A Note From Christopher Phillips, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
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.
We are immensely proud of the work Backstreets has done, and we are forever grateful to the worldwide community of fellow fans who have contributed to and supported our efforts all these years, but we know our time has come.
It starts with the personal, having as much to do with where I find myself in life. I was 22 when I started at Backstreets in 1993; I'm 52 now. For all of those 30 years, there's never been a time when my heart wasn't fully in it. That's the case, too, for the editors who preceded and inspired me in the magazine's first 13 years.
A key reason something as gonzo as Backstreets has been able to exist, and for so long — since 1980 — is that it has consistently sprung from a place of genuine passion, rooted in a heartfelt belief in the man and his music. As difficult as it is to call this the end, it's even harder to imagine continuing without my whole heart in it.
If you read the editorial Backstreets published last summer in the aftermath of the U.S. ticket sales, you have a sense of where our heads and hearts have been: dispirited, downhearted, and, yes, disillusioned. It's not a feeling we're at all accustomed to while anticipating a new Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band tour. If you haven't yet read that editorial ("Freeze-out," July 24, 2022), or the crux of Springsteen's response to Rolling Stone in November, we encourage you to do so; we don't want to rehash those issues, but we stand behind our positions and points.
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.
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.
Regardless, there's no denying that the new ticket price range has in and of itself been a determining factor in our outlook as the 2023 tour approached — certainly in terms of the experience that hardcore fans have been accustomed to for, as Springsteen noted, 49 years. 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.
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. 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. 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. That determination came with a quickening sense that we'd reached the end of an era.
Know that we're not burning our fan cards, nor encouraging anyone else to do so. 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.
I know how incredibly fortunate and privileged I've been to be able to do this work for so long, to have had an enviable job in which I've found tremendous meaning and satisfaction, alongside so many like-minded people. It's a strange thing to put oneself out of work, let alone this work. Speaking about work as he often has, in 2012 Springsteen called it "the single thing that brings a sense of self and self-esteem, and a sense of place, a sense of belonging." The sense of belonging, among an incredible community of devoted fans, has brought enormous joy to my life these past 30 years.
I won't be able to say everything that's in my heart here, or thank everyone who needs thanking — if you're reading these words, you're on the list. For now, suffice it to say we have eternal gratitude for Bruce Springsteen and his work, for the E Street Band and the other musicians who have helped him make it, and so many of those whose work involved bringing that music to the world.
While Backstreets always published freely, independent of Springsteen's official operations — in fact, not once did they attempt to interfere — I'm grateful to those who helped us narrow the divide for the benefit of the Springsteen fan community: those who work for Bruce and all the good people at Sony Music, Shore Fire Media, and Jon Landau Management, with a special thank you to Barbara Carr.
On this side, I'm forever indebted to Backstreets founder Charles R. Cross, who trusted me with his creation in 1998 — the honor of a lifetime — after we worked together for five years. Previous editors Erik Flannigan and Jonathan Pont have also remained indispensable brothers-in-arms, insightful observers, keen chroniclers, and tireless wordsmiths, bar none. All together, they have been our de facto editorial board. Many other stellar human beings have clocked time at Backstreets HQ over the decades and become lifelong friends, with a special mention for the multi-talented John Howie, Jr., who has put in 18 years and counting.
Most of all we're deeply grateful to our fellow fans and contributors, typically one and the same. With Backstreets we've lived the very definition of "community effort" — our work would not have been possible without the many terrific people around the world we've been lucky enough to meet and befriend along the way: writers and readers, musicians and music critics, filmmakers and film critics, photographers, activists, archivists, librarians, illustrators, Shore denizens, international travelers, old-timers, new-timers, comedians, historians, educators, disc jockeys, retailers and record store managers, tapers, collectors, music geeks of all stripes… the fans, the fans, the fans. If you heard the big music and got on board, thank you.
Between the magazine (91 issues and counting — see below!) and thousands of online features, reviews, and editorials, Backstreets published a million and one words on the music that mattered to us the most. We stood humbled when Springsteen mentioned Backstreets in public after 20 years, when we helped create and organize the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection (which became the basis for the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center For American Music). While it was deeply meaningful to hear him acknowledge the work we did, the real reward came when our readers cheered.
In the end, that's what This Thing of Ours has been for and about — fans and fandom. If Backstreets can have any kind of legacy, I'd like it to be that we blurred the line between fan effort and professional publication: to cover someone like Springsteen, we insisted on solid musical journalism, high editorial standards, honest writing (which often meant not toning down enthusiasm in order to appear cool or objective), and professional photography — while never losing sight of the connections and community that have given meaning to it all on the listeners' side of the equation.
The shared love and joy, the camaraderie, the minutiae and close attention paid, the passion, the post-shows.… if you're still on the train, may all of that continue for you. Rave on. We have every hope of meeting you further on up the road.
- February 3, 2023
Our work is not yet done.
Though we're freezing the website at this moment, work at Backstreets HQ will continue for some time.
First, we'll get back to the magazine that started it all; we'll complete a blow-out Final Issue of Backstreets. As the 2000s have gone on, with the internet becoming increasingly present in all of our lives (alongside skyrocketing costs of paper, printing, and postage), we made the choice to put more and more of our work online instead of in print. The decision was largely driven by the immediacy that I felt I'd want, as a fan, and that the times seemed to demand. If you're a subscriber to the magazine, we sincerely hope you feel you've gotten your money's worth in what we've published on the website over the years, far more than we could ever print in the pages of a magazine (just compare the show-by-show tour reports). Still, we're supremely grateful to everyone who has supported this effort, subscribers and supersubs most of all, and we don't want to go out without doing right by you. We'll now be able to focus on finishing and delivering issue #92, in digital form at the very least, to collect more final thoughts and present an accumulation of unpublished Backstreets content, interviews, and photography. Charles R. Cross will return for the finale, with one last "On the Backstreets" column. We're also exploring the digitization of the previous 91 issues, in hopes of presenting our subscribers and supersubs with the full run of PDFs.
The Backstreet Records shop is still open for business. We have pre-orders to fulfill for Nicki Germaine's new SPRINGSTEEN: LIBERTY HALL book, as well as a great number of Boss items on the shelves — CDs, records, books, T-shirts, and beyond — that we'll be happy to send your way. It's doubtful we'll be restocking, so please check out our current inventory for maximum availability and help us reduce it. To that end, use coupon code BOBBYJEAN for 10% off your entire order — everything other than LIBERTY HALL.
We also have an assortment of rarer and one-off items that we'll be adding to the shop as we clear out the office, from long-"sold out" issues of Backstreets magazine to unusual promotional stuff, so we hope you'll stay tuned to the Latest Additions.
The Backstreets Ticket Exchange (BTX) message boards will remain open for a short time. We want to give everyone a chance to finish transactions, save any posts, and preserve any important content. We'll plan to keep the boards running for another couple of months to allow ample time. We've been pleased to see other ticket exchange boards crop up in the wake of BTX, which we hope will continue the effort to keep tickets between fans, at their original prices, and out of the hands of scalpers.
With no intention of taking our toys and going home, we currently plan to keep the remainder of the backstreets.com website — the News Archives, etc. — up and available for the foreseeable future.
Our social media and email list will remain active. While we won't be tracking the events of each day, we'll be maintaining our accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, as well as our "Outskirts Dispatch" email list (signup form below).
In the short term, we'll surely uncover much worth sharing as we sift through 43 years of history in the Backstreets office. These accounts will also keep key lines of communication open for any updates, announcements, observations, or future projects. If you don't already, we hope you'll follow our accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and opt-in to our email list below.
Enter the News Archives