The Economics of Tickets (when to buy & not)

The Economics of Tickets (when to buy & not)

If there is anything I want people to know, it is when is the absolute worst time to buy a ticket for an event. Though I formally studied concerts, I have run casual tests with sporting events and other kinds of event and discovered similar price patterns. Based on these price patterns, I establish two golden rules that will be reinfored throughout my How To writing.
 
Golden Rules:
1) The worst time to buy tickets is on or near the date the tickets went on sale. In this time frame you will almost always pay more for an event ticket and you will surely kick yourself if you check prices in two months to find they are cut in half.
2) The best time to buy is in the fourteen day period leading up to the event.
Why? When tickets go on sale is typically the time when everyone including scalpers and resellers and regular people are trying to buy tickets. Sometimes 50,000 people are attempting to buy tickets for a show that only has 14,000 tickets on sale. This scenario results in an committed subset of the 36,000 who did not get tickets to hunt on eBay and other tickets site for a very limited inventory of resold tickets. My research found that about 1 – 3% of tickets were resold so event from start to finish so, 5,000 people looking for the couple of hundred that may be on sale in the weeks or two around the onsale date is great for sellers and super bad for buyers.
On the other hand, in the three weeks leading up to the event, a few critical factors turn a sellers marketing into something more pleasant. Specifically:
– Well intentioned people who bought tickets have to sell because they can’t go or someone bailed on them (incleased supply);
– The primary ticket seller (eg TicketMaster) releases more tickets in this time frame to thwart reselling or because there is excess;
– Resellers / scalpers alike have to compete with the above two and need to move tickets so they adjust prices on all but the very best tickets;
– Buyers come into the market in a less organized fashion so sellers have to entice people to buy. Typically people wrongly assume if they don’t have a ticket for an event a few weeks before, they probably cannot find them.
These factors make the few week period before the show a great time to buy, especially from eBay auctions.

PROOF: I like to provide a little proof for the nay sayers out there who think I am full of it. Below I show ticket prices for the better seats at TWO different SOLD OUT concerts. One at Madison Square Garden and the other at Tweeter Center in Massachusetts. The charts I sample average ticket prices from the on sale date until the 14th day before the concert. The second chart samples ticket prices 14 days or less before the concert date. I incliuded statistical information for the math geeks out there.

Key: Auction = single ticket auction price; Buy It Now = the per ticket price for Buy It Now;  Fixed Price = a single ticket sold at a fixed price (Stub Hub was kind enough to share the data).

Chart A: Kenny Chesney at Madison Square Garden, this is a sample of the better ticket prices 14 days or more before the event date. Section Quality two is the section in front of the stage, section quality 3 is right behind section 2.Kenny Chesney Ticket Prices - 14 Days or More Before Event

 
Chart B: The same Kenny Chesney concert now sampling ticket prices in the 14 days leading up to the event. Note that the average auction ticket price drops more than $60 and the average fixed price drops about $30.
Kenny Chesney Ticket Prices - Less Than 14 Days Before Event
 
Chart C: Jimmy Buffet at Tweeter Center in Massachusetts with ticket prices from the on sale date until the 14th day before the event.
Jimmy Buffet Tickets - More than 14 days Before Event
 
Chart D: The same ticket prices for the Jimmy Buffet concert 14days or less before the event. In this case prices have dropped more than $200 on the auction route, but they actually went up a few dollars for fixed price tickets – but not much.
Jimmy Buffet Tickets - Less Than 14 Days Before Event
 
Jimmy Buffet tickets (for reasons I do not know because I am not a parrot head) seem to hold prices on the fixed price market, and there are some exceptions like this for high demand tickets. However, overall you are not going to loose much by waiting. In fact, waiting can save you some decent cash. Most of the other events I examined in the course of my research had price patterns similar to that of Kenny Chesney – decent price drops in the last two weeks before the event.