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Posts that address common questions on how to buy tickets from resellers and strategies for getting tickets you want from the box office.

Acquiring Sundance Film Festival Tickets (legally)

Acquiring Sundance Film Festival Tickets (legally)

For more than ten years, I have attended Sundance Film Festival, usually with group of 8 or more people. Without knowing how the system works, getting tickets for one or ten films is not easy. Unless you are a Utah resident or have the cash to become a member of the Patron Circle, below is a guide on the options for getting tickets to Sundance film screenings.

Legit Option A: Buy Ticket Packages or Passes

Ticket packages and passes are great ways to enjoy the festival. They come with both tickets and credentials which allow broader access to festival venues. Another benefit is that package and pass holders have priority ticket selection. These are highly sought after options and in effort to ensure fairness in distribution they are made available thought something similar to a three dimensional matrix where you never know whats going on until its too late. Meaning, one has to register for a randomly assigned buying window -which- does not necessarily guarantee access to any pass or package. If one has acquired a pass or package, they have to wait again until early January for another randomly assigned window to allocate tickets to the films one wishes to see and that does not guarantee one will be able to acquire tickets – I have had cases where I could not get any tickets – just vouchers which can be exchanged at the box office or venues. It’s a bit irritating, but its probably the fairest process for distributing tickets I have observed.

The buying window for packages and passes is usually 3-4 days long. By the last day, only the most expensive options are left – if any at all. To increase chances of getting a window in the first 48 hours where options are abundant, be sure to have several people register for the pass buying window. Its important to use real people/addresses, they screen for duplicate registrations. By way of example, when 5 or 6 people register for a pass buying window, at least two always get a selection time in the first 48 hours. Note that in each buying window one can buy a total of two packages and passes, but not two of the same. Note that transferring passes and packages is complicated!

Legit Option B: Day of Showing Ticket Line

This is an ‘early bird gets the worm’ type of deal. Each night the box office managers takes inventory of unallocated tickets for each film. I can’t say for sure, but it seems they do keep a number of hold backs for all but the most high demand films. Around midnight, they post the film schedule on the box office door with the number of tickets available for the next days showings. The Festival Box Office in Park City opens at 8:00am every morning. As of recent there are 6-8 different lines open at once. This means that the first 6-8 people have a good chance of getting tickets for the films they wish to see. The first 20-30 people have a decent chance. After that the inventory is limited to the less popular films. This is where the early bird tactic comes into play. At 5am, there are usually 3-5 people in line – they have been there all night. At 5:30 there are 10; at 6am there are 20 plus. By 7am there are usually 100+. What I am saying here is if one shows up to the festival with no tickets, but can get to the box office by 5:30am every day, there is a great change of getting tickets to all but the high demand films. Note: one person can only by 4 tickets for one film.

Quasi Legit Option C: Extra Tickets

Similar to other ticket markets, people have extra tickets for a variety of reasons. Although ticket resale is not allowed at the festival, it does occur and there is no efficient exchange for those with extra tickets. Consequently, its pretty easy to get tickets from someone who has an extra. The best way to acquire a ticket is to arrive at the screening venue 20-30 minutes before the film begins. Take a position by the festival shuttle bus stop (or the flow of foot traffic from such) and just ask the passers by if they have an extra ticket. Some times they just give them away an other times its a face value exchange. Tickets as of recent are $20.


Red Sox Tickets at Bargain Prices?

Red Sox Tickets at Bargain Prices?

It seems the market has flipped at Fenway. Now is a good time to buy from the secondary market in Boston (yes, I really just did say that!).

“For more than seven years, the Red Sox have claimed that for every home game, the number of tickets sold and distributed has eclipsed the seating capacity of America’s Most Beloved Ballpark. But recently, the task of filling those seats has grown more difficult. Television ratings are down, and marketing campaigns have been revved up…” – Boston Globe

Read the full story:

Two idea’s:

1. Call Ace Tickets about one or two hours before the game and make an offer on tickets you are interested in, I like to start at 20% below face and work up from there. They are sales people, so hold your ground. It never hurts to ask if they have a pair in your fixed price range.

2. If you are buying from a street scalper, work in round numbers, e.g. $100 for a pair, $120 for a pair, etc. As I have noted before, approach politely, even a scalper can be charmed in this market!

SOLD OUT? Three Strategies for Getting Tickets

SOLD OUT? Three Strategies for Getting Tickets

It’s been about three years since I originally wrote this post. I came back here to check it for relevance and made a couple of light edits. This is still by far one of the most common questions that are posed when people ask about tickets. Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, One Direction, Madonna, [insert] your favorite team… in each case, the below are consistently applicable methods for finding tickets for events where tickets are not available for sale on or Live Nation.

