By Albie Cullen
So your favorite band is coming to town. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. At 9:59, you are logged onto Ticketmaster, LiveNation, or whatever on-line service is acting as the exclusive ticket agent.
At 10 a.m. sharp, you hit the enter key and viola; fifth row balcony seats are all yours for the price of the ticket plus a mere forty percent in service charges and fees.
Meanwhile, StubHub, Ace Ticket and various other “ticket agencies” (formerly known as scalpers) are already offering second row floor seats at four times the face value of the ticket (and the forty percent service fees).
What gives? Well, between the artists, the corporate sponsors, the venues and the on-line service, usually about forty percent of the tickets are already accounted for prior to that 10 a.m. public sale time. Which forty percent do you think they are going to take?
In addition, any or all of these entities are in cahoots with the aforementioned ticket agencies. Recently, an infamous on-line ticket seller even had the audacity to offer tickets through their “agency” on the same page as the regular priced tickets, which were shockingly all located in the men’s room (which is the insider’s term for “really, really bad seats”). This ticket agency actually was surprised when consumer watchdog groups saw this as “a conflict of interest.”
However, you are not really interested in the ticket seller’s cozy relationship with the ticket agents. Furthermore, you don’t have an extra $500 in the budget for two tickets. Your problem is you know a really hot guy or girl who loves Dave Matthews. You need to be doing the “I’m with the band” walk down to the front and not sitting on the lawn with 10,000 other “over-served” fans. What can you do?
Fortunately, getting great seats is not always that difficult or expensive. What you mainly need is patience and persistence – and some inside knowledge. The artist is allotted a certain number of seats for each show: great seats, the best seats. The artist doesn’t need most of these tickets. Here are three ways you can snag them:
1. About 48-24 hours prior to the concert, these tickets will be “released.” That means, by logging onto the on-line ticket service during this period, you’ll often find great seats at face value. (You still have to pay the service fees, but if you are in the first five rows, it’s a small, and unfortunately unavoidable, price to pay.) You have to keep trying right up until the time of the show and be willing to pick up the tickets at will call. For example, Bob Dylan recently released ten second row seats one hour prior to the concert.
2. Another method is to go by the venue’s box office. Check intermittently, but start checking regularly a day or two before the day of the show. You have to check repeatedly on the day of the show. Be there when the box office opens that day and keep checking back. Again, check right up until show time. Most people are under the impression the show is sold out. Almost always there will be seats, great seats, for sale at the box office within an hour or two before the concert begins. Another advantage of buying tickets at the box office is there are usually no “service fees.”
3. Finally, beat the “ticket agents” at their own game. Fortunately, agents operate on greed. So they almost always over-price their tickets. This means there will be tickets left on the day of the show. Further, with e-tickets, you can get the actual tickets over the computer. Again, about 48-24 hours before the show starts, checking the ticket service websites. That is when ticket prices usually begin to drop.
Online auction sites, such as eBay, will offer you the actual ability to negotiate. Before bidding or buying on eBay, contact the seller and make an offer.
When buying tickets through the Internet, use common sense. Reputable ticket agencies (StubHub, for example) guarantee the tickets. If you’re buying your tickets on eBay, make sure you purchase through the eBay site and use PayPal. Anytime you use PayPal, you are protected. Finally, if it’s an Internet site you’ve never heard of, or if a deal seems too good to be true, it is.
Remember: patience and persistence will pay off. See you down front.
Albie Cullen, a former music industry insider, is a Boston, Massachusetts-based criminal defense attorney and author of the new novel, Drown. Visit him online at www.albiecullen.com.
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