Bruce Springsteen May Have To Apologize To Ticketmaster

noah | June 15, 2009 8:30 am

A few months ago, Bruce Springsteen and his fans were in a tizzy when the best seats for a slew of hometown shows at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., showed up on ticket brokers’ sites before they were even available to the public. “Scandal!” cried the fans. “Say you’re sorry!” blogged The Boss. But months later, after the hue and cry died down, the Newark Star-Ledger got to the bottom of just how tickets for the show were disbursed… and as it turned out, most of the asses in the Izod Center’s cushiest seats had been put there by the promoters, Springsteen’s record company, and Bruce and his band. Are you shocked? (I’m not, honestly. But all those years of going to journalist/blogger/flack/employee-packed shows in the greater NYC area have probably jaded me.) The Star-Ledger breaks down the numbers after the jump.

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. In all, 2,262 seats were held back from public sale, for the band, its record company and agent and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the public agency that operates the arena and acted as promoter for the concerts, according to the ticket sale records. That number represents about 12 percent of the total. That violates state law, say some legislators, including lawmakers who have sponsored bills to regulate ticket sales. “They are allowed to hold back 5 percent for family, fan clubs, friends, sponsors, for the band, for the producer, for everyone involved,” said Assemblyman Peter Biondi (R-Somerset), who questioned Attorney General Anne Milgram on the issue when she appeared before lawmakers earlier this month.

I had no idea the five percent cap was an actual law (I am going to guess that it isn’t the case in New York–if it were, it might very well cripple every one of the city’s club where up-and-coming bands play). And it seems kind of odd, given that the fan club presales that so many bands like to engage in wind up selling a lot more than five percent of the house’s seats! Anyway, more numbers:

For the first of the two sold-out concerts, May 21, the sports authority kept 812 tickets for itself, the arena’s sponsors and the media. Springsteen, his record company and agent and the band kept 1,450 more. Hundreds of the general admission floor seats were kept back, and about 60 percent of the 10 best sections were held from public sale. None of the more than 9,800 seats in the upper level — the worst seats — was kept back for the artists and promoters.

And that scarcity at the top, brokers noted, drove up all the prices. Springsteen was unavailable for comment, presumably because he was too busy pretending that he and Phish were remaking The Commitments in Tennessee. (Priorities!) Although his manager Jon Landau gave a spiel to The Wall Street Journal about fairness and all that:

“It is true that we hold a significant number of tickets for our friends and family, as does virtually every artist during concert appearances,” Landau said. “The location of those tickets are blended into the seating chart, so that there’s always a mix between the ability of fans to buy tickets and tickets being held for the stated purpose. No tickets held by the artist in our case are ever authorized for resale. And to the best of our knowledge, this practice is common to all artists who have to deal with close friends, business associates who work year-round for them, their parents, their wives, their nieces, and so forth.”

Indeed, it is a common business practice. But shouldn’t there have been a bit more transparency about just where all those really good seats were going when regular Joes who didn’t want to shell out lots of cash were all in a lather about not being able to get good seats? Not that Ticketmaster’s legalized-scalping subsidiary TicketsNow–where the disputed tickets showed up all those months ago–isn’t a noxious side business that basically opens up big wormholes in the company’s credibility, but this just seems like another example of the music business being a lot shadier than it really has to be in the name of staying “cool.” Springsteen withheld best tickets from the public at NJ concert, records show [Newark Star-Ledger via Speakeasy]