Here is the skinny; a concert can “SELL OUT” at the box office, but a concert is rarely actually sold out. To friends and readers a like, below are three solid strategies for getting tickets to Lady Gaga and other concerts coming to your town this summer. Caveat: acquiring highly desired items is not supposed to be easy, effort is required. In following this advice you will need to try each method (especially 1 & 2) more than once until you are successful.

Strategy 1: Visit the primary sellers website (TicketMaster, etc) on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings between 9:45 and 11am in the two weeks leading up to the show you want to see – I like trying to find tickets at 10 and 10:30am, which is when they release previously held back tickets. I have snagged great tickets this way for everything from Coldplay to Pearl Jam.

Strategy 2: Scour or in the ten days leading up to the show of your choice up until 72 hours before. Both sites scour different reseller ticket sources and allow you to search by price, which eases the search process. Ignore tickets that are out of your price range and don’t let high prices scare you – in some cases brokers price tickets higher as a defensive strategy against arbitrage. If you don’t see a price you like, wait. Pointers: I like SeatGeeks the best at this point becuiase

Strategy 3: On the day of the concert with no tickets in hand, go the the venue 2 or 3 hours before showtime and stroll the tailgates looking for extras. This is probably best done by an extrovert, but the idea is you surf the barbecue and beer parties making friends and asking if anyone has an extra ticket. Scalpers utilize the strategy all the time and they usually try to buy tickets for below face value. Most people are very happy to sell tickets for the price they paid, less fees.

If you follow through on each one of these strategies I can almost assure you will find a pair of tickets at or near face value. Now, if you need evidence to support the suggestion that prices will be favorable in the few days leading up to the concert, see Resale Prices: What Goes Up…

Buying from a Scalper? Five Do’s and Don’ts

Buying from a Scalper? Five Do’s and Don’ts

Who likes ticket scalpers? Pose that question to a room full of average Joe’s and the showing of hands will be few. Call them mean, sharks, cheaters, or the lowest of the low, the reality is, they have little issue with their reputation. And name calling will not get you the tickets they have for the event you want to see. The fact is, most scalpers are very shrewd business people with excellent negotiating skills. Like a stock broker they buy low and sell high. So here is a quick list of five do’s and don’ts when seeking to buy tickets from a street scalper (in places where such activity is legal, of course!).

1. Do have a seat map for the event you want to attend and know what general area’s you want to sit. If you appear unsure or don’t know what you want, they may walk off.
2. Do approach them with confidence, in a friendly manner, and ask what kind of tickets they have and at what price. I usually say, “hi, what do you have?”
3. If they do not have the tickets you want OR you don’t feel comfortable buying from the person, say “no thanks” and walk away promptly
4. Only deal with scalpers who are in public, open area’s. Police often herd scalpers around events for various reasons, but it is highly unusual for a buyer to get in trouble for buying a scalped ticket. Be discreet, but do business where it is safe.
5. Let scalpers help you. Often times, they will not have what you want, but one of their buddies will. They usually are very well connected.

1. Don’t pick an argument. No matter how rude a scalper is to you, always be kind to them. They may come off rude, but that is part of their selling tactic. Ignore it.
2. Don’t buy internet tickets unless you know what you are doing. Always inspect the tickets carefully, front and back. If anything looks odd, just say thanks and walk away.
3. Don’t be hasty to buy the first thing you see unless the price is right. Tickets are usually plentiful for even the most sought after events. Start looking no more than 30 minutes before and buy when you are ready.
4. Don’t keep a big wad of cash in one pocket. I usually keep $100 in one pocket and $100 in another pocket as back up. This is also a negotiating tactic for you, “hey, I only have $100, lets make a deal.”
5. Don’t work alone. Always buy in groups of two or more. One person negotiates and the other should stand back and observe. The reality is, buying from a scalper can include an element of risk, depending on the event location and amount of police presence.

Finally, in many cities, legit ticket resellers have store fronts close to the venue. They are always a worth a visit before you turn to a scalper as they often have deals on last minute tickets. The rule with them is never take the price they first offer unless it is within $10-15 of face value. If it is more, being willing to walk away never hurt anyone and usually net’s a price cut.

Other suggestions welcome, of course.

Bargaining for Tickets on the Street

Bargaining for Tickets on the Street

Yesterday, I was on a flight from Chicago to Boston reading the paper when I was reminded that Game 7 of the NBA Playoffs between the Celtics and Orlando Magic was tipping-off at 8pm. Having been out of town for three weeks, I had the sudden urge to use my knowledge of ticket prices to get a pair of tickets for what could be a big victory OR the last game of the year. These are the cliff notes on how I found good tickets at 40% below face value.

