Save Money On Concert & Event Tickets

by Millie Kay G. on 2011-11-0126

Back when someone I knew worked at an arena, I was able to score tickets to basketball games, exciting concerts and children’s events for free or at a low price. Unfortunately, my connection has decided to move on, so like everyone else, I’m now subjected to ticket shock whenever I’m out looking for event tickets. I’m surprised by how much the arenas across the country are actually charging these days. Do you believe that we can still save money on concerts, events and tickets even when you don’t know an insider? I’d like to be optimistic.

Take a look at your pile of ticket stubs from over the years and you’ll see that tickets, concerts and performances have varying costs. Let’s look at some events around the country to see the prices.

Event City Price
L.A. Kings Hockey Los Angeles $34.50 to $465
Jay-Z & Kanye West Atlanta $69.95 to $284.15
Chicago Bears Football Chicago $74 to $385
Katy Perry New York $49.50 to $69.50

Why are events and live performances so expensive when they only last for a few hours? More popular performers can command large box office fees, some of which they’ll use to pay the performers and crew who travel with them or to pay for expensive equipment. The promoters typically need to pay the hosting venue a fee as well, plus they want to make a profit so they can afford to do it all again next year.

Also, the venues where these events happen have infrastructure costs and a lot of staff members who work behind the scenes. A portion of these costs might be passed on to consumers in the form of service charges. You’re going to pay for ticket printing, advertising and other costs associated with each event. In a way, you’re paying for the ticket scanners, kiosks and those harried clerks behind the glass in the ticket office, too. Then there’s the software to print those tickets, which adds to the costs of the box office. These charges may show up on your tickets as convenience fees, facility fees and/or order processing fees.

I’ve seen a lot of complaints about these extra “service charges” in forums and social sites such as Reddit; some examples even show how ticket prices seem to balloon to twice their cost after all the extra fees are applied! Ticketmaster is a particular target for a lot of these complaints, as some of the fees they list seem to come out of left field and almost appear to be arbitrarily listed. But taking a look at their fine print may yield some answers — they’re charging for a reason!

concert ticket fees
Image Source: Reddit.com

Even free concerts like Brooklyn’s Pool Parties can cost upwards of $500,000 to produce, according to NPR. Although artists and their managers may prefer lower ticket costs for their fans, the venues they perform in need a certain amount of revenue to stay open.

Flexible Ticket Pricing: A New Pricing Model

Here’s one system that some brokers are using to enable a “fair” pricing system: letting the market decide on how these ticket prices are set. How about having a pricing system that responds to supply and demand? Flexible ticket pricing is one new way to possibly sell more tickets and attract event goers. I’ve read that high volume ticket sellers like Ticketmaster are willing to try to adjust prices to encourage more sales. Instead of having a ticket price that doesn’t move once the event’s on sale, flexible ticket pricing means that a price can be reduced when sales are off. So it’s an interesting move because Live Nation, Ticketmaster’s parent company, saw sales drop by over 10 percent in 2010. Selling a larger number of tickets for varying prices should benefit event goers in the long run.

ScoreBig is another ticket seller that hopes more people will buy into the flexible ticket pricing model. Forbes compares ScoreBig’s business model to that of eBay and Priceline. One caveat of flexible ticket pricing: ticket sellers may decide to increase prices if sales are high for an event.

The Risks of Scalping

But what happens for some concerts or events, when the tickets sell out before you can buy any? In many cases, ticket scalpers may be spotted outside the arena. Unfortunately, you may find that the scalped tickets are marked up to painful rates. Several years ago, it was reported that Hannah Montana tickets were scooped up, then sold for 18 times their original price!

Although ticket scalping may be illegal or discouraged in certain states, desperate parents may feel justified in taking the risk. Besides checking outside the arena, they might scour Craigslist or the newspaper classified ads. Auction sites may allow the reselling of event tickets and eBay has outlined an event ticket resale policy. Here are a few issues with scalping that you must know:

1. Event cancellations or schedule changes may not extend to scalped tickets. When you buy a scalped ticket, you run the risk of losing your money if the event is cancelled or postponed. An arena may limit refunds or exchanges to the original buyer, meaning you lose out if you can’t find the person who sold you the ticket. If you’re purchasing a ticket before the day of the event, ask for contact information and a cancellation policy. Not everyone will be glad to comply, but that may be a signal to find a more cooperative seller.

2. You may end up with unusable tickets. Another aspect of scalping is the possibility of buying fraudulent tickets. You may not know the person who is offering to sell you the ticket, but you can fend off fake tickets. I suggest you go to the venue’s website and study the listing for the event, the seating chart and any examples of the ticket stock itself. A fake ticket may have misspellings or a seat that doesn’t exist. Also, the stock may be the wrong size or shape.

