notch. Or four.
Read that piece in full here.
Springsteen talked about dynamic pricing in a November interview, saying, "ticket buying has gotten very confusing, not just for the fans, but for the artists also. And 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?' It created an opportunity for that to occur. And so at that point, we went for it. I know it was unpopular with some fans. But if there’s any complaints on the way out, you can have your money back."