ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
It has been quite a week for The Boss. Bruce Springsteen played the Super Bowl, and he has a number one album, and now he's gotten into a brouhaha with Ticketmaster, the world's biggest ticket agent.
NPR's Neda Ulaby reports.
NEDA ULABY: Wendy Kelly(ph) was really looking forward to seeing Bruce Springsteen when she heard about an upcoming concert in New Jersey.
Ms. WENDY KELLY: I knew the tickets were going on sale. 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.
ULABY: So Kelly cleared her entire morning, fired up two browsers and went to Ticketmaster 15 minutes before seats went on sale, but the Web site behaved mysteriously. Ticketmaster 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 much more money, $300, $400, $500. Kelly said no way.
Ms. KELLY: I thought I was going to get tickets. I was going to get decent tickets for a change. I didn't think I wasn't going to get any tickets.
ULABY: Over 850 Springsteen fans have filed complaints with the New Jersey attorney general. Springsteen himself is furious, or so he said on a Web site posting that excoriates Ticketmaster for what he calls a conflict of interest. So what exactly happened?
Mr. BILL WERDE (Editorial Director, Billboard): This is one of those rare windows into the very murky world of secondary ticketing.
ULABY: Bill Werde is the editorial director of Billboard, the magazine and Web site that cover the music industry. Secondary ticketing is the practice of reselling tickets that have already been scooped up at face value. Once the domain of scalpers, secondary ticketing is now a big business for legitimate Web sites. Werde says the vast majority of fans would probably be really surprised to find out how ticketing works.
Mr. WERDE: They assume that the artist puts on 10,000-seat shows and just sells 10,000 tickets, first come, first served. There's tickets that are held out to sell as special VIP packages. There's tickets that are held out by the promoter. The question that kind of came up around this TicketsNow situation is, are there tickets being held out from general sale specifically to be put towards the secondary market?
ULABY: Bill Werde says he believes Bruce Springsteen's claim that he and his manager had no idea this was going on. The practice is not illegal. Nonetheless, the New Jersey attorney general has launched an investigation. There may not be a smarter political move for a New Jersey politician than defending Bruce Springsteen, and Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell has asked the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. attorney general to investigate. Pascrell says that because it's The Boss, this cut close to home.
Representative BILL PASCRELL (Democrat, New Jersey): He's been singing since the '70s about working men and working families. The song that came to mind was, "Promised Land."
(Soundbite of song, "Promised Land")
Mr. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (Singer): (Singing) Working all day in my daddy's garage. Driving all night, chasing some mirage...
Rep. PASCRELL: 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.
ULABY: Pascrell is referring to a possible merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation, the country's largest concert promoter. Billboard's Bill Werde says that would be a boon for them both in an otherwise dismal music industry.
Mr. WERDE: The places where music is still making money, it's touring. These two companies, if they merged, they would basically own that. They would own that space.
ULABY: In the meantime, Ticketmaster has apologized about the Springsteen kerfuffle and has offered refunds to some fans. The company did not respond to requests for an interview, but it's promised this won't happen again. Fan Wendy Kelly says an apology is a good start.
Ms. KELLY: I mean it would be nice, if Springsteen's such a man of the people, if he just gave a show for the people who couldn't get in. That's my dream.
ULABY: Neda Ulaby, NPR News.