Just Buy the Tickets…. But How?
What words come to mind when you think about concert tickets? Expensive? Hard to get? Not worth the money?
Seeing a concert can be an expensive outing! We saw Coldplay twice last summer, and the tickets were ridiculously expensive!
Those of you that know me, know that I am a live music fan. Or maybe addict is a better term? In 2017, my husband and I saw 53 concerts. That’s a lot of money spent on tickets! Read more about my concert addition here:
Confessions of a Concert Addict! Are You a Live Music Junkie Too?
The types of concerts I see range anywhere from seeing an unknown band in a tiny venue, to seeing a super group like U2 or Coldplay in a huge stadium. For me, there is nothing better than a good live music experience. When it’s a small show, being able to be only a few feet away from your favorite performer or group is an amazing feeling. When it’s a big show, the total sensory experience is something that I love.
Nothing beats the experience of seeing a music legend in a tiny venue up close. We saw The Wailers a week ago, and this was our view of legendary reggae guitarist Donald Kinsey!
But, going to concerts and buying tickets can be an expensive hobby. Concert tickets – especially to the big shows – are not cheap. Even when you think you know the price, the fees that Ticketmaster and other ticket brokers tack on are outrageous. They can cost you anywhere from 10 to 25% of the cost of the ticket. In addition, once you get to the show the prices of food and drinks are ridiculous. This is after you’ve already paid to park. If you want a t-shirt, program, or some other concert swag, a night out at a concert can easily cost several hundred dollars.
Despite all of that, I still believe that you should “always buy the tickets”. Someday, your favorite artist will stop touring or will pass away (I will always regret that I only saw Prince in concert twice before he died).
There are ways to make going to concerts more affordable. Keep reading for my tips for making sure you get your tickets and maybe save a few bucks.
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THE CONCERT TICKET INDUSTRY
Face Value Ticket Sales
The concert ticket industry is dominated by Ticketmaster and Live Nation. If you want to buy tickets to most shows, you have to buy the tickets through them. The two companies merged a few years ago, so buying tickets from one is just like buying them from another.
There are a couple other ticket companies that are out there and trying to break into the space. The next biggest out there is Ticketfly. Their fees are lower than those of Ticketmaster, but they don’t have the same breadth of venues in their portfolio.
Because Live Nation is such a large promoter of concerts, and have taken over the management of many of the large concert venues, artists have no choice but to sell their tickets through them. It’s basically a monopoly in the market, and all of us that attend concerts are stuck with it for now.
Third Party Ticket Sales
If you aren’t able to get tickets from the original seller, there are plenty of third parties out there that sell tickets as well. The largest on-line ticket reseller is Stub Hub. The positive part of Stub Hub, is that they guarantee their ticket sales, so you know the tickets you purchase are legitimate. The negative part of Stub Hub, is they give a platform for scalpers to sell tickets and make a profit. Stub Hub puts no limitation on the price of the tickets sold on their site. So for popular shows, you can expect to pay whatever the market demand dictates, which may be many times the original price of the tickets. Keep in mind that Stub Hub also tacks fees on top.
Of course there are other sites that allow people to sell tickets such as eBay or Craig’s List. Buyer beware, however, as those sites don’t stand behind sales of those tickets. You might get stuck with a fake!
More and more, fans are banding together and trying to create their own third party ticket sites where people are only permitted to sell tickets at face value. Cash or Trade (which I mention in my tips below) is the big one. However, there are lots of Facebook groups and pages out there as well. Again, buyer beware as these pages will not guarantee any sale.
The “New” Way of Selling Tickets
Recently, buying tickets to concerts has gotten even more complicated. It’s not as simple as one day and one time that all tickets go on sale. There are now multiple stages to the ticket selling process. Some of the stages are designed to help real fans get tickets. But others seem to be designed to help Ticketmaster/Live Nation make more money.
1. Artist’s Fan Club and/or Ticketmaster Verified Fan Program: The idea here is that fans get the first chance at grabbing tickets. You either have to be a member of the fan club, or register through a link as a verified fan. I have had good success with the Verified Fan Program, although other people I know have not.
2. Various Pre-Sales: For a lot of shows, there are usually multiple pre-sales. Some are tied to certain credit cards. Some are special codes given out by the artist or venue. During the pre-sales, a limited number of tickets are released.
3. Public Sale: The public sale is open to everyone. This is when we all sit on our phones and laptops, and click on the “buy tickets” button at exactly 10:00 a.m. For the more popular shows, it can be almost impossible to get decent seats anymore during the public sale. I’ve had a hard time getting good tickets this year to Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews Band, and Phish. One tip here… if you strike out on tickets at the time they go on sale, keep trying. I’ve found better tickets about 20 to 30 minutes into the public sale, than right at the start of the public sale. I’m not sure if this is a result of people releasing tickets they have in their carts, or Ticketmaster releasing tickets in waves.
