wreck on the highway, the information superhighway

Posted: January 28, 2012 in Observations and Commentary
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Being from New Jersey, and of a certain age, it’s practically a moral imperative to like Bruce Springsteen. I imagine it’s similar with Prince in Minnesota or Reba McIntyre in Oklahoma or Pink Lady in Japan. (That sharp, blinding pain shooting behind your left eye is the Pink Lady memory rush I just laid on you.) I think in Springsteen’s case this requisite fandom ties directly into the basic insecurity New Jerseyans have about New Jersey, something I’ve touched on before. For the most part Springsteen gives us Garden Staters someone we can be reasonably proud of, someone we can point to and nervously insist, “New Jersey can’t be all that bad. Look, we have Bruce.” Add that he writes and sings about realities central to the Jersey experience (with the notable exceptions of big hair, smoky eyes and jagerbombs) and it’s easy to see why he’s been a phenomenon in these parts for close to four decades.

Securing concert tickets has always been the biggest challenge of a Springsteen fan in Jersey. It’s been a tough get for as long as I can remember. I realize it can be difficult in other places, but it’s not quite the same. About a million years ago when I was living in Oklahoma he was scheduled to play in Dallas. On the day of the concert we drove 200+ miles down I-35, no tickets in hand and no real plan to get them. Yet we walked up to the box office about three hours before the show and bought the four tickets we needed. I understand a bit of serendipity was in play since the seats were released for sale literally the moment we hit the box office, but whatever. That kind of good fortune would never happen in Jersey. Not with Bruce. Employing other methods of securing tickets has always been de rigueur.

For years Northeast scalpers made their annual income off Springsteen concerts. In the days before online sales, back when you actually had to wait in line at the box office, planning the ticket purchase was like planning the raid on Entebbe. People schemed and plotted, then camped out for way too many hours with dim hope the show(s) wouldn’t sell out before they had a chance to buy. There were no guarantees. I don’t recall if a ticket limit existed on your purchase, but if so it was an outrageously large number. Like 20. Or 1,000. So scalpers, representing the opportunistic slimy underbelly of capitalism, would scoop up as many as they could, then resell them from dingy, temporary storefronts at prices so inflated even Donald Trump would question the morality of making a quick buck. As you might imagine this never went over too well with fans. People were livid and Springsteen, trying to embrace the regular guy image he was carefully cultivating, did something about it. The result: The Wristband System.

Under this new rule of law when people got on line they were given a wristband. A wristband was like the Golden Ticket. Oh sure, you still had to wait in line for a godless number of hours, but at least you were guaranteed something. However, it always seemed the only tickets left when your turn finally came were for the worst seats in the most remote section of the venue. The scalpers, still representing the opportunistic slimy underbelly of capitalism, figured a workaround. They hired kids to pop in line as early as legally allowed. These kids would wait and wait and wait, all to buy tickets for the kind of guy who could make crusty mold look appealing by standing next to it. Their reward for buying tickets for Scalperman? He would sell them one (1) ticket at face value while the snatching the remaining seven or nine of eleven or however many there were for his own piggy purposes, reselling them and making enough money to put his kids through college. Assuming he had kids. Or at least kids he actually took an interest in. Okay, we know the money never went towards kids or education. Instead he bought more ostentatious thick gold chains with gaudy medallions which hung from his bull neck and got lost in the bramble he called amusingly referred to as “chest hair.” Remember, this is Jersey we’re talking about.

While the Wristband System tried to improve things, it didn’t. Not much changed for the average Joe, so they transitioned to a different variation of the Wristband System. Instead of first going to the box office people called a phone number, provided specific personal information, were given a number and told to come to the box office on a certain date and time. When they showed up the corresponding numbered wristband was bestowed upon them like an offering from the gods. Provided, of course, they could prove who they were by feeding back the personal information they gave when they called. The advantage was it eliminated camping out for tickets. The disadvantage was scalpers still somehow managed to get the best tickets and, consequentially, set up their shitty little storefronts where they bled every last dime out of poor schmucks who only wanted to see a concert. Schmucks like me.

Time passes, things evolve. Nowadays Springsteen’s concert tickets are initially sold through Ticketmaster. You call and if by some miracle get through, bully for you. Last Friday morning tickets went on sale for his two upcoming shows at the IZOD Center (the arena in the Meadowlands), two shows at Madison Square Garden and one show at the Prudential Center (Newark). Apparently Ticketmaster’s system was inundated, swamped and bedazzled with so many calls resulting in all kinds of shenanigans, none of them good. (I forgot they went on sale and didn’t call. Shame on me. Then again, my blood pressure is eternally grateful.) Perhaps the most discouraging part of this latest ticket fiasco was that ten minutes after they went on sale, during the crunch when Ticketmaster was claiming to have trouble dealing with life and universe, literally thousands of tickets suddenly became available on Stub Hub, that secondary online ticket broker. (Or as it’s more accurately known, Legal Scalping, Inc.) Curious, that. And if that’s not sucky enough the prices of the Stub Hub tickets are mind-blowing. Single tickets in the lower tier with a face value of $98 are selling for – are you sitting? – upwards of almost $8,000! Yes, you read that right. Granted, these are closer to the stage, but seriously. I didn’t see any lower tier seats for less than $1,200. General admission tickets, the kind on the floor with no seats where you stand crushed for four hours next to people you wouldn’t want to touch under any circumstances, are less expensive. But the markup is still obscene. Now I like seeing Springsteen as much as the next person. I’ve certainly spent enough money over the years proving that. But $1,200 just to have the luxury of a seat? That, my friends, is crazy talk. I mean let’s get real. In this economy how can I be expected to find a second job?

  1. Patti Kuche says:

    So who is paying this money??? Back to Youtube and itunes . . .


  2. kayjai says:

    I bet Mr. Springsteen has no idea what the ticket prices are. That’s all based on demand. $1200 is a lot of money to shell out to watch a concert and that’s a shame. Everyone misses out on a great evening and all because of some greedy scalpers…


  3. John says:

    I don’t know what the solution is, but there’s certainly got to be a better way.


  4. munchow says:

    The whole scalping “system” really sucks – and I am surprised that a “common” guy like Bruce Springsteen doesn’t really try to make something which could work better for the average Joe. I certainly wouldn’t pay 1200 dollars. Way too much!


  5. Too rich for me – guess I won’t be going to the Superbowl either.


  6. whiteladyinthehood says:

    *party* (am terrible typist)


  7. whiteladyinthehood says:

    Holy smokes Batman! That is an exspensive ticket! He must definitely be a hot commodity in Jersey…last concert I went to was Aerosmith and paid $50 bucks a ticket and I thought that was stiff…and that was years ago and Whitelady poor…but so loves her some Steven Tyler…still will say it was a really good concert! Maybe you should go…maybe…ask the lovely Miss Trask if you can get tickets and ya’ll go and pary like some rockstars!


    • John says:

      We’ll see how the prices fluctuate as the date draws nearer. There’s also a network of people I know who may have gotten tickets the legit way. I’m telling you, it’s all very complicated!


  8. I wouldn’t pay $1200 to see anyone. I wouldn’t pay $120, or even $12, to see Salma Hayek.


  9. I would not pay $1200 to see Springsteen. Jon Bon Jovi, on the other hand…


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