When Bruce Springsteen played the Baltimore Civic Center nearly 50 years ago, a loaf of bread was 35 cents, a gallon of gas was about 40 cents and a ticket to his concert was just $2.
Those were glory days. And they have passed us by.
When tickets go on sale Tuesday for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s April 7 show that will mark the grand reopening of the Baltimore Arena, fans will have to contend with what’s known as “dynamic pricing” as they jockey to attend what’s certain to be a sold-out performance. Springsteen ticket prices have been spurring controversy since last week when the first shows for the tour, which starts in Tampa, Florida, went on sale with some seats going for over $4,000.
Before you reach deep into your pockets — or your 401(k) — here are five things to know ahead of tickets for the Baltimore show going on sale Tuesday at 10 a.m.
There are two shows in the Baltimore-D.C. area
Tickets for both the Baltimore Arena and Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., shows go on sale at the same time Tuesday. So if you don’t get the seats you want in Baltimore, you can always try D.C., where the concert is set for March 27. Although it’s possible those seats will be more costly, Capital One Arena has a larger capacity with some 20,000 seats whereas the renovated Baltimore venue is expected to accommodate 14,000.
Tickets will be sold in two offerings
The Springsteen tour is using Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan platform. To use this service, you have to sign up in advance to purchase a ticket and then you receive an access code that will allow you to be among the first buyers for the show. (There’s a limit of four tickets per code.) These tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Not everyone who signs up will receive a code. And if you have not signed up by this point, you have missed your window of opportunity because registration is closed. If tickets remain, sales to the general public will begin at 3 p.m. Tuesday, again with a limit of four tickets per buyer. No code will be necessary.
Beware of Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing
Pay attention to the tickets listed as “Official Platinum” seats on the Ticketmaster website — these can be among the priciest seats especially when an event is in high demand. The face value of these tickets is based on dynamic pricing, which isn’t a new concept — it’s used by hotels, airlines, Uber and a host of industries in which demand drives pricing. So it’s no surprise that Ticketmaster rolled out its own version in 2011, charging a higher or lower price depending on how well a show was selling. Part of the reasoning had to do with the ticket reseller’s market, which is able to make a hefty profit off events where the demand exceeds the supply. At the time, Ticketmaster said: “By utilizing MarketShare and TicketMaster’s technology, our clients will be able to retain economic value that is normally siphoned off by the secondary market, and to sell more of their tickets that go unsold today.”
That’s great for the company and the performers it represents — like Springsteen. But for ticket buyers, it comes with a hefty dose of uncertainty, especially for a highly anticipated act — like Springsteen. Last week, fans of the legendary rock star were upset about seat prices that soared into the thousands of dollars, taking to social media to air their complaints so vociferously that Stevie Van Zandt, E Street Band guitarist and “Sopranos” favorite, took to Twitter to let folks know he has nothing to do with setting ticket prices.
Ticketmaster also pushed back. In a statement released Sunday, a spokesperson said 88% of Springsteen tickets for the current tour were sold at set prices, ranging from $59.50 to $399, not including service fees. The average set ticket price was $202, according to Ticketmaster data.
The ticket seller also said only 11% of tickets were sold using market-based dynamic pricing, adding that just 1% sold for more than $1,000. Still, over the weekend, some platinum tickets were selling for upwards of $1200 for standing-room only general admission for the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., where Springsteen will perform March 25. That’s still a bargain compared with a verified reseller who is offering two front-row tickets to the Feb. 1 Tampa show for $11,290 each, plus fees.
Performers can opt out of market pricing
Ticketmaster refers to performers as its clients and contends that the clients can decide how to price their shows. So if Springsteen wanted to charge $25 admission for everyone who wanted to dance in the dark, presumably he could do so. (Don’t hold your breath.) This would not be without precedent. When the rocker rolled into RFK Stadium back in 1985, every ticket was $18.50 — from the field seats to the nosebleeds — all 53,306 of them.
It’s not just Springsteen tickets
The sticker shock for concert tickets is being felt by fans of Taylor Swift to Billie Eilish to Harry Styles. The common denominator is, of course, Ticketmaster, which merged with concert promoter Live Nation in 2010 to create a one-stop live entertainment juggernaut. Back in 2021, several senators urged President Joe Biden to investigate the merger, saying the conglomerate controls 80% of the ticket sales market. So when it comes to concert seats, they’re the real boss.