If you want tickets to a concert, game or other popular event, you've got two choices: pay the asking price from the primary seller, or take a chance and try to get a deal from one of many resellers. Here's how to play the game.
Buy your sports or entertainment tickets when they’re issued, and odds are that if you don’t buy them directly from the venue, you’re going to ticketmaster or another one of the primary distributors of tickets – and paying a mark-up of up to 30% over face value.
But if the event is sold out – or if you’re trying to get a deal – you should try the secondary market for tickets. It’s growing. According to Forrester Research, the estimated total amount for the resale ticket market will reach $4.5 billion by 2012.
Ticket resellers buy tickets from the primary distributors, as well as from season ticket holders and other private sellers. Then they attempt to mark them up and sell them to consumers. Unlike selling tickets on the sidewalk outside a game or concert – against the law in many states – these sites are, for the most part, perfectly legal.
Here are some of the most popular ticket resale sites:
- Stubhub.com (owned by eBay)
- Ticket Liquidator
- TicketExchange (owned by ticketmaster)
- Ticket Network
How ticketing works – and how you can work it
The organizations that sponsor events – promoters, sports teams, etc. – rarely handle ticket sales internally. Instead they depend on primary sellers, the largest of which by far is Ticketmaster. The event sponsor licenses Ticketmaster to be their exclusive distributor, and Ticketmaster then pays face value for the tickets. They make their money by attaching service and other fees to the price: they generally don’t get a dime of the face value of the ticket.
In addition to selling tickets directly to the public, Ticketmaster and other primary ticket providers also sell to ticket resellers.
How to get a deal
Tickets, like hotel rooms, are a perishable commodity; if they’re not used, they’re useless. So if you want decent seats for a concert or sporting event, and are willing to gamble, your best bet is to wait until the last day or two before the event, then try reseller websites. If the resellers have overestimated the demand for seats, as the date approaches they’re going to take what they can get.
Shop around: When identical items – in this case, tickets – are for sale through multiple outlets, competition happens. Shop multiple sites to see who’s offering the best deal.
Factor in delivery costs: Some resellers are getting smart and allowing buyers to print their tickets online for free (eBay has been a pioneer in that field), but most still send hard copy tickets to buyers via Federal Express or other overnight delivery services. The good news? You get your tickets on time. The bad news? You’ll likely wind up paying up to $19.95 for overnight delivery.
Ask for discounts: Some ticket resellers will cut their fee if you spend enough money. TicketNetwork, for example, slices $20 off any purchase over $250. If you don’t see a discount on the site you’re using, ask.
Internet ticket fraud
Be aware that the Internet is full of ticket fraud. Tickets to sought-after events are sold online, then turn out to be fake or never delivered. For example, in 2008 a global Beijing Olympic Games ticket fraud collected $50 million in fake ticket sales.
So don’t get suckered. Be especially careful if you see an ad from a private seller. If possible, deal with recognized sites and be suspicious of prices and/or availability that appear to be too good to be true.
The best way to save on live events
As I wrote in my latest book, Life or Debt 2010, the best way to save on live events is to bypass the big-ticket venues and think local. Pick a high school or college game over major league and you’ll park closer and pay a lot less for both admission and hot dogs. Attend community or college theater. Support your local music scene by watching local bands, then use part of the savings to download a few songs from your favorite big-name artists.
While it’s fun to see the “big show” every now and again, try having fun while supporting your local community. Rather than contributing to the wealth of a multimillionaire artist or athlete, contribute to your own instead. Retiring rich – now that’s entertainment!