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Ticket Voucher for Bruce Springsteen Ghost of Tom Joad Tour
Scan of a photocopy of a redacted ticket voucher from Bruce Springsteen’s Ghost of Tom Joad Tour (1996)
Presented here with the gracious permission of the Mattsonian Archives

Springsteen Economics: A 2023 Tour Tickets Screed
24 July 2022

#Scalping  •  #FirstWorldProblems  •  #ThoughtLeadership  •  #CustomerExperience (CX)  •  #UserExperience (UX)  •  #VerifiedFan  •  #Ticketmaster

Bruce, what happened to you? You have no will
Sorry, baby, yeah, I lost my will
I get on stage with my righteous rage
But in real life Iā€™d already turned the page


I used to be a big fan of your work, but now you are no longer “the Boss” of me. I was born in the United States of America and I have free will and free speech. This letter is an expression of both.

I no longer consider you to be the Very Reverend Bruce Springsteen of the holy-rolling E Street Cathedral, the legendary traveling revival tent whose mission it was to uplift the downtrodden. The guy who’d get the audience all riled up with talk of rock ‘n’ roll and an ice cold beer at a reasonable price.

You are now a willing partner in a broken system, the same one you used to rail against.

You are no longer sticking it to “the man.” You are now officially sticking it to “the fan.” Most especially, the working fan.

Why did you stray? Why don’t you take care of your own anymore? Or have you moved up and out, into a social stratum that looks down on the very same class with which you used to at least pretend to identify?

I’ve read about the rationale that some genius came up with several years ago. Raise the prices to what the resellers (the politically correct term for scalpers, or, more precisely, vermin) had been selling them at in order to eliminate the middle man and put more money in the pockets of the artists.

But it’s all only escalated, as any rational person would naturally expect.

Three egregious practices were going on concurrently when tickets went on sale for your upcoming 2023 tour. One is demand pricing. Another is designating some tickets as “Platinum” while offering no other distinguishing value than the price paid. The third is those ever-increasing “convenience” charges and whatever expenses Ticketmaster wants to call a “fee.”

20 July 2022: Denver

Let’s take a look at what happened on 20 July 2022, when tickets went on sale for your 2023 tour.

I was in the “Verified Fan Presale,” but the randomization stuck me pretty far back in the queue and I didn’t get in until tickets had already been on sale for 25 minutes. By then, all that was available were over-priced “Platinum” tickets. At least, at first blush. But that’s where this whole experience goes right down the drain. It sucks. Really, really, really badly, Bruce.

10:00 — Queue

10:35 — GA Platinum, $2,250 + Fees

10:36 — GA, $1,250 + Fees

10:37 — Section BBB Platinum, $4,950 + Fees

10:39 — GA, $1,333 with Fees

10:44 — Full range: $59 - $399+

10:47 — GA Platinum, $1,560 or $1,996 + Fees

Of course ticket demand is going to be at its highest when tickets first go on sale. This is a limited capacity item. To make comparisons to demand pricing for things like airfare is ludicrously inappropriate.

So then I tried the general sale at 3:00 and I got in within the first 2 minutes.

Only “resale” tickets were available.

So all those “verified fans” went right back out to try to resell at a profit.

Do you see what happened there, Bruce? Tickets were being resold at a profit. Against one of the Tom Joad tenets.

20 July 2022: Tulsa

Later in the day, out of curiosity, I checked another city that went on sale. For the show in Tulsa, Okla. general admission tickets were readily available for “only” $695, plus fees, of course.

16:14 — GA Platinum, $695 or $1,950 + Fees

But what does this mean? What’s the difference between a $1,950 Official Platinum: GA Pit ticket and a $695 Official Platinum: GA Pit ticket? Sounds like “ inflated” ticket pricing to me, Bruce.

It’s impossible to tell, based on the floor layout, if there’s a front of pit and back of pit. And if there is no difference, then it’s a heinous disservice to the fans that they need to deselect the $1,950 ticket and add the $695 ticket. Terrible user experience.

Do you see what happened there, Bruce? Tickets were being resold at inflated prices. Again against one of the Tom Joad tenets.

23 July 2022: Denver

But it gets worse, Bruce.

Again, out of an abundance of curiosity, I checked back on Saturday, 23 July — three days after the initial sale. Guess what? At Ball Arena in Denver a fresh batch of face-value tickets were available on the floor, including $900 GA tickets. But still, a hard “no” from me. That’s still more than my monthly mortgage payment.

07:19 — GA, $900 + Fees

07:19 — BBB, $2,300 + Fees

Think about it. On Wednesday, there were people paying $2,200 for the same ticket (General Admission, no assigned seats) that people could pay “only” $900 for on Saturday. Sure sounds “inflated” to me, Bruce. Same in section BBB, going down from $4,950 to $2,300. Half price.

Crazy stupid.

Which is also likely how some of those people — presumably your fans — who did buy tickets on Wednesday might very well feel now.

The Springsteen Brand

Over the decades I built a base
There were excited fans all over the place
But then this hungry heart looked away
If those fans wanted to play
I was going to make them pay

You look bad, my man. And I’m pretty sure you simply don’t care.

