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Skip the Scalpers: Secrets for Paying Lower Prices for Concert Tickets

General views of an outdoor concert.
Outdoor venues that showcase local artists are a great alternative to stadium concerts. Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder


There is nothing more disappointing than missing out on tickets to see your favorite artist live in concert.

(I mean, I guess I could think of a few things, but as far as this post is concerned, there is nothing more disappointing.)

But these days, it can be really, really hard to get ahold of concert tickets without paying an arm and a leg — and then another arm for good measure.

You see, thanks to a pretty whacked-out system wherein artists sell their tickets low to save face, bots and scalpers inflate prices and the spectacle of the thing is of the utmost importance, people have been paying insane amounts for concert tickets.

And when we say insane, we mean, “Yowza, that’s questionable but I also can understand your motivation if that’s a thing that will make you happy” kind of amounts.

Like, the kind of insane that is paying $895 to stand within 20 feet of TaySwift.

Yeah, that definition of insane.

Skip the Scalpers, Bypass the Bots

Resale prices rise with demand, (following the basic rules we all learned in Econ 101).

This means you may never get an inexpensive (even relatively so) ticket to a popular artist’s live show unless you can snag one at face value before the bots swoop in.

But buying concert tickets at face value — especially to those big-name shows like Beyonce or Bieber — is no easy feat.

Still, there are a few tips and tricks that will give you the best odds of scoring a ticket at the lowest prices before they’re all snatched up.

Presale Is Your Friend

The presale period might be the easiest time to snag tickets before the sale is opened to the general public, and there are a few ways to take advantage of this particular perk.

Become a (Super)Fan

Joining an artist’s fan club can get you early access to their ticket sales. You can join a fan club (check the artist’s website for details), sign up for email lists or follow your fave on social media to receive early-access codes to presale periods.

Whip Out Your Credit Card

While you always want to be cautious signing up for (and using) a credit card, that small but mighty piece of plastic can sometimes be your ticket to the presale realm. Ticketmaster, the main site for concert-ticket sales these days, often offers exclusive presale opportunities to Chase, Citibank and American Express cardholders.

Search Online

woman buying concert tickets on phone
Getting alerts from fan sites can ensure you are first in line when sales open. martin-dm/Getty Images

As a last-ditch attempt to get ahold of a presale access code, you can simply take to the internet with a Google or Twitter search. “Artists name” + “presale” will generally get you where you want to be.

Get Prepped

To score tickets to your dream show during the general sale period, you’re going to have to be quick — and come prepared.

Create an Account

Prior to the day tickets go on sale, create a user account on whichever website you’ll be using to purchase your tickets. Nothing slows you down more in those frantic moments between loading your cart and checking out than having to create an account and fill out all of your information.

Make a Plan

Set yourself up for success by making a plan. Look at a map of the venue to see how the different sections are labeled and decide which area you’d like to be in. That way, on the day of the sale, you won’t end up panic-picking seats you’re not totally thrilled about.

Practice Makes Perfect?

If you’re really serious about snagging tickets to see your favorite performer live, you might even want to do a trial run. If you’ve never bought tickets online before, it can be confusing to navigate ticket sellers’ websites. Go through the motions (but don’t accidentally hit “purchase!”) on an already open sale so you know the steps needed to make it through to the finish line.

Watch the Clock

Don’t just set an alarm for the exact moment the tickets are supposed to drop. Some sales roll out in phases, and the first bunch may drop a few minutes before the designated time (although there’s no telling when). Either way, you’ll want time to log into your account and get ready, so make sure you set a reminder for 15 minutes before the actual on-sale time.

Ready, Set, GO!

It’s now or never, so get ready, get set and buy those tickets before they get snatched up and resold at quadruple their face value.

Speed Counts

Get online using the fastest Wi-Fi or wired internet connection you can. A slow internet connection could seriously impede your chances when you’re competing against thousands of other fans (and machines).

Grab Your Ticket on the Go

Most ticket sale sites have a mobile site or phone app, so you don’t have to miss a sale just because you can’t be tied to your home computer. Depending on the speed of your device, it might even make sense to use it instead of your regular computer if it will get the job done faster.

Up Your Chances

If you plan on going to the show with a friend, have that person try to nab tickets at the same time on a different device. This will up your odds of getting tickets on the first try. If you both (magically) end up buying two tickets, you can sell the extras through a verified resale site. (Just remember to be a good groupie and resist the urge to rip off other fans by jacking up the price.)

Don’t Use Multiple Tabs

Some ticket sites will cancel an order if they suspect bot activity, and nothing screams “I’m a robot who wants to gouge music fans” like multiple browser tabs all running the same ticket search.

Strength in (Smaller) Numbers

people enjoying music
It’s best to buy tickets in pairs instead of in large groups. Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

If you’re going with a big group, you might have to split up. Buying a large chunk of tickets is difficult, since even one already-bought seat could make the site cancel your entire order. Decide ahead of time who will sit with whom and work to buy tickets in pairs instead.

Don’t Give Up

In the same way that waves of tickets may be released a bit early, some tickets may be held until hours, days or weeks later. Check back once in a while to see whether there are any more tickets available. Plus, if an event didn’t sell out, but you were looking for cheap seats from the get-go, resellers may mark down any unsold tickets in the days (or even hours) leading up to the event. Just be careful buying from any unverified, third-party sites.

Enjoy the Show

Listen, I’ve been there.

I’ve been the person who scored the tickets and had the night of my life seeing a band I had been waiting to see for years.

But I’ve also been the person who couldn’t nab tickets in time and, faced with the decision to spend $400 on a ticket or sit at home blasting the band’s complete works while drinking wine with a friend on the night of the show, chose the latter.

If wallowing in sadness isn’t really your deal, though, you could always purchase tickets to a local show for the same night. You’ll get out of the house, get your mind off the fun happening in the stadium downtown, hear some new music and support a local artist and a small venue. That’s like a win-win-win-win-win.

And if you do decide to drop big bucks on a night you’ll remember for life, we can’t say that we blame you.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She recently couldn’t force herself to buy pricy tickets to see The Killers, and she sort of really regrets it. Emphasis on the “really.”

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