Bruce Springsteen and ticket scalpers: Which America?

Once again Bruce Springsteen’s fans are being ripped off by scalpers who buy up then re-sell tickets  at exorbitant prices, an act that encapsulates much of what people want changed in America today. The good news: Springsteen understands all this and is taking action. Now, if only others in our politics and elsewhere would take his cue. My wife and I were lucky enough to secure tickets this past weekend for Springsteen’s upcoming 2012 Wrecking Ball Tour, as we were during his 2009 tour. His concert is like a massive civic ritual (which I wrote about in 2009, and plan to do again after this year’s concert) that reminds us of what it means to be part of something larger than ourselves and how each of us must tap our innate goodness and power for the common good.

But so many people have been boxed out due to greedy and grubby scalpers using sophisticated computer programs to push aside individuals so they can buy-up thousands of tickets and re-sell them to make big bucks. One news report said that $98 tickets were now being resold for $6,600. My wife and I paid the face value of our tickets.

Sometime ago, while other entertainers continually raised their concert and other ticket prices, Springsteen made the public commitment to make $98 his highest priced ticket, and to sell many others for less than that. What was most important to him was giving more people access to his concerts and to make tickets as affordable as possible, even though it has cost him much money.

Indeed, when this greedy buying spree occurred back in 2009, Springsteen was swift to publicly come out against these acts. In one salvo, an open letter to his fans, he “condemned” this practice, refuted “cynical” arguments justifying it, talked about the “fair” sale of tickets, and worried about “the abuse of our fans and our trust.”

Notice the words Springsteen chose. To him, this is about VALUES.

Today, the greedy grabbing of tickets highlights key issues and concerns people have in America and not just about ticket prices. For instance:

  • What happens when capitalism – for all its benefits – is used simply for greed at the expense of others? Isn’t there a difference between productive capitalism and gouging people?
  • What happens when there are different sets of rules for different people – and there’s no sense of protection or recourse? We can do better, no?
  • What does it mean when someone – like a Springsteen – values trust, relationships, transparency and honor amid society’s noise and acrimony? How do they stand firm? And how do we help them?

Perhaps our task has at least two parts. First, when we find people like Springsteen act in honorable ways – whether or not we like their music or support some individual policy – we must stand by them. We must speak out about their efforts via Internet discussions, word of mouth, news media programs, at religious events, and elsewhere. That’s one way we’ll reclaim the values we care so much about; otherwise, a narrative of negativity can rule our future.

Second, as each of us live out our own lives, and work for the common good, we ourselves will be challenged to make good on values important to us. Real change will come, in part, from each of us doing our part.

Oh, and before I forget, one last critical point, lest I get in trouble at home: It is my wife who, like Springsteen, is a proud native of Jersey, and who has been a long-term, dedicated, vocal fan. I’m just a relative newbie who is loving the ride.