If Bruce Springsteen fans held Occupy E Street (OES) demonstrations to protest Ticketmaster’s slipshod public ticket sales, they’d harmonize, like they do to songs during his shows, with the “Network” movie catchphrase, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”
For decades, fans have coped with the frustration that to make it to the promised land of tickets to Boss shows, similar to what OWS demonstrations have drawn attention to, it’s one percent against the rest of us. In the realm of concert tickets, the one percent is made up primarily of illegal scalpers and legit ticket brokers who seem to work hand-in-hand to stockpile as many prime seat-location tickets as possible, then resell them to the highest bidders.
After entering personal and payment information on the Ticketmaster site last Friday morning for five upcoming metropolitan area Springsteen concerts at three different arenas, most fans were greeted by a screen alert loop that there would be at least a 15 minute wait. Fifteen turned in 30 minutes, which dragged on to 45. Finally making it to the land of hope and tickets, after almost an hour, only scattered tickets remained. Nonetheless, brokers, like StubHub, which sell such tickets at two to three times the face value, managed to accumulate a generous amount and already listed them on their sites.
A Ticketmaster spokesperson subsequently issued a statement that claimed much of the traffic was from “highly suspicious sources,” implying that scalpers and brokers used top-notch computer programs to inundate the ticket seller’s system with the sole aim to secure tickets for a profit on the resale market.
Sounds logical, but this has become the norm during Springsteen ticket sales, as well as for some other acts, for a long time. Little has been accomplished or attempted by Ticketmaster or politicians to thwart the scalpers and the resulting irritating, dishonest manipulation.
By the way, Ticketmaster controls about 70 percent of the market for tickets in the U.S.
In New York State reselling tickets is legitimate, but there is a limit for the markup over the face value. As a result, brokers, who resell tickets to an event at Madison Square Garden, are not subject to local laws when the sale takes place outside of New York. Consequently, most local ticket brokers have offices in New Jersey and Connecticut. FYI, StubHub is based in San Francisco.
The more things change, the more they stay the same; especially when it comes to buying concert tickets. It used to be that one had to get to a box office several hours before it opened to secure a place in line and hope for the best when you finally reached the ticket window. Though the annoyance of standing in line on a cold winter’s night or damp spring day became a thing of the past when ticket sales became available only on the internet, it now seems like that was more reasonable. Nevertheless, back then it was presumed that scalpers hired people, for a pittance, to stand in line to gobble up lots of tickets that they resold near venues on the day of an event.
In spite of an outcry a few years ago from fans and a few politicians, including New York senior Senator Charles Schumer and New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell, who each introduced proposals that barely saw the light of day, when a similar predicament riled Springsteen fans trying to purchase tickets for his 2009 “Working on a Dream” tour, yet nothing was accomplished.
It remains to be seen if this latest snafu will result in an evenhanded plan the next time around, though that’s highly unlikely. Short of forcing primary buyers to pick up tickets with photo IDs at the box office the night of the performance, there really isn’t much that can be done to make the process fairer.
For now, however, I’m grateful that I’ll see the “Wrecking Ball” concerts this spring in two arenas as I managed to score tickets for a few friends and myself. I’m certain that soon after the lights go down and Bruce and the E Street Band take the stage, the ordeal of buying tickets will quickly fade away.