My flight landed in Boston at 7:10, a friend picked me up at the airport and we arrived at TD Banknorth at 7:45pm – 15 minutes before tip-off. This seems last minute, but it is important to know that tip-off time is an artificial deadline that ticket scalpers use to persuade the average person into paying high premiums for a resold ticket. At 7:50, I staged myself a block from the venue where a lot of buying, selling, and offering was taking place. You know you are in the right spot when a few people are asking strangers “have tickets – need tickets?” while others are huddled in groups comparing tickets with one another.

The lay of ticket prices at this point was: had one pair of Loge, 15th row for $600
Loge (really good): $250-300 ($100-150 above face)
Upper Loge (good) $200-250
Balcony (fair) $100-150 (face $30-40)

Whether you arrive 30 minutes before the game or 10 minutes, it is important not to be rushed. Yes, the game starts at 8pm, but if you want a deal, you need to be patient. Scalpers are hard sellers, they will tell you prices are high and no one has tickets, but that is often not the case. Whenever I am on the market for tickets last minute, I will tell a scalper or two I am looking just to see what they will offer. When I decline, I say ‘too high’ or ‘not the right seats’. I don’t say “rip-off” – it is important to be polite to scalpers, even if they are rude to you. You never know when you will need their help.

At 8pm, chaos ensued as scalpers and buyers alike made last minute deals – deals where prices are often still too high. This is where you have to step back and watch the rally without being compelled to rush in and buy. I stood calmly with my friend watching all the trading going on and as the rush died down, I flew in like a vulture, seeking out the scraps. Five minutes after game time is a good time to go for scraps. People with extra tickets want to get in and scalpers know their product is diminishing in value with every passing minute.

While strolling around the front of the venue listening to the last minute deals taking place, I focused my interest on a pair of Suite tickets someone had offered me earlier for $600. I had offered $200 for the pair and the guy walked, as he should have. But I knew he would not get what he wanted so I let him sweat it out. It was now 8:10 and I was ready to buy. With the help of a scalper, I located the guy with the tickets I wanted and paid $300 cash for the pair with a combined face of $540 (including fee’s). I paid the scalper $10 for helping my find the guy again. Scalpers can sometimes be like real estate brokers it is considered courteous to give them some love for helping out.

By 8:15 I was in the suite, watching the game and happy knowing that, win or lose, I paid below face for the tickets I wanted. As an aside for those who would have been happy with a pair of balcony seats, those were selling for face value by the time I went inside the venue. It is amazing what 15 minutes will do to a ticket price.

How to Buy Tickets from Online Resellers

How to Buy Tickets from Online Resellers

Buying tickets from online resellers like StubHub, TicketLiquidator, RazorGator, AceTickets (I like Ace & StubHub the best), and the like is much different than buying tickets at auction on eBay or anywhere else. You must know in advance that when you buy tickets from one of these sites, you will likely pay a premium for doing so.

Good reasons for buying from an online reseller / scalper include:
– The show is in four days or less and you want assurance you will have tickets;
– You don’t have time to search elsewhere;
– You have an important client coming to town and you need to get a great seat for a show or game, price is not a consideration;
– You are filthy rich and prefer to spend time day trading than hunting auction sites for ticket deals.

Bad reasons for buying tickets from an online reseller / scalper include:
– You are lazy;
– You don’t know how to use eBay and are afraid to sign-up;
– You think that eBay is full of fraudulent sellers, which it is not;
– You think online resellers sell only the best tickets, which is also not true.

Two Key Rules:

1) Ticket resellers often power their sales platform by reenforcing reports that an event is “sold out.” Contrary to headlines and other grandious news, events are rarely ‘sold out.’ Even when there are reports of  ticket prices in the $1,000’s you are likely hearing about one or two isolated cases of one (very silly) person willing to pay $1,000 for a front row center seat. Even the most sought after tickets, average ticket prices are more reasonable (considering they are resold) than media claims and urban myth suggest. The truth is, few concerts or other events truly sell out. As my friend Flav-a-Flav says: Don’t Believe the Hype!

2) Unless you do not care or it is not your money, DO NOT BUY at or near the on-sale date for the event. Ticket prices are a mess at this time. Buyers everywhere and sellers trying to figure out what price to sell at = you could pay way too much.

