Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen’s manager, posted a missive yesterday responding to a contention that Springsteen’s organization had held back 95 percent of the good seats at a concert in New Jersey. The allegation was in this story in the NJ Star-Ledger.
You can read the story and Landau’s response and judge for yourself whether there’s a contradiction or not. After acknowledging that Springsteen, like every artist, holds back tickets for friends and family of an enormous touring operation, Landau seems to deny the story’s main contention:
The 2,000 to 3,500 tickets closest to the stage are on the floor and more than 95% of them go to the public, making the basic premise of the Star Ledger headline [“Springsteen withheld best tickets from the public at NJ concert, records show”] inaccurate. Secondly, with regard to seats held in the best sections on either side, we always blend guest seats with fan seats so that there are never any sections consisting entirely of guest seats.
I think there are some interesting things about the Star-Ledger story.
1) In my experience, Landau’s explanation rings true; comp tickets aren’t often or largely directly in front of the stage. There’s of course always a triple-A guest list, but the idea that some 90 percent of the best seats at a show at a Bruce Springsteen concert were turned over to VIPs doesn’t seem likely. In arenas, comp seats tend to be in the side areas closest to the stage; the Star-Ledger story seems to fudge this distinction.
2) The idea that 90 percent of the best seats at a show of a shittier, greedier artist might go to VIPs or to artist-scalped fans is, however, entirely plausible.
3) Note that the Star-Ledger didn’t do the story about a shittier, greedier artist. The one who gets targeted is the only top-tier figure who has dared to speak out against Ticketmaster and Live Nation.
4) Left unsaid is this very real distinction: It’s the artist’s show. Barring holding the tickets back for secret scalping, artists are welcome to keep all the seats back they want. It’s their show, and the money is coming out of their pocket. The issue is when parasitical organizations like Ticketmaster or Live Nation are doing the under-the-table shenanigans.
The story gets junkier from there, including this part:
And, ticket brokers say, [the Springsteen ticket holds] helped drive up prices on the secondary market. Although tickets sold for $95 and $65 in the initial sale, some tickets were selling for hundreds of dollars more on the secondary market.
“Simple economics 101 would tell you that any time you restrict supply the price will be much greater,” said Robb Kenison, a ticket broker from the Washington, D.C., area. “I would not be surprised if a seat in 109, 110, 120 or 121 was double if not triple what it would have been had they sold even 50 percent of the seats in the sections.”
Quoting a scalper complaining about high ticket prices is like quoting a car thief about high car-insurance prices.
Back in the 1990s, when Pearl Jam got drawn into its battle with Ticketmaster, the band, too, became the focus of similar criticism and second-guessingâ€”much of it, as here, from news outlets that never bothered to write about the much-more-outrageous behavior of Ticketmaster before.