Even as the media heaps praise upon praise for your performances.

That’s all they are, though. Performances.

All sense of authenticity — which was, come on now, dubious from day one — has been shredded.

You expect people to pay $1,100 to $2,200 for one single general admission (standing room only) ticket in front of the stage. A few grand for a chair on the floor, behind that GA pit. It’s still a few hundred to sit behind the stage. (Good call; do shows “in the round” to get more people into fewer shows.)

But yeah. You asked and people bought.

Ball Arena in Denver, Colo. is basically a complete sell-out. Of course, that’s if you don’t count all the tickets that were instantly put up for resale after “verified fans” snapped them up.

So, congratulations. I guess.

But in the process, you yourself also are a total sell-out.

No congratulations to you on that account.

How’s it going to look when you step on a stage and do your schtick about getting an ice cold beer at a reasonable price? Or — and this is more significant — stepping away from the theatrics, how about the next time you step on a stage in an effort to rally support around a political cause, around something impacting the working man — the little guy — you used to champion and you’ve now fully shunned?

Several years ago, at a former employer, I noted some really bad management and I made the comment some of the decisions being made were so bad even a blind man on Madison Avenue would say, “Those are some mighty bad optics.”

That’s what you’ve got now, Bruce. Some mighty bad optics.

You tainted your own brand with this flagrant display of greed. At this point in history, it’s not just a city of ruins, or country of ruins. It’s a world on the brink of ruin. And this tour could’ve been such a phenomenal opportunity for you and the E Street Band to get back into that old-school revival mode and go around healing the people who need to hear from you most.

The Ghost of Tom Joad

Remember your solo Ghost of Tom Joad tour? I do. You performed at the Paramount Theatre in Denver, Colo. for that one and you went to great lengths to make sure fans paid a fair price and virtually eliminated any opportunity to scalp the tickets.

I remember it well. It was the first time I saw you perform live and from that experience I became a fan.

People had to go to one venue and one venue only, McNichols Arena, to purchase tickets (a maximum of two per person). But you didn’t get the tickets right then. You got a voucher. A yellow piece of paper with the purchaser’s name, address and drivers license number, along with the designated seats for that purchase.

That voucher was then taken to the Paramount Theatre box office only up to two hours before the show started. You presented your ID and traded the voucher for the tickets and then you entered the theatre. There was no opportunity for the tickets to change hands.

Well done.

I’ve been referencing what I call “Tom Joad tenets.” At the top of this page is a scan of a photocopy of my voucher from that tour, which featured three things you were trying to do in the process:

  1. Discourage resale, for-profit ticket scalping
  2. Prevent fans from paying inflated prices
  3. Ensure “real” fans were in the audience.

For the 2023 tour, Bruce, it’s three strikes and you’re out. You made some of us lob like a fool, but for others of us, your glory days are over.

Bruce on Broadway

There were those stints on Broadway (in 2017-2018 and again last year, post-pandemic). I railed against the ticketing policies for those shows previously. In that article I joked about how, if the goal was to defeat scalpers, maybe the top-tier ticket price should be bumped from $850 to $5,000. I was being sarcastic, but you actually did it with the 2023 tour.

Rave reviews for your shows on Broadway; I wouldn’t know first hand. I was in New York while those shows were running, but I could not possibly talk myself into that indulgence. For that matter, the only tickets available were resale. Come on, let’s call them what they really are: scalped.

Ridiculous ticket prices — and silly scalping policies. Why were only the 26 Lucky Seat “lottery” tickets for each show restricted from scalping? Why didn’t you restrict the whole house? The only thing missing was your will to make it so.

The Digital Age

What a remarkable time to be alive
Digital tickets exchanging hands
I could do something
I could help people thrive
Instead, I turned a blind eye

Now, in this digital age — a world of meta data, personalization, non-fungible tokens and streaming music — we no longer need all the Machiavellian steps of the Tom Joad days. Scalping can be stopped, easy-peasy. But, again, the only thing missing is the will from people like you.

Sure, facilitate legitmate resale because things happen and people wind up not being able to go. But cap the price at the face value. So remarkably simple to do today, right now.

Almost all tickets are already digital. Printed paper tickets are a rarity. Transfering tickets between individuals digitally is the new norm.

But there’s no will to use that power to eliminate scalping.

Tag the face value on a ticket and the associated fees paid. Empower the system to recognize that tag and refuse any price that exceeds it, regardless of the platform (Ticketmaster, StubHub, whatever).

So simple. So possible.

But there’s no will from you or other artists with enough clout to make it happen.

Spotify and Apple Music and other streaming services are another topic in this environment. Granted, CD sales have plummeted in this brave new world of streaming services. The revenue streams have shifted. That has taken some time, but the music business has largely rebounded and will continue to grow in new ways.

It’s going to take some imagination, though, from sharper minds running the show, those who can look beyond the near-sighted solution of simply perpetually raising ticket prices.

