Bruce Springsteen joins Phish fans' feud with Ticketmaster

Annoyed Phish heads are one thing, but it's apparently a different ballgame when you anger The Boss. Earlier this month, Bruce Springsteen said he was furious over Ticketmaster's practice of pointing customers toward its own reselling site TicketsNow.

Within days, the nation's biggest ticket merchant coughed up an apology.

"We sincerely apologize to Bruce, his organization and, above all, his fans," wrote Ticketmaster chief Irving Azoff. "While we were genuinely trying to do the right thing for fans in providing more choices when the tickets they requested from the primary on-sale were not available, we clearly missed the mark ... Fans are confused and angry, which is the opposite of what we hoped to accomplish."

Curiously, the complaints Springsteen expressed in a message on his Web site were parallel to those voiced by Phish fans after tickets to the band's Hampton Coliseum reunion shows sold out quickly last fall. At that time, fans complained that tickets seemed to vanish instantaneously while popping up on TicketsNow, a service owned by Ticketmaster.

Springsteen's statement pulled no punches. "We were informed that Ticketmaster was redirecting your log-in requests for tickets at face value to their secondary site TicketsNow, which specializes in up-selling tickets at above face value. They did this even when other seats remained available at face value. We perceive this as a pure conflict of interest. Ticketmaster is there to ensure that we have a good, fair sale of our tickets at their face value plus normal ticketing charges ... the abuse of our fans and our trust by Ticketmaster has made us as furious as it has made many of you."

Consumer complaints led U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell to call on the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department to investigate possible conflicts of interest involving Ticketmaster and TicketsNow. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said fans were victims of a "classic bait and switch" scam and also called for a federal investigation.

"At 10 a.m. on Ticketmaster they were all sold out, then at 10:01 a.m. the same tickets are on TicketsNow for double the price," Schumer said. "We want to find out how did they become available at TicketsNow so fast?" The attorneys general in New Jersey and Connecticut have opened their own Ticketmaster investigations. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is investigating Ticketmaster's proposed $2.5 billion merger with concert-promotion giant Live Nation.

Not surprisingly, Springsteen has come out against the merger, too. "The one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near-monopoly situation in music ticketing," a statement on his Web site read.