“We have no interest in having an ongoing conflict with Ticketmaster/TicketsNow or anyone else,” wrote Bruce Springsteen’s manager, Jon Landau, in a missive posted online earlier today. I am sure he means what he says. However, Landau makes this point in the final paragraph of a sternly worded 1,100-word screed about how Ticketmaster is dishonest and greedy, so we’re going to have to spend just a little more time talking about the, yes, ongoing conflict between the Boss and the corporate ticketing behemoth.
A little context: Back in February, tickets for Springsteen’s latest tour went on sale. Due to an alleged glitch, many fans who logged on to Ticketmaster.com promptly at the on-sale time were unable to buy tickets; in some cases, they were actually directed to Ticketmaster’s new site TicketsNow, which offered those same tickets at hugely marked-up prices. As one of the fans who tried to buy Springsteen tickets that morning, I can tell you that it was an extremely frustrating experience. Anyway, Bruce posted an angry letter on his website at the time, ashamed Ticketmaster suits apologized, and that was that…
…Until this month, when Ticketmaster chairman Barry Diller made some cranky comments to the New York Post about how many seats Springsteen’s camp reserves for its own guests. And that kind of sideways talk simply cannot stand. Cue Landau’s withering retort, which you can read for yourself after the jump. Give it a look, then weigh in: Whose side are you on here? Personally, I certainly blame Ticketmaster for its own customer nightmares — but I am starting to wonder whether it isn’t time for Springsteen to look into other ways of letting his fans see him in concert, before he has to hire a full-time furious-letter-writer to handle this apparently endless dispute.
“Somehow, a new flurry of interest has been created around Thrill Hill’sticket holds for the recent Izod Center shows. These are the same showsthat became such a subject of controversy when they went on sale onFebruary 6th. The new theory is that Bruce’s holds were the problem onFebruary 6th, and not Ticketmaster’s already acknowledged failures onthat day. But the truth is that Bruce’s holds had nothing to do at allwith the breakdown of Ticketmaster’s system.
“These are the undisputed facts about February 6th. On that morning,when our fans went to buy their Bruce and Band tickets for the facevalue of $95, they were in many cases immediately linked to Ticketmaster’s wholly owned ticket reselling company TicketsNow, whereprices were many times higher than $95. We call this ‘bait and switch.’As a result, an undetermined but large amount of money flowed intoTicketsNow (and eventually Ticketmaster) even though there were stilltickets at normal prices yet to be made available on Ticketmaster. Weperceived this to have been a major abuse of our fans, complained aboutit mightily, and added that because of behavior like this, the pendingmerger of the number one ticketing company and number one managementcompany (both owned by Ticketmaster) with the number one venue ownerand operator (Live Nation) might not be such a hot idea.
“How do we know that all this is true?
“1. On February 6th, when the ticket fiasco occurred, Ticketmaster’s CEOwrote to Bruce, myself, and our fans to generously apologize, whichapology we promptly and graciously posted on our site. The letterstated that the problem was the product of an inexplicable ‘glitch.’
“2. The volume of complaints received by New Jersey Attorney GeneralAnne Milgram exceeded anything ever experienced before and sheultimately secured a consent degree from Ticketmaster, in which theypromised that some of their practices (‘glitches’) with regard to itssister company TicketsNow will never be repeated.
“3. The CEO of Ticketmaster openly testified as to their responsibility for these ‘glitches’ in front of Committees of Congress.
“Based on all of the above, we can safely conclude that on February 6th,Ticketmaster transferred legitimate requests for tickets at face valueover to their TicketsNow site, where they could charge people hundredsand hundreds more dollars for the same ticket. The amount of additionalprofit generated by scalper type prices through this now famous ‘glitch’ remains unknown. Whether this was merely an extremelyprofitable ‘glitch’ for Ticketmaster/TicketsNow or something else, wehave no way of knowing.
“Last Sunday, June 14, the Newark Star Ledger ran an article entitled ‘Springsteen withheld best tickets from the public at NJ concert,records show.’ This is the same article that the Star Ledger runswhenever we do a few indoor shows in New Jersey. It suggested that wewere in someway responsible for the Ticketmaster/TicketsNow problem. OnThursday, June 18, Hits Magazine ran a summary of this article, OnFriday, June 19, Ticketmaster’s Chairman attacked Bruce personally inthe New York Post, in an article called ‘Ticket Blitzkrieg.’ In thisarticle, Ticketmaster’s Chairman deploys by implication Ticketmaster’snew line: despite their apology, despite the consent decree withAttorney General Milgram, and despite their testimony in Congress, theticket catastrophe was actually Bruce’s fault.
“Of course, the only thing wrong with the Chairman’s spin is that it’sflatly untrue. He is merely using the time honored tradition of blowingsmoke to distract attention away from Ticketmaster’s alreadyacknowledged responsibility for their ‘glitches’ on February 6th, theon-sale date of the two Izod Center shows.
“Now let’s talk a little about Thrill Hill’s ticket practices. Perhapsthe first thing to be said is that when we play New Jersey, our fansknow that we are usually going to do more than two indoor shows inorder to ensure, among other things, that during the course of a tour,Springsteen tickets will be plentiful so as many fans as possible willhave a chance to get great seats (hence the five upcoming shows atGiants Stadium.) As our fans also know, we have kept all of our ticketsunder $100 and do all that we can to ensure that as many as possibleare sold at face value.
“Yes, we do hold significant numbers of tickets when we play New Jersey,New York and Los Angeles, as does every arena headliner. These holdsare used by Bruce, his band members, and longtime members of hisextended organization, their families and close relations; by therecord label for their staff, for reviewers, and for radio stations; bycharities who are provided with tickets for fund raising purposes, suchas special auctions; for service people who help us on a year-roundbasis; and for other similar purposes. Unlike some Ticketmaster managedartists, no tickets are held for high dollar resale on TicketsNow, orthrough any other means.
“Where are the Bruce holds? The 2,000 to 3,500 tickets closest to thestage 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 eitherside, we always blend guest seats with fan seats so that there arenever any sections consisting entirely of guest seats.
“In addition, it is well known that we sometimes release a significantnumber 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 knownas the ‘drop.’ Many think that is done on purpose to help combat thescalpers who prey on fans at the last minute. That is a good thought.
“(Also, in connection with the Izod Center shows in particular, wereleased some of our holds to Attorney General Milgram to go into thelottery she created to help deal with people who were penalized by theTicketmaster/TicketsNow ‘glitch’ on February 6th.)
“Those are our ticket practices, as they have evolved over more than 30years of experience. Does anyone seriously imagine that any element ofthese practices caused Ticketmaster to redirect ticket requests toTicketsNow for the Izod Center shows? What would our incentive havebeen? It’s not we who earned vastly larger sums when fans paid way overthe face value of the tickets. It was Ticketmaster/TicketsNow.
“Final thoughts: We have no interest in having an ongoing conflict withTicketmaster/TicketsNow or anyone else. That has not been part of ourhistory. And it is generally not our purpose to spend time on this siteon matters of this kind. But we do get upset when we see fans beingtaken advantage of, as they were on February 6th. So, when that stuffstops happening (and the Ticketmaster/TicketsNow problems surroundingour recent show in Washington D.C. shows that these issues are far fromresolved) we will stop complaining. And when the facts cease to bemisrepresented, we will stop explaining.”
More from EW’s Music Mix:
Bonnaroo ’09 Sunday: Springsteen goes Phishing
Bonnaroo ’09 Saturday: Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuce!
Bruce Springsteen invites 10-year-old girl onstage. They sing. At least two people cry.
Green Day’s new ’21 Guns’ video: Watch it here!