C’mon, Bruce. Keep it real. I know you will not be touring with a technological powerhouse of a stage production that could possibly justify the need for these exorbitant prices.

Some bands are exprimenting with NFTs and other experiences, other experiential packages. But at this stage of the game, given so many artists struggled through the devastation of the pandemic and the lack of live music around the world for more than an entire year, there is no excuse for a globally recognized name such as yourself, Bruce Springsteen, to be a complete pig and charge these ludicrous prices.

Post-Pandemic Life

So many options, so many things I could do
Think about the future, create a new view
Dig into crypto and make an NFT
Share my experiences more personally
But I can’t and I won’t because I lost my will

Forget about the environment and human rights for the moment.

Regardless of all the concerns about inflation, the economy, the cost of gas and groceries (including ice cold beer!), people queued up and lined your pockets with months worth of mortgage payments or rent. It’s gotta be a very well-heeled crowd that’ll be in attendance. They’ll all share your righteous rage and then go home, hermetically sealed from the world around them, the world they see burning literally and figuratively.

And then you’ll all wonder why nothing changes.

Except for you.

You’ve changed.

You’re a sell-out, all right.

What are YOU going to do with all that money? Maybe donate it to your favorite charity in Denver, Foodbank of the Rockies?

Nah. Come on. Let’s keep it real.

You were a legend back when you stood for something ā€“ and acted on it.

Now, it’s all about you.

Let me put this in a different perspective, I purchased roundtrip airfare to Bangkok, Thailand for a trip over the holidays this coming December and the total cost of my airfare was less than what some people paid for a single ticket to see you, Bruce, perform for a couple hours. Maybe a few hours; I’ll give you credit for staying on stage longer than most acts. But maybe that will also change on this upcoming tour.

Hopefully you’ll try to return the favor to the little guy with some small gesture, like maybe decline to tap into Social Security. Can you at least make that commitment to help the little guy? Don’t drain the resources you don’t need that could help those who do.

Seems like a small — tiny — request to make of you under the circumstances.

The E Street Band Reunion Tour

Bruce Springsteen high-fives the crowd in Salt Lake City
Bruce high-fives the crowd in Salt Lake City during the E-Street Band reunion tour
Photo taken (on film!) by a friend I made while on the floor of the arena

Back during the E Street Band reunion tour, I completed my masters degree and — as a graduation present to me — I managed to get a ticket to see you in Salt Lake City, in the third row on the floor. Face value. I bought a Greyhound Bus ticket with the intention of making it a relatively cheap adventure.

It paid off.

At one point, Little Stevie was at the front of the stage, pointing down at the empty space and wondering why nobody was dancing around in the open space. It was an invitation. A security guard tried to hold me back — it was for the first two rows he was trying to tell me.


I danced around him and saddled right up to the stage. I was right there, reveling in the atmosphere, my hands pounding on the stage to the beat of the band. Then, there you were. Sweaty (or, well, drenched in the water you poured over yourself) and — after looking a little dazed — you looked down at me, put your hands out in front of me, I high-fived you and you ran across the stage high-fiving everybody who could get their hands in your path.

The awesomeness of that moment will never be forgotten. There was electricity that transferred from you to me. It’s still in my veins. And it’s why I’m taking this stand against how you’ve changed.

You were looking out for us back then.

But, thanks to some timely serendipity while on a mission to organize the Mattsonian Archives this summer, I was able to find more documentation around this trip and I’ve now put together a time value of money calculation to bridge betwen the “then” and the “now.”

Priced Out of the Market

Lord knows I’m jonesing to perform
I work hard and stay in good shape
But when it comes to my fans, they’ve had their day
After all, I’m the Boss and I’ve lost my will
I’ve grown lazy, just make the fans pay

Bruce, maybe you’re picking up a tempo here. This letter is dotted with lyrics I made up — tongue-in-cheek — and I give them to you. I “fiddle” with the guitar and the ukele, but I’m not a musician by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe you could turn them into a song. Call it, “Sticking It to the Working Fan.” Or, maybe, at a more personal, meta level, you should title it, “I Lost My Will.”

Can’t wait to hear it on Spotify; I now know better than to plan on hearing you perform it live.

Now, in this post-pandemic world, you’re looking out for yourself and nobody else. Such bad timing. Such bad optics all around.

I railed against the Rolling Stones for gouging fans. Elton John’s also priced me out of the concert market. But, people snap up the tickets and the shows still sell out without me, without my support.

So I’ve turned to supporting other acts with loads of energy, like OneRepublic and Inhaler (a new band that just completed its first tour of the States).

Don’t get me wrong. I could’ve purchased a ticket at face value for your 2023 tour. I could’ve been in GA or up in the nosebleeds.

Tickets were — and are — available, but you’re not worth it. I refuse to participate in this pricing madness.

It was a choice I made.

I took a stand and, with my free speech, I’ve now expressed it. Because I still have the will to do both.

There’s adventure to be had out there and it’s my free will that sends me in that direction.

From here on out, when I travel through that fabled land of hopes and dreams, the train I’m on will not have room for you.

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