When Bruce Springsteen stepped on the stage during John Kerry’s Presidential run in 2004, millions of Springsteen fans began turning their backs on the rock star that they had listened to for years. Were they all true blue Bruce Springsteen fans? Probably not. Nonetheless, the legions of music fans that were outraged as Springsteen began to campaign for John Kerry was the start of a twenty year period of social media rage against the boss that seems to be getting worse with each passing year. What so many music fans failed to recognize during the John Kerry campaign was that Springsteen was a product of the 1960s. He was raised and rooted in the protest era of the 1960s that saw artists like Neil Young, Bob Dylan the Jefferson Airplane and so many more write and perform protest songs that engaged an audience with the same values. This was a man who was following his heart in backing a man who he believed shared the same values as he did. It was incredibly brave and of course, career-damaging because of the many members of his audience he lost because of it.
Throughout the 21st century, Springsteen has never backed down from his beliefs. He has written songs that have stirred controversy like “American Skin (41 Shots)” while also continuing to campaign for politicians he believed in. This of course has continued to outrage music fans with opposite political beliefs. While we can see both sides of the arguments that are made by the different American Political Parties and really wish that we could all work together, of course, we are living in a reality that makes it quite clear that is a rather tall order. Whenever we publish an article on Bruce Springsteen’s music, we are swamped with hate letters directed toward the man. It’s sad that music fans cannot separate the music from the politics, but that is just the way it is. Of course, there are the millions who love both his politics and his music and will follow Bruce forever.
One of those groups of fans that we always thought would follow Bruce forever were the writers and editors behind Backstreets magazine and website. We were shocked when we heard the news that the site was shutting down in protest against Bruce Springsteen’s ticket policy for his 2023 tour. I purchased my first Backstreets magazine in the early 1980s. I was shocked that there were other Bruce Springsteen fans that felt the same way as I did about his music. I loved the writing of Charles Cross. This was a passionate and articulate music fan who discovered that same feeling we all got as teenagers when we first heard Springsteen’s music in the 1970s. I purchased many more issues over the years and was often a subscriber to the mailed issue. I followed their website and enjoyed reading about each show. They were the ultimate Bruce Springsteen fan page. I have written many articles about Bruce on ClassicRockHistory.com, but Backstreets.com has us easily beat in the sheer volume of articles on the Boss.
The recent announcement that they were shutting down was a shock. I also feel a little skeptical about it. The shocking part was that Backstreets.com was really failing to realize the reality of the music business. Musical artists no longer make money from album sales, because fans no longer buy music. Of course, there are some that will still buy the actual CD or vinyl albums, but that is a very small percentage. On top of the decline of album sales was a pandemic that put musicians out of work for the past three years. Yes, I know that it put millions of other working Americans out of work too, but it was particularly hard on musicians of all levels who were completely denied making a living. Musicians and artists who no longer sold music were also denied making a living performing.
Bruce Springsteen’s decision to charge the highest ticket prices he has ever charged is a decision based on multiple factors. The first is that he is stepping in line with other musical legends like The Rolling Stones in looking at touring as a business to make real money when they can, as time is no longer on their side. The second factor which is significant is they realize that scalpers make a fortune from ticket prices when the initial prices are so low. Instead of letting the scalpers make the money, the artists are looking to cut them off. Sports teams recognized this ten years ago when scalping became legal. A New York Giants season ticket that cost $95 per seat per game on the fifty-yard line would sell on StubHub for $700 and 1000 easily. So the NY Giants decided to change the $95 season ticket price to a $700 ticket price per game. Was that right? Of course not, but the team’s management and owners saw the fans making all the money and decided that it was the team that should be making it instead. Do I believe this is fair, do I think it’s right to be charged such high prices? Absolutely not. I hate it as much as the next person who can’t afford a concert or sporting event ticket. Yet, legalized scalping has brought us to this point.
The most significant reason behind Sprinsteen’s change in ticket prices is the most significant one. The man is looking to take care of all the people who have worked for him during the years, especially his musicians. We don’t know Bruce’s finances and so its not our place to say if Bruce needs the money or not but the sale of his catalog for over 500 million probably has him pretty set up. Yet, we believe it’s fair to state that with the exception of maybe Steve “Silvio” Van Zandt and possibly Nils, most of the members of his band need a pretty good payday.
It’s been six years since the E Street Band hit the road. Bruce is looking to take care of his family. How could you fault a man for looking to take care of his family? In the end, it’s a real drag that most of us won’t be able to attend these 2023 shows because they are unaffordable. Is it the end of the world? Of course not. All, you have to do is go Nugs.net and buy the complete show for 15 bucks in perfect sound. Remember when many of us would spend a lot of money on an Italian three cd bootleg of a Bruce show? Can anyone say Pièce de résistance or Live In The Promised Land.
Backstreets.com claimed that they’re closing down in protest of these Springsteen ticket prices. I am a little skeptical about that. The site has received tremendous press because of this announcement. (like they’re getting from us right now) I am not saying that their intent is not based on emotion which it clearly is, but these are also pretty smart people who run this site. They did make sure to say that their store was still open for business. I would make a pretty sizable bet with Pauli Walnuts (the late great Tony Sirico) that they really are not closing down.
That site has great writers and it’s been a joy to read their articles. They have always claimed to be a fan site written by professionals. They clearly are, but once a site begins to make money, it’s the professionalism that trumps the fandom It’s in that professionalism that a news website organization has a responsibility to their readers to continue to report the news without threatening to close down because they don’t like the news. Imagine if The New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal threatened to shut down when they felt insulted by political events, movements or Presidential decisions.
I could not help but hear the voice of Artie Lang screaming Wah! when I read that Backstreets.com was shutting down. The voice of one editor should never have the power to shut down a site that is loved by millions because his feelings are hurt that his hero is not the man he thought he had to be. After all this time, just like all the rest of us in journalism, stop your crying and do your job, or pass it on to someone else who is willing to carry the news that the fans want to read. It’s not yours to shut down anymore, it belongs to the people who have supported you and your site for so many years.
Stop Crying About Springsteen For (Outlaw) Pete’s Sake article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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