A friend of mine in Florida asked me if I wanted to go see Bruce Springsteen.
It was the morning of July 20 and the first set of tickets for Springsteen’s 2023 tour had just gone on sale. He was shocked at the ticket prices — he had bought general admission tickets for $655 each — and wondered if they came with a 75-inch TV included with the purchase.
He passed the tickets on the ground and ended up getting three 200 level tixes, $455 each, and asked if I was interested. I said no. And that’s the story of how I won’t be seeing Bruce Springsteen in Miami next year.
Concert tickets have been on the rise for years, and the pandemic – which forced the live touring industry to take a full year off – has only made things more expensive.
In the first half of this year, the average price of tickets for the top 100 tours in North America rose about 18% from pre-pandemic levels, according to Pollstar, from $92 to $108. . This is on top of the rising cost of everything else these days, from food to gas to baseball cards.
But concert attendance isn’t slowing, not according to the 45,000 people who were at The Weeknd’s concert at Ford Field on Wednesday, the 40,000 who attended Elton John’s farewell concert at Comerica Park on July 18 or the 100,000 who attended Comerica’s three back-to-back shows earlier this month.
Prices are up, but people are willing to pay them. Because a concert is an experience, an evening shared with an audience and a performer that you cannot reproduce at home or on your phone. The lights, the sound, the sweat, the cheers, the memories: this has a cost, and this cost is increasing.
Pay the price to see the Boss
Springsteen became the unwitting poster boy for this price hike as news of ticket prices for his 2023 tour sent shockwaves through his fanbase, and with stories of $5,000 tickets splashed all over people. social networks as well as the pages of Variety and the New York Times.
Admittedly, that was a mistake, and Springsteen — the Boss, blue-collar hero and worker friend — couldn’t charge thousands for concert tickets. Right? Right?
Well, yes and no, but mostly yes. Springsteen’s tickets were subject to Ticketmaster’s “dynamic pricing” model, which fluctuates the cost of tickets in real time due to demand. Demand was high, so were the prices. And the screenshots don’t lie, some tickets were well worth thousands of dollars. (The dynamic pricing system has already been used for tours by Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney and others.)
Tickets for Springsteen’s Little Caesars Arena concert on March 29 went on sale Wednesday, and local fans experienced it firsthand. On Friday, there were still “official platinum” floor seats available for $1,650 each and higher-tier “side view” seats available for $400 each, along with hundreds of resale tickets. Not all the prices were exorbitant: a friend was able to quietly pick up three “nosebleed” tickets for $99 each thanks to the general sale.
This will be the first time he’s seen Springsteen, and it was a price he was willing to pay to see him. Others wonder what their ceiling is. No one is forcing anyone to buy tickets for the show, so the cost is what you are willing to pay. And if you don’t want to pay it, someone else probably will.
How high is too high?
Springsteen, who will be 73 when he arrives at Little Caesars Arena, isn’t getting any younger, and neither are his fans. So there are still a limited number of opportunities to see him – he has more gigs behind him than he has ahead of him – and those opportunities come at a premium.
Is Springsteen supposed to charge less than people are willing to pay to hear him play “Glory Days” in order to be a good guy? Or let the secondary market – the Stubhubs, the SeatGeeks, those other sites that try to trick you into thinking they’re Ticketmaster – make money off of it?
It has done so historically; the last time Springsteen hit the road, in 2016 and 2017 on his “River Tour,” ticket prices were below the industry average of $68 to $150 for a typical arena show, according to Asbury Park Press (which, in fact, reports on more than Springsteen news).
This time the prices are higher. Springsteen’s average ticket price is $202, according to Ticketmaster, which released data on the tour after the social media outcry. Of the sales, 88% of tickets were sold at face value, from $59.50 to $399 before service fees, according to Ticketmaster, with 1.3% of the total tickets for over $1,000.
Some frustrated fans feel crippled, however, only being able to withdraw tickets far in excess of what they are willing to pay. Would you pay $1,000 to see your favorite artist? How about $2,000? At what point do you say enough is enough, I’ve seen enough of them, and I’m going to drop this one?
There’s a clip on YouTube of Nirvana, circa 1993, discussing ticket prices for their shows (which were around $17 at the time) and other pop acts of the time. “Madonna Charges $50?” Kurt Cobain asks in disbelief, the words falling out of his mouth in disbelief. (Tickets to Springsteen, for the record, were about $28.50 at the time.)
Looking back now, the clip is funny because it’s so picturesque; nowadays, a concert T-shirt will cost you $50. To paraphrase the Boss, those were glory days. And yes, they have passed us.