Backstreets, a periodic Bruce Springsteen magazine that has been covering the singer and his E Street Band since 1980, is shutting down due to disillusionment over Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing model and management response to what an earlier editorial described as a fan “freeze-out.”
The fanzine made the announcement on social media Friday, quoting a lyric from the Springsteen song “Nebraska”: “For a little while, sir, we had us some fun.”
“After 43 years of publishing in one form or another, by fans for fans of Bruce Springsteen, it’s with mixed emotions that we announce Backstreets has reached the end of the road,” publisher and editor-in-chief Christopher Phillips wrote in an editorial.
Last summer, the magazine responded to the chaos surrounding escalating ticket prices for the forthcoming E Street Band tour expressing that “too many Springsteen fans got thrown to the wolves, pushed aside in a way that seems as unfathomable as it was avoidable.”
“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,” Phillips continued in his final op-ed. “That determination came with a quickening sense that we’d reached the end of an era.”
To recap: Springsteen fans were shellshocked by Ticketmaster’s “dynamic pricing” program, in which “platinum tickets” — which may be placed anywhere in the arena, from the front section to the back rows — fluctuate in price, in what is said to be ongoing reaction to demand. The system lets ticket prices quickly rise to a level it’s believed resellers would get for them, keeping that extra money in-house for the artist and promoter.
When Springsteen tickets first went on sale under the dynamic pricing model, Backstreets voiced initial dismay online with a tweet of a screenshot for one seat writing, “Tampa mid-floor for $4,400, anyone?”
Pressed on the issue, Springsteen told Rolling Stone in November, “You don’t like to be criticized. You don’t like to be the poster boy for high ticket prices. It’s the last thing you prefer to be.”
He further clarified his remarks to The Asbury Park Press, saying, “So this tour, we said ‘Hey, the guys are in their 70s. I’m 73. Do what everybody else is doing who are my peers. They basically went out and there were a variety of things being done and that’s what they did. Most of my tickets are totally affordable. There is a very high range.”
“Let’s say this: I can set the price of my tickets,” he continued. “I can’t set their value — and so there are tickets that get valued at that amount of money and go for that amount of money all of the time and that money gets sucked up by the ticket brokers. I said, ‘Hey, let’s have the money go to the guys who are sweating up on stage for three hours.’ If that’s controversial for you, I don’t know what to say.”
Philips still asserts the magazine stands by its original editorial.
“We’re not alone in struggling with the sea change. Judging by the letters we’ve received over recent months, the friends and longtimers we’ve been checking in with, and the response to our editorial, disappointment is a common feeling among hardcore fans in the Backstreets community,” he wrote. “When I revisit that writing now, it reads like a cry for help; most discouraging was that six months went by with no lifeline thrown. What we have been grappling with is not strictly the cost of admission (“It’s not just about the money!” is a refrain we’ve heard from Backstreets readers) but its various implications.”
He continued “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.”
That said, tickets for the band’s first show in Tampa on Feb. 1 became available at face value prior to the show, selling for as low as $199 per ticket, with side stage tickets selling for $299 a seat. Fans in attendance were treated to a two-hour-and-45-minute set that included 28 songs, including six from the recent album “Letter to You” and two from the 2022 soul album, “Only the Strong Survive.” Future ticket sales for upcoming stadium shows looks brighter as well, Phillips concedes.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
Despite all that, the staff is not “burning our fan cards,” he wrote.
A final “blow out” issue of the magazine is in the works, and the website will continue taking orders for its “Backstreets Records” shop store with pre-orders to fulfill for Nicki Germaine’s new “Springsteen: Liberty Hall” book, as well as other items on the shelves — CDs, records, books, T-shirts, and more. The Backstreets Ticket Exchange (BTX) message boards will remain open for a short time, so fans can continue trading or selling tickets in an ongoing mission to keep tickets between fans, at their original prices, and out of the hands of scalpers. The social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will also remain open.
“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,” Phillips concluded.
Backstreets is the largest online Springsteen fan community with 167,646 subscribers and over 91 celluloid issues published. The website is a hub for all Springsteen-related news with message boards, show schedules, reviews, ticket sales information, an online store and news about individual E Street Band members and related Jersey Shore artists. It dates back to Oct. 24, 1980, when founder Charles Cross handed out copies to fans at the Seattle Coliseum attending “The River” tour in Seattle. It went on to grow into a slicker magazine with photos and articles. Philips took over as publisher in 1993, launching the website in 1995 and moving operations from Seattle to Chapel Hill, N.C. in 2000.