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The Boss Versus the Laws of Economics


The sappy headline said it all: “Ticket scalpers jam computers, spoiling hopes and dreams of Springsteen fans.” The Boss is just Born to Lose in his neverending campaign against the inviolable law of supply and demand.

For decades Springsteen has created shortages of tickets to his shows by grossly under pricing his tickets in order to live up to his reputation as folk hero of the working class. The inevitable result is that secondary sellers of tickets have profited handsomely at his expense, while his fans, shrewdly egged on by their hero, have continually misdirected their outrage at the high prices against unscrupulous “ticket scalpers.” For the New Jersey leg of his upcoming tour, tickets that were listed on Ticketmaster for a face value of $98.00 ($114.00 including shipping and handling) wound up within minutes listed on secondary seller websites for prices ranging up to $6,600.00. It appears that ingenious secondary sellers using sophisticated computer programs called “bots” inundated Ticketmaster computers with orders. Ticketmaster alleges that it was “attacked by ticket scalpers” and blamed “highly suspicious sources” for much of the additional traffic, estimated to be two-and-a-half times greater than the traffic of any major act last year. Worse still, this unanticipated traffic caused computers of some individual fans to malfunction and freeze up.

Predictably, New Jersey pols, ever eager to profit from a perceived crisis, immediately began weighing in with legal solutions. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8th Dist.) pledged to reintroduce federal legislation to intensify oversight of the ticket industry. And conservative columnist Paul Mulshine reported that Governor Chris Christie warned that the state Attorney General might investigate. However not everyone was blaming the ticklet scalpers. Some were placing blame where it belonged–on the Boss himself. Mulshine interviewed economist Steve Happel of Arizona State University who put it bluntly:

If I ever got to meet Bruce, I’d like to say to him, ‘I know you’re a nice guy, but you’ve got your head up your (expletive that rhymes with “bass” — the fish not the guitar) when it comes to economics,’

Even music insiders are beginning to recognize Springsteen’s posturing as the reason for the debacle. Bob Lefsetz, a music industry observer and former entertainment attorney wrote:

Ultimately, this is Springsteen’s fault. Bruce should take a stand. Bruce should be an agent for change. But he’s afraid of looking greedy. But the end result is all that money goes to scalpers and fans have to buy tickets on the ‘black market.’ All that money should go to Bruce, he deserves it.

Joseph Salerno is academic vice president of the Mises Institute, professor of economics at Pace University, and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

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