If you are buying tickets from an online reseller, here are some tips for getting decent tickets at a decent price:

1. DON’T BUY THE TICKETS ONLINE if you can help it. Often times, the seller has an 800 number that leads to an agent (if you are in New England, call Trish at Ace Tickets, she is tough, but good). That agent has a sales objective and selling you a pair of tickets makes them look good. They are often empowered to give you a price break if you buy from them now. It may only be $10 or $20, but that is better than what you would have paid online. CAVEAT: make sure they are agreeing to sell you the tickets for the specific seats you want, confirm with them before you give the credit card number.
2. Price shop before you call, make sure you look at available seats and ticket prices on more than one site to see what is out there. You will be surprised to learn how many people visit one site and assume those are the only tickets that exist.
3. Do not call without a seat map in hand to reference and be sure you write down the name of the person you spoke with and the approximate time, in case there are any mis-understandings.
4. If you don’t get right combination of location and price you want on the first call, and you can wait, let the person know you want to continue looking.
5. BE POLITE and nice to the person you are speaking with. They are your friend. Tell them what you want and the price you are willing to pay, if they are a good sales person, they will ask for your name and number and call you if they get something you want. If they are not nice to you (which sometimes happens with ticket reseller agents) just say goodbye.

If you prefer to use an online reseller, patience and courtesy is a virtue. Almost always, the best prices will come to pass in the last 24 hours leading up to the event. More often, the better values come to pass within hours of the event. Typically, if I am going to buy a ticket from a reseller, I will call them the morning of the event, let them know what I want and the approximate price I want to pay. I leave my number and let them know I am willing to wait. Often times, I get a call about two hours or less before the event with an offer. They have people on site to do the ticket / cash exchange and in other cases they have a storefront location at the venue.

Remember: Resellers are professionals, all the do is sell tickets. They know what you are going to say before you say it. If you want selection at the best price, the way you get it is by being friendly AND if you buy a few tickets a year, establish a relationship with one company. repeat buys get more attention.

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.
How to Buy Tickets on eBay

How to Buy Tickets on eBay

Buying event tickets on eBay takes patience and a willingness to wait for the seat and price you want. As long as you are looking for tickets a week or more before the event, you have sufficient time to search for the tickets you want. If you don’t have time, see my other post.

Best practices for buying on eBay:

– It is almost always a very bad idea to buy event tickets on eBay (or any where else for that matter) the day they go on sale or within a week of the on sale date. This is because everyone else is looking and there are few tickets available to buy at this early stage. Unless it is the last Fleetwood Mac or Eagles show EVER, its not worth buying tickets in this time frame. Why?

Disclaimer: There are some limited cases where this method will not work as well. This includes cases where event demand is unprecedented and many people are willing to pay a lot of money for a ticket. Another case is small venue events where a big artist, like Coldplay or Britney is playing in a venue with a capacity of 5,000 or less. The Superbowl is another good example. In these cases, it is a free for all and all about luck. You know this disclaimer is in effect when either prices are double plus face value or when there are only two or three ticket listings for one specific show in one specific city.

– Hold out for the ticket and price you want.  If you don’t care where you sit, shop by price.  If you care where you sit, shop by location vigilantly and then by price. 

– If you are price shopping and don’t care where you sit, you have a lot more options and I do recommend waiting about 10-15 days before the event to buy your tickets. The cheap tickets often fall below face value in this time frame. Why? 

– Truly, the absolute best time to buy a ticket on eBay is during the two to three weeks preceding the event date. It is the time I have always had great success buying good tickets at or near face value. Certainly, as this information becomes common knowledge it will change somewhat, but the one thing that sellers cannot do is change the event date and the time frame by which they need to sell the tickets. The last thing they want to do is go to the venue and sell the tickets on the street.

– Study the venue seat map listed on the primary ticket sellers website – not ones posted on eBay. They are not always reliable. Know where you want to sit and what the face value of tickets are. Know the max you are willing to pay for each ticket (and yes, that price can be at or below face value, but expect to work harder to get that price).

The best buys on resold tickets from auctions are found when you:
a) watch  3 – 5 auctions that have tickets you really want;
b) make sure you login to eBay and watch these auctions the last five minutes they run, if you see a price you like, bid during the last 60 to 30 seconds of the auctions close. If you are new to this method, go with 60 seconds so you have time to find out if your bid price is the highest. Sometimes buyers set a maximum that is $10 – 20 over the current auction price;
c) Don’t get into the heat of the moment and bid beyond your preferred buy price. Be ready to let tickets go if they get too pricey unless you really, really want those tickets. Other tickets will come around.
d) If you loose an auction, let it go. Rinse and repeat.
e) Get more aggressive 10 days before the show.

Naturally, you should only buy event tickets from people with more than 10 seller (meaning, theywere the seller) feedback points and a rating of 99% or better. The reason for this is simple: peace of mind and security in knowing the seller will deliver the tickets promptly. The likelihood of having problems with a seller increases when their feedback does not meet my criteria.

Note to resellers and people who already know this stuff: Why, why, why are you giving our secrets away? 1) If I don’t someone else will; 2) I dislike imperfect information; 3.) Spend two years writing a research paper no one reads and you will understand.