4. Platinum Ticket Sales: Recently, Ticketmaster has started selling “Platinum Tickets” to some of their more popular shows. These are seats that they appear to hold back from any other sale, and then sell for 2 to 3 times the original price shortly after the public sale ends. There is no explanation or justification from Ticketmaster on why they are selling these seats for a premium.
I WANT TO “JUST BUY THE TICKETS”! HOW DO I DO IT?
Buying tickets has gotten tough. Gone are the days of lining up outside the box office, or hitting “redial” on your phone. It’s all done on-line now, and it’s a race between you and the scalpers. But, you can be successful if you follow my tips!
Tip #1 – Join the Artist’s Fan Club (if it makes sense): If you have an artist that you love, and you know you want to see them every time they tour in your area, it might be worth it to join their fan club. In some instances, it’s as simple as signing up to their e-mail newsletter. In others, you pay a fee to become a member (i.e. the Warehouse for DMB fans). The benefit of being in the fan club is that you often get “fan club exclusive” first access to tickets. While this doesn’t always guarantee a ticket, it can at least give you the chance to get tickets in advance, and know whether you have to fight everyone else during the public sale.
We are in the Dave Matthews Band fan club, and we’ve had good success getting tickets to shows that way. This year, we requested tickets to 11 shows, and was approved for 9 of them including three nights at The Gorge!
Tip #2 – Try to Find a Pre-Sale Code: For almost every show nowadays, there is a pre-sale code that gives you access to buy tickets a couple of days before the public sale. I always watch the venue’s Facebook page, as they often post pre-sale codes there when they promote the event. The other place to check is with your local radio station. In Philadelphia, 104.5 is a sponsor of a lot of the shows that I like to go to, and they often post pre-sale codes on their website. You should also create an account at Live Nation. For some concerts, they will e-mail account holders a pre-sale code. Finally, there are a lot of pre-sale perks if you have a certain credit card (Citi and Amex are the two big ones).
Tip #3 – Buy Your Tickets at the Box Office: If you can get to the box office, that’s a great way to get tickets. First, for a popular show you may have better luck getting good tickets the old-fashioned way – being first in line at the box office. Second, for many smaller venues, you can avoid the fees that Ticketmaster tacks on by buying directly from the box office. Check with the individual venue, however, as this isn’t always the case.
Tip #4 – Stand Outside the Venue and See What You Can Find: If your heart is set on seeing a show and you don’t want to miss a minute of it, I don’t recommend this approach. However, if you have a casual interest and don’t mind going in late, you can sometimes find a good deal if you just hang around outside the venue. This worked for us once for a show that was sold out. We ended up finding one ticket because someone had a friend that couldn’t go at the last minute, and he handed us his extra ticket for free. We got the second ticket because we stood outside the doors even after the show started hoping to find another ticket. The box office manager felt so bad for us, he just handed us a ticket so we could both go in. I’m not going to tell you that this will work every time, but as scalpers and people that end up with extras get closer and closer to show time, the prices they are asking for their extra tickets starts to go down.
Tips #5 – Join Facebook Groups and Check Out CashorTrade.org: If you got shut out of tickets during the pre-sale and public sale, don’t immediately head over to Stub Hub. If you are patient, you can often find people selling extras at face value. A good place to check is on the Facebook fan pages for the artist, or on www.cashortrade.org. Of course, if you don’t know the person you are buying from, be cautious about the transaction so you don’t end up with counterfeit tickets or get scammed.
Tip #6 – Reseller Ticket Sites: Buying from a reseller should be your last option. If you do have to resort to it, make sure you buy from a reputable reseller like Stub Hub. I have heard of a lot of people that bought tickets on Craig’s list or Ebay, and ended up with counterfeit tickets. Also, the longer you wait, the lower the prices will drop.
Tip #7 – Volunteer: For some of the bigger shows, the artists partner up with charitable organizations (think Reverb, ONE, etc.). These organizations are looking for people to canvas the parking lots before the shows and sign people up for something. In exchange, they will typically give you a free ticket to get into the show. We’ve done this several times through the ONE campaign for U2 shows. Of course, you can’t be guaranteed where your seat will be. We’ve had times where we got great GA tickets (and I even got to go on stage – but that’s a story for another time), and we’ve gotten nosebleed, obstructed view seats. However, it does get you in the building for FREE (minus the sweat equity you put in before the show). If you know a band is affiliated with an organization, check on their site to see if you can sign up to volunteer.
We bought tickets to see U2 last summer on their Joshua Tree tour, but I’ve seen them many times for free by volunteering with ONE before the show.
One last tip…. When you finally get those tickets, DO NOT post a picture of the tickets on social media with the bar code showing. While I know you are anxious to share the news with your friends, there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there that will take that picture of your tickets and make a duplicate. No one wants to get to the show and find out that their tickets are invalid.
Now that you have your tickets, make sure you get some ear protection for all those shows. I use Vibes ear plugs, which reduce the decibel levels, but not the clarity. You can buy your own pair of Vibes here.
So, happy ticket hunting this summer concert season. We have a full line up of shows this year, so I hope to see you out on the road!
Are you a live music junkie? Do you have other tips for buying tickets? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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