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I’m an unabashed megafan ofBruce Springsteen, so this is written with a somewhat heavy heart. But it comes from the mind of a public relations professional.

For decades, perhaps no artist has better understood the power of personal narrative than The Boss. He has crafted and fiercely protected his image — a dirt poor kid who made it rich on talent and guts, becoming an icon for millions without ever losing his blue-collar roots. This is an artist who has always sung to and about “his people” — hard workers looking for a break — through three-hour-plus concerts and limitless energy. That has been his story, and he stuck to it. And it worked, in large part, because it has the benefit of being 100% true.

At its core, public relations is actually quite elementary: It is telling your story on your terms. Because honestly, who can tell your story better than you?

In good times and bad, solid public relations practices revolve around building a narrative that tells a story, addresses the right audiences and shows that you care. It’s how reputations are protected and enhanced.

So how, in just one week’s time, could Springsteen and his team create such a public relations nightmare?

It began with the announcement of next year’s world tour — his first in seven years — and the initial sale of tickets last week. When excited fans, a fanbase unsurpassed in loyalty, logged on to purchase tickets, they were met with what can only be described as astronomical ticket prices. In some cases, it was thousands of dollars per ticket. Fans were at first shocked and disappointed, but that turned to outrage when prices kept going up, and they sprinted to social media to voice that outrage.

It all had to do with something known in the industry as “dynamic pricing,” which basically removes ticket “face value” from the equation and establishes a ceiling for the highest possible ticket price, based on what people are willing to pay.

But this is not an indictment of the primary or secondary ticket markets. This is about Springsteen’s team failing to see a looming public relations fiasco developing in real time, and then failing to respond.

On social media, in fanzines and other online forums devoted to all things Bruce Springsteen, hardcore fans used terms like disgust, heartbreak and betrayal. Many said they will walk away from him — when you lose your most loyal supporters, you have a crisis on your hands. Especially when global media outlets pick up on it, which they did.

And when Springsteen’s team finally responded, it didn’t exactly make things better. In an empathy-free statement, his manager dismissed the high prices as seemingly being insignificant, saying, “I believe that in today’s environment, that is a fair price to see someone universally regarded as among the very greatest artists of his generation.”

Really? Tone deaf.

What could they have done instead? Plenty. They could have expressed understanding at the frustration of longtime fans not being able to afford these prices, particularly at a time when budgets are tightening. They could have vowed to look into it or do better next time, or even could have done what New Zealand band Crowded House did two years ago — when met with a similar situation involving “dynamic pricing,” the band demanded fans be refunded their money. Any of these actions would have shown compassion for the fans and shown the public that they take this matter seriously. That’s good public relations in the face of a difficult issue.

They did none of that. They doubled down and made fans feel insignificant and powerless. And if the fans were angry before, evidence shows they are positively livid now.

Talent and perseverance built his legacy, and his uncanny sense of how to reach out to engage the public and keep them on his side — of good public relations, really — has extended his staying power. Bruce Springsteen always had the fans on his side, from the early days on the Jersey Shore to long after he became a multimillionaire.

To be sure, this episode likely will not shred Springsteen’s reputation, but it will leave a lasting mark. Especially with long-term fans and those who yearn to learn about the legend.

Perhaps he can recover. But to do so he has to go back to the basics and remember how to tell the story right — with understanding and empathy for his audience. Someone who has built his legacy on telling great stories should be able to understand that

If my spelling bothers you don't read my posts

Last edited by Oats
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But don't forget that "The E Street Band Loves You" :-).

Here are my ramblings on a Sunday afternoon:

I was able to grab two behind the stage for MSG (where I sat for several of the 2000 Reunion tours) at "real face" price of ~$195 with fees.  From what I could see from the first 15 minutes or so of the sale, it looked like most of the arena had been sold out (maybe 70%) or were in other folks shopping cart before I got in (around 10 minutes) being considered for purchase - OR were being held back by TM to be released with dynamic pricing -- no way to know.  After another 5 minutes or so it was mostly "dynamically priced" seats that immediately soared into the thousands - - with an occasional good single sprinkled in that somebody always beat me to.  So I think perhaps 70% or even more tickets were sold at the new Elevated ($200 - $500) "Real Base Price".

One unintended (or maybe just accepted) consequences of the Platinum pricing is that the scalpers now are emboldened to grab up as many "original price" tickets as possible, and to then offer them on TM itself for many times what they would have normally had the testicular fortitude to do to the zone of Platinum.  In the past, $500 for a guaranteed PIT ticket would have been considered a lot to scalp for -- now it is almost best BASE price for that ticket and nosebleeds are $500 in the TM aftermarket.  The regular fans who got stuck in the moment and payed way to much may find it hard to find a buyer -- especially when TM adds on another fee for you to sell them and then keeps all the $$ until the day of the event to be sure nothing untoward happened.  This has created a very bizarre dynamic.

As others have noted, the folks in the pit on this tour and most of the good seats probably won't know the words to Thunder Road any better than Joe Grushecky (LOD reference to amuse myself), and Bruce will have to turn around to the rear to see us singing the correct ones.  He has to hope the teleprompter doesn't go out!!

Some of what we see with TM is a side effect of too much information available to businesses through technology.  If I buy airline tickets now, the same sort of thing goes on as flights fill up and prices rise, there are extra charges for seats with more legroom (that almost makes sense) -- but now also extra fees for aisle seats, seats in the first 10 rows where you have a hope of making a connecting flight when yours is inevitably delayed, and so on.  Once you look for a flight, if you don't delete cookies or do it from an anonymous browser the next time you go back to buy the price is often higher.  Welcome to the future -- and now it applies to Bruce too.

I never fully bought into the "everyman" persona (a life of leisure, and a pirate treasure don't make much of a tragedy" you know) so I am not too shocked by this -- just a bit disappointed.  Landau may have decided the clock is running down, and best to make as much $$ as possible and the hell with the persona thing on the way out the door.

Yesterday I decided to try to see Jackson Browne in his last of 4 shows he was playing at the Beacon Theater.  I went to TM at 2 PM and was able to buy an Orchestra seat in the 6th row just off center for $190 with all TM charges.  Jackson played for 3 hours continuously with a great band and a fabulous mix of songs.  He seemed genuinely happy to be there and to see his fans =-=- he even asked me to "stay just a little bit longer" at the very end :-).  Maybe it is time to spend money seeing others, and ease up a bit on my addiction.


In Full Disclosure -- I still hope to see more US shows, and have tickets for several in the EU because I am indeed just a prisoner of Rock and Roll.  And of course, I know that while they may not love you -- The E Street Band Loves Me

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