Over the past several years I have used going to a concert or major sporting event as an excuse to travel. From some of the biggest outdoor festival to the loudest NFL stadiums, these trips have provided amazing experiences and lasting memories not only of the event but of the city or area as well. I am currently in the planning stage of an upcoming (side) trip to Dallas to see the Cowboys play and went through the tedious process of buying hard-to-find tickets.
This task made me realize that I had no real resources to fall back on when trying to find the best cheap seats available to a “sold-out” event. There is surprisingly very little info on the web to help one navigate through the secondary market. I seem to go through the same dance every time so decided to document the process for future endeavours. Let me take the guesswork out of the equation and do the legwork for you.
In This Post...
Early Bird Gets The Ticket
Whether it is your favourite band or sports team chances are they have a fan club or mailing list. Join it. It helps when asking how to find cheap tickets. Often members receive early access to tickets via pre-sale promo codes. You will also receive info on when tickets go on sale to the general public and if more tickets are released later on. Joining these lists are your safest bet for getting the best seats available at face value.
The downside is the tickets may be released (and sold out) far ahead of you planning on visiting the city the event is in. In my case for the Dallas Cowboys game, I was too late for the pre-sale but did make it in time for the online sale to the general public. I logged on exactly at 10:00 AM when tickets went on sale and found only individual tickets available. This did not help me as we are a group of 4 going to the game. Blarg.
Head To The (Virtual) Box Office
Fees for buying tickets directly from a box office vary. For the most part, this means a kiosk running Ticketmaster or Live Nation which is no different than you doing it yourself online except maybe saving on mailing or printing out your own tickets. Yup, Ticketmaster charges you to print out your own tickets. Brutal.
Chances are if you are traveling to a different city going directly to the box office is not an option for you. If it is a last-minute decision it is worth looking online the day of as individual or small groups or tickets can be released and are often cheaper than buying in advance. This of course is risky and won’t guarantee you access. Not an option for my upcoming trip.
What to do when the event is “Sold OUT”
Tickets to popular events often “sell out” due to ticket brokers and scalpers snatching up large amounts of seats. This was most likely the case for me when I tried to get Cowboys tickets the minute they went on sale. Don’t worry, there are plenty of options left for you…they will just cost you. How much exactly is what I am trying to breakdown.
Oddly finding out what the different service fees are for the various resale sites is not as easy as it sounds. From what I have read the fees can vary due to the type of event (NFL, NBA, Concert etc..) and the venue they are playing at. Add to that the fact that each site has its own fees for buyers and sellers and you have a confusing mess. Often you can find the exact same seats on several different sites all with different prices. You may think you are getting a better deal on SITE A however SITE A may have a higher service fee or shipping fee than SITE B.
What to do.
7 rows up for below face value thanks to StubHub
Short answer, be patient and shop around. A general rule is that tickets on resale sites are most expensive once they go on sale and will reduce in price the closer it gets to the day of the event if the demand is low. Waiting it out can save you big however you are running the risk of paying more if the demand remains high. For those looking to secure their seats in advance (as in my current situation), I have broken down the various fees between different resale sites with the help of these charts from Seatgeek.com:
As you can see each site varies in their fee structure which results in different prices for the buyer. Sites like SeatGeek and FanSnap are great resources for finding the best tickets possible. These sites compare available seats from various resellers and display them in one place. Think of it like a kayak.com for concerts. (Read about Kayak.com here!)
Lets dig a little deeper into the MAJOR players of the secondary ticket market:
About – Ticketmaster’s version of legal scalping. Genius on their part as they are getting commission on tickets twice. Brutal for the general public. This site allows season ticket holders and others to resell their seats.
Fee breakdown – Typically 15% Shipping is free if e-tickets are purchased.
Pros – You can shop with confidence as transactions are backed by Ticketmaster.
Cons – Sellers can not sell below face value making finding cheap last minute seats impossible.
About – Owned by eBay, Stubhub is one of the largest resellers of concert and sporting event tickets. Brokers and individuals sell here.
Fee breakdown – Typically 10% + high shipping fee.
Pros – HUGE selection, solid guarantees. Sellers can sell below face value making it a great site to find cheap last minute seats.
Cons – Although fees are lower than Ticket exchange, High prices and even higher shipping costs can be a deterrent.
About – Not really known for their ticket sales as they own and advertise Stubhub seats, plenty of tickets can be found here.
Fee breakdown – No buyer fee. Shipping can vary from free to over night delivery costs.
Pros – Can find great deals here if willing to wait it out. Solid customer service.
Cons – Although Ebay can be great at protecting buyer you still need to be cautious with who you deal with. Make sure to check user rating and remember, if it is to good to be true then it probably is.
About – The popular and free buy and sell site that lists everything from free pianos to “casual encounters.”
Fee breakdown – No buyer fee. Shipping can vary but typically pickup only…from a seedy alley or a Starbucks.
Pros – Can find seats to local events at decent prices, especially hours before event.
Cons – There is no guarantee of legitimacy of tickets from who you are buying from. Buyer beware. That said, I have bought (and sold) plenty of tickets off Craigslist with zero issues.
What About a Ticket Broker?
There are TONS of online ticket brokers out there. To try and make some sense of them I sat down with (via email) Anthony Beyrouti of venuekings.com:
What are the advantages of purchasing tickets through a broker?
AB: Advantages would be we can get you the best tickets and the best availability. Quite frequently we can get you better prices than the box office.
With all the competition out there it is often hard to tell what is legit when it comes to resale sites. Many fear being scammed and may avoid services like yours. What should consumers be on the look out for when buying through a resale site and how do you set your customers at ease?
AB: Honestly, charge things to your credit card, if anything is a scam your credit card company covers you. All of our transactions are done through credit card and are all verified for authenticity. If you buy on craigslist and pay cash anything is possible; you could have fake tickets, you could get robbed, the list is just too long. That is why we suggest buying through a broker with a reputation of customer service and consistency. We are also a member of the National Association of Ticket Brokers which ads even more credibility to our transactions.
When buying resale tickets is it best to buy early or last minute?
AB: Time to buy is completely up to the customer. IF you are buying for a large group or need a specific type of ticket i would suggest buying early to make sure you get what you want. If you don’t really care if you go to the game or where you sit last minute is not a bad thing to do as long as there is time to get the tickets delivered for you.
My take away from using a broker is that it can be a great way for someone else to do the leg work for you at a minimal fee (typically much less than what Stubhub or Ticket Exchange charges) They have access to massive inventory that the general public does not see. Many ticket brokers publish their seats all over the internet so the best way to get the best price is to talk directly with them.
So Which Way Did I Go?
I have used many of the above services in the past. I have sat courtside at a Celtic’s game for FREE thanks to eBay protection. I have bought pre-sale tickets to festivals like Outside Lands and Sasquatch. I have bought last-minute cheap seats to Seahawks’ games on Stubhub. So which way did I go this time?
Ticket Exchange. Wait, let me back up. I used Seatgeek.com to find the cheapest seats (by far) on Ticket Exchange. I watched tickets rise in price steadily for 3 weeks and when hope was starting to dwindle I found decent seats for $75 less than anything around them. I quickly snatched up the four I needed…and then the remaining 3 more available at that price. The price was that good. Since buying them the price has gone up $100 so stay tuned for an update on me reselling the resale tickets.
Much thanks to Daniel Lyon for the cover shot!