Bruce Springsteen fanzine Backstreets to shut down over ticket prices

Publisher says staff is ‘dispirited’ and that readers and fans feel let down as ticket prices went as high as $4,000-$5,000 for shows

A leading Bruce Springsteen fanzine has announced that it will close after 43 years, citing among other reasons unchecked ticket price hikes the editors say many fans can no longer afford.

In a letter to readers, Christopher Phillips, publisher and editor-in-chief of Backstreets magazine, said staff had been “dispirited, downhearted, and, yes, disillusioned” since tickets for 2023 shows by Springsteen, a singer known for his loyalty to his blue-collar roots in New Jersey, went on sale last summer.

“It’s not a feeling we’re at all accustomed to while anticipating a new Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band tour,” Phillips wrote.

He went on to say that readers and fans felt equally let down as ticket prices went as high as $4,000-5,000 owing to “dynamic pricing”, a Ticketmaster policy that allows prices to change in response to demand.

Last July, Backstreets said in an editorial fans had been “thrown to the wolves, pushed aside in a way that seems as unfathomable as it was avoidable”.

It added: “This so-called premium, algorithm-driven model violates an implicit contract between Bruce Springsteen and his fans, one in which the audience side of the equation appeared to truly matter – and in fact was crucial.”

Since then, the disappointment has only increased.

“These are concerts that we can hardly afford; that many of our readers cannot afford; and that a good portion of our readership has lost interest in as a result,” Phillips wrote in his editorial announcing the Backstreets closure.

In November, just as another debacle was unfolding over ticket-price gouging on Ticketmaster for a Taylor Swift show, Springsteen defended his ticket prices.

“We have those tickets that are going to go for that [higher] price somewhere anyway,” he told Rolling Stone. “The ticket broker or someone is going to be taking that money. I’m going, ‘Hey, why shouldn’t that money go to the guys that are going to be up there sweating three hours a night for it?’”

He added: “I know it was unpopular with some fans. But if there’s any complaints on the way out, you can have your money back.”

Swift had a different response to the price hike for her tickets on Ticketmaster, blasting the platform for its mishandling of the issue.

After prices for tickets spiked as high as $22,000, the singer said it was “excruciating for me to just watch mistakes happen with no recourse”.

Ticketmaster attributed the fiasco to “unprecedented” demand for tickets.

However, many, including David Cicilline, then chairman of the US House antitrust subcommittee, criticized Ticketmaster for operating a “monopoly”.

The situation prompted a Senate antitrust hearing. Swift has sued Ticketmaster.

On Friday, Backstreets said it would go out with a bang, asking fans to keep an eye out for a “blow-out final issue”.

“Know that we’re not burning our fan cards,” the magazine said, “nor encouraging anyone else to do so. In fact, as diehard music fans, we have every hope of rekindling enthusiasm for what we’ve always believed to be a peerless body of work.

“If any of this is to reflect on Bruce Springsteen here at the end of our run, we’d like it to be that his extraordinary artistry inspired an extraordinary fan response that lasted for 43 years. That’s extraordinary.”


Samira Asma-Sadeque in New York

The GuardianTramp

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