Fans are frothing at the mouth for a shot to catch Bruce Springsteen in his recently announced fall residency on Broadway. The Walter Kerr Theatre, with its sub-1,000 capacity, is a remarkably intimate venue where the legendary rocker will perform songs, interact with the crowd, and read from his recently published autobiography.
If industry rumors are to be believed, it should also land the New Jersey native in hot water with New York Authorities.
According to industry sources, Springsteen, promoters and venue affiliates may hold back as much as 90% of the already minimal tickets available for the residency, which will run in October and November. Between the scant number of roughly 40,000 seats that will exist for the duration of the show being made available to the general public, and the artist’s team requiring would-be purchasers to undergo Ticketmaster’s “Verified Fan” process, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman should be planning to act in defense of New York consumers.
Springsteen is expected to net well over $20 million for this Broadway run, considering face values at close to $1,000 and markups when those tickets are moved into the secondary market.
The potential for trouble wouldn’t be the first time Springsteen has run into problems for holding back tickets. After fans complained following a lightning-fast sellout in his home Garden State in 2009, records searches showed a huge number of holdbacks by the artist. Naturally, his team said nothing when blame was laid on brokers before the deeper investigation revealed the truth. He also didn’t face any repercussions, despite the proof he violated New Jersey laws with the amount of tickets held back.
Whether or not Schneiderman will act could be influenced by his previous championing of the artist in his battles against so-called scalpers. In December of 2015, the AG opened an inquiry regarding speculative ticket sales when tickets for an upcoming Springsteen concert at Madison Square Garden were available in the secondary marketplace at steep markup before they event went on sale. He has gone on to push for such sales to be made illegal in New York, though the changes have not yet found traction with lawmakers in the Empire State. Springsteen manager Jon Landau has denied the claims of well-placed sources in the industry that individuals from his team were scalping their own tickets and letting brokers take the blame, but confirmed that the group holds back thousands of tickets regularly.
Springsteen also has well placed connections to the highest points in the Democratic establishment, of which Schneiderman and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo are members. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2016, and played at a “get out the vote” rally for Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia on the eve of the 2016 election:
How this looming battle could play out against the greater tapestry of proposed legal changes in New York remains to be seen. Ticketmaster has aggressively come out in favor of changes to state law which would bolster its monopolistic stature in the ticketing world. In a letter to Gov. Cuomo’s office prior to industry meetings with state officials, the corporation decried the state’s “antiquated” ban on paperless ticketing – a claim the organization walked back when pressed at the meeting. Paperless ticketing is not illegal in New York, it is only required that ticket companies give consumers other options. Similar laws also exist in Virginia and Connecticut.
The giant also pushed hard at that meeting against any increases of transparency in ticket sales, presumably to allow it and artists such as Springsteen to continue to profit from the opacity of the process by which tickets to popular events are distributed. Ticketmaster also confirmed at the meeting that it was allowing certain brokers the use of bots software – illegal in New York since last fall and across the country shortly after – to purchase tickets and place them directly on Ticketmaster’s secondary platform within seconds of going on sale. Ticketmaster claimed such actions were not outlaws by New York or federal anti-bot legislation, a claim which was notably not objected to by those in the room representing the Governor or Attorney General’s office.
If AG Schneiderman and those who claim to be supporting the consumer in the Empire State play favorites with acts like Springsteen on issues which are the driving force for consumer headaches, it will make one thing clear: They’ll look the other way when the consumer gets fleeced for people on “their side”.