Code of Silence: Bruce Springsteen hides while fans fume

In 35 years of buying Springsteen concert tickets, I’ve never seen so many Springsteen fans as frustrated as I have this week.

To recap, tickets for Bruce Springsteen on Broadway went on sale on Wednesday. There was already unrest over the price of the tickets from fans, but problems with the Ticketmaster process tipped people over the edge.

In fairness to Ticketmaster, they introduced their Verified Fan process to reduce the number of tickets sold to ‘bots’ and ‘scalpers’. And, while the process looked fine on paper, the execution was an utter disaster, creating one of the biggest PR crises of Springsteen’s long career.

While being verified on Ticketmaster, doesn’t mean you’re a verified fan, the clumsy wording of Ticketmaster’s communication got people’s backs up when they received messages saying that they had been ‘selected’, or put on ‘standby’. Many long-time Springsteen fans were on the standby list, and were essentially locked out of the sale.

Understandably, people reacted negatively to being put on standby, and even those that were selected didn’t receive codes. This was particularly true for European fans as it seems TM had trouble sending sending text messages to non-US customers.

In Barcelona, a city with one of Springsteen’s most fervent fanbases where he regularly sells 90,000 tickets per show, eight fans in total received codes.

European fans also complained that their ticket-buying history of local sites, such as Ticketmaster.co.uk were not taken into consideration in the verification process.

When tickets went on sale, there was the usual inability to get through due to high volume, which is to be expected. However, tickets started appearing quickly Stubhub.

Photo by Walter McBridge (Broadway.com)

In total, approximately 5% of all tickets went straight to the secondary market — not from scalpers, but from genuine fans. The average price being $2,888. This was exactly what the Verified Fan process was meant to avoid, and it failed, although Ticketmaster said the number was nearer 3%.

As frustration grew, the Springsteen organisation announced that it was extending the run to February, which was seen by many as a cynical ploy to restrict supply to drive demand and high prices.

Of course, Broadway shows get extended due to popularity, but this was not the case here. Some defended the approach as a typical tactic for Rock Tours where single city appearances get extended to meet demand, but this is entirely not the case — Broadway Shows simply do not get extended on the first day or ticket sales.

Springsteen and Ticketmaster knew they would extend the run, so why did they not simply announce it early to placate fans and relieve the tension for those trying to score tickets?

In a further bizarre move, Springsteen is allowing already successful applicants to purchase more tickets — directly contrary to Springsteen’s and Ticketmaster’s own terms and conditions, restricting folks to only two tickets per person.

And in an incredulous move, Springsteen then sent marketing emails to fans who were locked out to buy Show merchandise. C’mon guys — read the room!

The ticketing system clearly didn’t work, but the hard sell commercial income process was as slick as ever.

With Social Media ablaze, the silence from Springsteen is deafening.

For the first time, loyal fans are openly criticizing not just Jon Landau, but also now Bruce.

And, while many defend Bruce, the lack of responsibility from Bruce himself is devastating for fans.

Bands like Pearl Jam, U2 and even Taylor Swift take an open and genuine interest in their fans getting tickets, whereas Bruce is entirely absent hiding behind Ticketmaster, a company well-known for its ability to do very little right.

There’s a code of silence, and it can’t go on.