Bruce Springsteen Fanzine Backstreets Closes After 43 Years In Response To Soaring Ticket Prices
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Christopher Phillips detailed the decision to shutter the long-running publication founded in 1980.
By Andy Kahn Feb 7, 2023 • 1:47 pm PST
A Bruce Springsteen fanzine that was founded in 1980 by Charles R. Cross announced it will cease publication. A statement announcing the decision to shutter Backstreets was detailed in a statement posted by its current publisher/editor-in-chief Christopher Phillips.
Philips explained the reasoning behind ending Backstreets, where he first began contributing in 1993 and became EiC five years later, basing the decision in part because of the unprecedentedly high cost of tickets to attend Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s current North American Tour. When tickets for the group’s first tour in six years went on sale last summer, prices for some of the allotted tickets were multiple thousands of dollars, with others going for multiple hundreds of dollars.
Philips wrote about how the high cost of Springsteen tickets factored into the decision to close Backstreets, stating:
“[T]here’s no denying that the new ticket price range has in and of itself been a determining factor in our outlook as the 2023 tour approached — certainly in terms of the experience that hardcore fans have been accustomed to for, as Springsteen noted, 49 years. Six months after the onsales, we still faced this three-part predicament: These are concerts that we can hardly afford; that many of our readers cannot afford; and that a good portion of our readership has lost interest in as a result.
“We hear and have every reason to believe that there will be changes to the pricing and ticket-buying experience when the next round of shows go on sale. We also know that enterprising fans may be able to take advantage of price drops when production holds are released in advance of a concert. Whatever the eventual asking price at showtime and whether an individual buyer finds it fair, we simply realized that we would not be able to cover this tour with the drive and sense of purpose with which we’ve operated continuously since 1980. That determination came with a quickening sense that we’d reached the end of an era.
“Know that we’re not burning our fan cards, nor encouraging anyone else to do so. In fact, as diehard music fans, we have every hope of rekindling enthusiasm for what we’ve always believed to be a peerless body of work. If any of this is to reflect on Bruce Springsteen here at the end of our run, we’d like it to be that his extraordinary artistry inspired an extraordinary fan response that lasted for 43 years. That’s extraordinary.”
Springsteen discussed the controversy surrounding the ticket prices for his tour in a November 2022 interview with Rolling Stone. Part of the questioning included citing an article Backstreets published shortly after tickets for the tour went on sale in which the outlet heavily criticized the practice of dynamic pricing that in part led to the exorbitant priced tickets. Here’s the exchange:
RS: [The tour’s ticket on sale] caused a bit of an uproar in the fan community because some of the tickets used dynamic prices, and some tickets hit $5,000. Did you know in advance about those price points and dynamic pricing, and do you have any regrets about that?
Bruce Springsteen: What I do is a very simple thing. I tell my guys, “Go out and see what everybody else is doing. Let’s charge a little less.” That’s generally the directions. They go out and set it up. For the past 49 years or however long we’ve been playing, we’ve pretty much been out there under market value. I’ve enjoyed that. It’s been great for the fans.
This time I told them, “Hey, we’re 73 years old. The guys are there. I want to do what everybody else is doing, my peers.” So that’s what happened. That’s what they did [laughs].
But ticket buying has gotten very confusing, not just for the fans, but for the artists also. And the bottom line is that most of our tickets are totally affordable. They’re in that affordable range. We have those tickets that are going to go for that [higher] price somewhere anyway. The ticket broker or someone is going to be taking that money. I’m going, “Hey, why shouldn’t that money go to the guys that are going to be up there sweating three hours a night for it?”
It created an opportunity for that to occur. And so at that point, we went for it. I know it was unpopular with some fans. But if there’s any complaints on the way out, you can have your money back.
RS: As you said, the fans were pretty upset. Backstreets said it caused them to suffer a “crisis of faith.” They wrote an op-ed where they said that dynamic pricing “violates an implicit contract between Bruce Springsteen and his fans.” How did you feel about all that blowback against you?
Bruce Springsteen:Well, I’m old. I take a lot of things in stride [laughs]. You don’t like to be criticized. You certainly don’t like to be the poster boy for high ticket prices. It’s the last thing you prefer to be. But that’s how it went. You have to own the decisions you have made and go out and just continue to do your best. And that was my take on it. I think if folks come to the show, they’re going to have a good time.
While Backstreets will no longer be continuing, Philips revealed plans for a final print issue of Backstreets as well as the digitization of the previous 91 print issues. Additionally, the Backstreet Records shop remains in operation, while the Backstreets Ticket Exchange (BTX) message boards will remain open for a short period. The Backstreets social media accounts will remain active.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s tour continues tonight at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Flordia. Read Christopher Phillips’ full statement on the future Backstreets.
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