Springsteen Fans Angered By Ticketmaster Flap

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Preview the entirety of Bruce Springsteen's new album Working On A Dream at NPR Music's Exclusive First Listen series:

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen performs at the halftime show of Super Bowl XLIII. Jamie Squire/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Wendy Kelly was looking forward to hearing Bruce Springsteen's new album when she heard he would be performing live in New Jersey.

"I knew the tickets were going on sale," Kelly says. "My best friend, who has a child with autism and spina bifida, told me that she'd come up to the concert if I could get tickets. She was down in Florida. It would be like a respite weekend for her."

So Kelly cleared her entire morning, fired up two browsers and went to Ticketmaster's Web site 15 minutes before seats went on sale.

The Web site behaved mysteriously. Ticketmaster, the world's largest ticket agent, kept moving her around in the online queue, telling her she had 10 minutes to wait, then 15 minutes.

Then it sent her to another site, one also owned by Ticketmaster. There, at TicketsNow, she was offered resale tickets for $300, $400 and $500. Dejected, Kelly closed her browser, ticketless.

"I thought I was going to get tickets," she says. "I was going to get decent tickets for a change. I didn't think I wasn't going to get any tickets."

It hasn't been the best week for Bruce Springsteen. Sure, he played the Super Bowl, and he just released a new album, Working on a Dream. But more than 850 Springsteen fans have filed complaints with the New Jersey attorney general over the ticketing situation.

Springsteen himself is furious, or so he says in an online posting that lambastes Ticketmaster for what he calls a conflict of interest. So what happened?

"This is one of those rare windows into the murky world of secondary ticketing," says Bill Werde, the editorial director of Billboard, a magazine and Web site that covers the music industry.

Secondary ticketing is the practice of reselling tickets that have already been bought at face value. Once the domain of scalpers, secondary ticketing is now big business for legitimate Web sites. Werde says that the vast majority of fans would probably be surprised to find out how ticketing works.

A lot of money could be made by managers and promoters selling their tickets through secondary sites. Springsteen says that he and his manager had no idea this was going on.

This practice is not illegal. Nevertheless, the New Jersey attorney general has launched an investigation. Even Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell has joined in, bringing in the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.

Pascrell says that because it's Springsteen — famously a New Jersey native — the issue cut close to home.

"He's been singing since the '70s about workingmen and working families," Pascrell says. "Times are bad enough, but then, when you want a little entertainment in your life, you're at the beckon of these companies. And they're getting more and more of a monopoly, these ticket companies."

Pascrell is referring to a possible merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation, the country's largest concert promoter. Werde says that would be a boon for them both in an otherwise dismal music industry.

"The places where music is still making money, it's touring — these two companies, if they merged, they would basically own that," Werde says. "They would own that space."

In the meantime, Ticketmaster has apologized for the Springsteen kerfuffle and has offered refunds to some fans. The company did not respond to requests for an interview, though it has promised it won't happen again.

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