What happened to Bruce’s handwritten setlists?

One of the best features of the official Springsteen website over the past few years was that copies of Bruce’s handwritten setlist would be posted, in PDF format, for anyone to see after a show. In an age where Bruce’s website was never going to be able to break news ahead of other sites, this was important, unique content. Yes, it appealed primarily (if not exclusively) to hardcore fans, but it certainly drove traffic to Bruce’s website while also recognizing those hardcore fans by offering them an additional insight into the show they just saw: What songs did Bruce intend to play? What were the changes in the running order? Where were the “audibles?” What might he play tomorrow?

A handwritten setlist was posted for every show on the 2007-08 Magic tour and the 2009 Working on a Dream tour,* and at the beginning of the 2012 tour, Bruce’s official twitter account was readily advertising the handwritten setlists. They were posted for the Apollo and South by Southwest shows, and for Atlanta and Greensboro, the first two shows of the tour. Since then: nothing. Another 16 shows and six weeks into the tour and still no sign of them.

So what happened?

One theory that has been bandied about the internet is that the handwritten setlists are no longer being posted online in an effort to prevent eBay sales of setlists. This is easily debunked, however, by a perfunctory search of eBay’s listings, which indicates that the few setlists being offered are the versions that have a typed list of songs (rather than the ones in Bruce’s handwriting), and that auctions are most likely being conducted by members of the local crew.

From a pure value standpoint, a photocopied piece of paper (and that’s what these are) has no real value when anyone can get their own off the internet. The one setlist that is actually written by Bruce is not available to the public. At each show, it is, by all accounts, kept in a file for Bruce’s reference. That piece of paper is then photocopied (often multiple times) and then scanned into PDF format for posting on the internet. If it’s available for anyone to get (for free), the values on eBay are going to be minimized.

In fact, by creating scarcity, it only increases the chance that the few handwritten setlists that do make it out of the arena could be auctioned off for profit.

An alternate explanation is that updating Bruce’s official website is not a priority and posting the handwritten setlists was jettisoned for efficiency purposes. Given that the website manages to add the list of songs played in each show, though, this also seems implausible.

One final possibility is that Bruce simply is — for whatever reason (artistic, personal preference or otherwise) — not interested in sharing his planned setlist with the public. The relative ease by which the “typed” setlists have been available after shows on this tour suggests that this may also be untrue.

Sadly, no matter what the reason, the execution here by Bruce, Inc. leaves fans wanting. I also feel badly for Bruce’s crew, who are going to be pestered by fans again looking for that unique concert souvenir that they used to be able to get easily online.

* There was one setlist that never got posted from 2007-09. Conspiracy theorists may take note it was the May 14, 2009 show in Albany, the first time that Jay Weinberg played an entire show on drums with E Street.

6 comments on “What happened to Bruce’s handwritten setlists?

  1. Stan says:

    It is quite the mystery.
    One thing I heard, is that they are very tight with set list (the printed ones) before the show now because they (Bruce?) got tired of the set list going out on twitter and even BTX before the show even started or in the middle of the show.
    You don’t even see many printed ones around after the show now.
    Maybe Bruce just said, “that’s it” and that’s why only printed ones are getting out after the show, if at all. And the handwritten ones (the copies) seem to be kept very close to the band.
    I don’t think it was ever a problem of eBay.

  2. […] Springsteen a récemment décidé de ne plus poster sur son site officiel ses setlists manuscrites (voir ici l’article du blog Stay Hard, Stay Hungry, Stay Alive), dont voici un […]

  3. Dan says:

    With all the teleprompters for the band (including iPads for Roy and Charlie), there’s just no longer a need for the setlist to be photocopied and taped down all over the stage.

  4. You’re probably right that they don’t *need* them but they do still all use them. Mostly because the prompter is only showing the current song whereas the list has everything that’s planned for the night’s show.

  5. I know says:

    No longer a mystery. One of the roadies discreetly gives it to a random fan at the end of a concert. I know because it happened to a friend.
    Bruce is such an incredible guy – he doesn’t keep them for himself but makes someone’s year!!

  6. Holly Keller says:

    My brother has a hand written play list by Springsteen. He wants me to find out how much it is worth. It is probably old. Holly

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