Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bruce Springsteen: Man of the people

Springsteen, of course, has made his career out of his blue collar, man-of-the-people image. It's been picked at in the past - older readers will recall the NME's story about how he treated his staff and his canoe - but who would have thought Bruce would withhold the good tickets from the ordinary folk of New Jersey?

But an examination of ticket sale data from the May 21 concert shows Springsteen himself may be part of the problem. The best seats in the house that night were the 1,126 seats in the four sections closest to the stage, but only 108 of those tickets were ever for sale to the public, according to new ticket data obtained through the Open Public Records Act.

It's not only shitty to keep all the good seats for your chums, but it's actually against New Jersey law to keep back more than 5%.

This gig was the one where Ticketmaster had problems with their computers when the tickets went on sale.

Springsteen's manager Jon Landau has responded that this new story about Springsteen keeping tickets back is little more than Ticketmaster trying to shift back blame for that failure, somehow:
Yes, we do hold significant numbers of tickets when we play New Jersey, New York and Los Angeles, as does every arena headliner. These holds are used by Bruce, his band members, and longtime members of his extended organization, their families and close relations; by the record label for their staff, for reviewers, and for radio stations; by charities who are provided with tickets for fund raising purposes, such as special auctions; for service people who help us on a year-round basis; and for other similar purposes. Unlike some Ticketmaster managed artists, no tickets are held for high dollar resale on TicketsNow, or through any other means.

Where are the Bruce holds? The 2,000 to 3,500 tickets closest to the stage are on the floor and more than 95% of them go to the public, making the basic premise of the Star Ledger headline inaccurate. Secondly, with regard to seats held in the best sections on either side, we always blend guest seats with fan seats so that there are never any sections consisting entirely of guest seats.

In addition, it is well known that we sometimes release a significant number of excellent tickets on the day of the show at the box office, which can only be bought with direct entrance to the venue. It's known as the "drop." Many think that is done on purpose to help combat the scalpers who prey on fans at the last minute. That is a good thought.

I'm sure Landau hasn't deliberately written the piece to sound as opaque as possible, but it doesn't really explain exactly what number of ticket holds there are: is it 5% of the 2,000 to 3,500? Or are all of those holds, but 95% find their way through promotions of some sort to the "public"?

And isn't the question of if guests sit in a single block, or with some paying punters between them, something of a red herring when the question is over numbers?

Most irritatingly, what's that last two sentences about? If you're doing it to beat the scalpers, then say so. If you're not, don't try an "aaah!" to make people think that you are.

Perhaps it's not Landau's fault that his riposte is written in such a way as to obscure the facts. But the allegations against him in the New Jersey Star-Ledger are simple to follow; you would have thought that it would equally simple to disprove them.


jona said...

Please expand on the canoe story - I remember reading about it in Q or something on a train journey, but I tried to relate it to someone and I couldn't remember what actually happened, and I can not find any mention of it online. I'm glad I didn't imagine it at least.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

It must have been around 1986 or 1987; the NME had a cover story 'Fooled In The USA' - I suspect that it might have been the subject of some stiff legal letter-swapping after it appeared, but the basis of the NME's allegations (from memory) was that Bruce had charged two of his staff with looking after his canoe, there was some sort of freak weather event which led to the canoe floating away; result was these two guys lost their job for something that was a bit of an act of god.

According to this slightly obsessive page, it was the 18th July 1987 edition.

Unknown said...

i dont really know why i'm defending bruce springsteen against 22-year-old accusations from the nme, but what's a "freak weather event"? if i leave my house in charge of someone for an afternoon during the course of which they leave the washing out during a downpour, i probably wouldn't be satisfied by them simply blaming it on "a freak rainstorm".

imagine being able to afford to employ people simply to take care of your canoe, though. i don't even HAVE a canoe.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Jemima, fair point - although I'm hazily thinking that they weren't employed specifically to be canoe-wranglers, and I seem to recall it wasn't entirely their fault.

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