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Springsteen, Ticketmaster battle escalates

 U.S rock legend Bruce Springsteen performs at the Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf, the Netherlands May 30, 2009. REUTERS/Marcel van Hoorn - Reuters
U.S rock legend Bruce Springsteen performs at the Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf, the Netherlands May 30, 2009. REUTERS/Marcel van Hoorn
— image credit: Reuters

By Ray Waddell

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Bruce Springsteen's manager has come out swinging against the Newark Star Ledger and Ticketmaster Chairman Barry Diller following a news report that the rocker's organization kept many of the best tickets to a recent show out of the public's hands.

The Ledger reported last week that about 2,300 total tickets for a May 21 performance at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., were held back for "friends of the band, the record label and the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority, which operates the venue."

Diller was quoted in the New York Post as saying Springsteen "has been one of our most vocal critics on our ticketing policies and while he's more than entitled to his opinion, it seems minimally fair-minded to point out that in the concert that created the battle, where Ticketmaster apologized for making a technical mistake, it seems that Mr. Springsteen held back from his fans all but 108 of the 1,126 tickets closest to the stage," Diller said.

The entire fracas dates back to February 6 Springsteen on-sale chaos for the Izod show, where the Springsteen camp claimed Ticketmaster directed fans to its in-house secondary site TicketsNow in a "bait-and-switch" maneuver.

In his response, posted Monday on Springsteen's Web site, Landau says Springsteen's holds "had nothing to do at all with the breakdown of Ticketmaster's system. When fans were redirected to TicketsNow, "an undetermined but large amount of money flowed into TicketsNow (and eventually Ticketmaster) even though there were still tickets at normal prices yet to be made available on Ticketmaster. We perceived this to have been a major abuse of our fans, complained about it mightily, and added that because of behavior like this, the pending merger of the number one ticketing company and number one management company (both owned by Ticketmaster) with the number one venue owner and operator (Live Nation) might not be such a hot idea."

Landau says a public apology from Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff "which apology we promptly and graciously posted on our site" substantiates the Springsteen camp's position when coupled with the volume of complaints received by New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, whom "ultimately secured a consent degree from Ticketmaster, in which they promised that some of their practices ("glitches") with regard to its sister company TicketsNow will never be repeated."

Landau calls the Ledger piece "the same article that the Star Ledger runs whenever we do a few indoor shows in New Jersey" and Diller's spin as "flatly untrue. He is merely using the time honored tradition of blowing smoke to distract attention away from Ticketmaster's already acknowledged responsibility for their "glitches" on February 6, the on-sale date of the two Izod Center shows."

Regarding holds by Thrill Hill, Springsteen's touring division, "Perhaps the first thing to be said is that when we play New Jersey, our fans know that we are usually going to do more than two indoor shows in order to ensure, among other things, that during the course of a tour, Springsteen tickets will be plentiful so as many fans as possible will have a chance to get great seats (hence the five upcoming shows at Giants Stadium.) As our fans also know, we have kept all of our tickets under $100 and do all that we can to ensure that as many as possible are sold at face value."

Landau admits to "significant holds" in New Jersey, as well as New York and Los Angeles" (which indeed is a common industry practice for major tours), saying the holds are for band members and their families, the Springsteen organization, the label, reviewers, radio stations, and charities.

Then he offers the following charge: "Unlike some Ticketmaster managed artists, no tickets are held for high dollar resale on TicketsNow, or through any other means."

Springsteen's ticketing practices have "evolved over more than 30 years of experience. Does anyone seriously imagine that any element of these practices caused Ticketmaster to redirect ticket requests to TicketsNow for the Izod Center shows? What would our incentive have been? It's not we who earned vastly larger sums when fans paid way over the face value of the tickets. It was Ticketmaster/TicketsNow."

Landau admits such public airing of Springsteen's business is uncharacteristic of the organization. "But we do get upset when we see fans being taken advantage of, as they were on February 6," he says. "So, when that stuff stops happening (and the Ticketmaster/TicketsNow problems surrounding our recent show in Washington D.C. shows that these issues are far from resolved) we will stop complaining. And when the facts cease to be misrepresented, we will stop explaining."

(Editing by Dean Gooodman at Reuters)

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