10 Ways To Reduce Fees & Save Money On Concerts, Events & Tickets

Here are a few tips to keep in mind in order to minimize ticket costs:

1. Pick up tickets in person. Is there any chance of avoiding some of those fees I mentioned above? You can pick up tickets at the box office yourself instead of having them mailed to you, or print the tickets at home.

2. Opt out of event ticket insurance if you don’t think you’ll need it. Here’s a typical insurance charge of $7 by Ticketmaster — it allows you to get reimbursed in case you end up having to miss the event due to an accident, a trip delay or an illness. The smaller this amount as a percentage of your ticket cost, the more it makes sense. But in general, you may want to skip it.

3. Sign up as a “fan” or go for the cheaper experience. How can you save money when it comes to the base fees? To make an obvious point, it’s cheaper to sit in the nosebleed sections than front row center. If the performer you want to see has some sort of fan club or newsletter, sign up for it as soon as the concert tour is announced. Some artists like to give their fans first crack at discounted tickets.

4. Get your tickets early. Parents who call for front row Justin Bieber tickets the night of the concert will be out of luck. If by any chance there are any left, they will end up paying scalpers through the nose. If you need handicap accessible seats, you should call early as well. There may be a limited number of seats available.

5. Have a flexible schedule, so check the different show days and times. An event on a Thursday may have tickets that are cheaper than weekend events. Do you have to see a concert or performance in your city? If you’re willing to travel a bit, it might be cheaper to go see an event in another location. For instance, an event in Fresno might be cheaper than in San Francisco. To reduce your travel costs, make arrangements to go with a group of friends or family.

6. Go for season tickets if you are big fans of any type of sport. But do the math to make sure that you’ll pay less per ticket.

7. Try group sales as another way to save. Get a crowd together and call the box office to see if you can score a discount. In particular, school groups can benefit from this.

8. Check your credit card rewards programs. Certain credit card companies like American Express have rewards programs that give members special offers on tickets and events. Check your credit card’s website first the next time you look for tickets. Here’s a list of credit cards with such rewards.

9. Decide what your limit is before you hunt down the best seats in the house so you don’t suffer from sticker shock months after the event or game.

10. Shop around. Well, this seems obvious. If you still don’t like the ticket prices offered for a particular event, vote with your dollars. Go see someone with better ticket prices at a different venue.

So there are a few things you may end up having to do if you truly want to save money on entertainment tickets. While some feel that the fees are too high, attending such events is a treat that many of us splurge on. After all, it’s not everyday that we get a chance to see our favorite artist or cheer our favorite team in person.

Created July 9, 2008. Updated November 1, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Silicon Valley Blogger July 7, 2008 at 1:29 pm

The truth is, I don’t spend much on concerts. So I’m already ahead as far as minimizing expenses towards this sort of pastime. In fact, the last concert I attended in a long while wasn’t even a real concert. It was the American Idol Poptarts concert in the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Not that I attend concerts often either, because I don’t. The three concerts I’ve attended in the last 9 years have all been American Idol concerts.

American Idol Concert Ticket

Back in 2007, I remember spending exactly $163 on two tickets plus $20 for parking for that concert, along with some extra change for a couple of pretty good turkey sandwiches and drinks on location. I already thought it was steep. Over the last several years, these tickets have gotten more and more inflated with the times. I’ve noticed that these concert tickets and paraphernalia are to soccer moms and their kids, as sports events are to men and their kids. And we all know how much those season tickets can cost. I’m really glad I’m not a big sports or live entertainment fan.

Pete @ biblemoneymatters July 9, 2008 at 2:29 pm

My wife went to american idol live a year or two ago as well – I wouldn’t go if my life depended on it :).

Silicon Valley Blogger July 9, 2008 at 3:54 pm

LOL! Lots of women I know have this show as a “sport”. You guys have your Superbowl and other team sports events… :) Guess we’re all even! :D

Patrick July 9, 2008 at 6:42 pm

Concert tickets have become very expensive, but I still enjoy going out for a night every once and a while. I prefer going out for experiences more than just buying “stuff.” :)

jim July 10, 2008 at 4:37 am

American Idol as a sport? I dunno… :)

Silicon Valley Blogger July 10, 2008 at 8:14 am

Jim,

Haha! Let’s say it’s taken very seriously, just like any other sport… lol. You don’t want to see what goes on in the heart of fandom.

jim July 10, 2008 at 8:48 am

:) okok, I believe you.. hahaha

RacerX July 10, 2008 at 8:55 am

I won’t even comment about the American Idol thing since my love of SVB knows no bounds…

However, touring and merchandising are the only ways acts make any money today as very few CD are sold and iTunes via a Major label nets the artist about 7cents each. (Although iTunes pays 66 cent…don’t get me started on major labels..)

To have a major tour out there it cost about $1Million per week, about $1.5 million for Stadium size tours. This is just the cost of crew and gear, not to mention talent costs.

This is why tickets are $$$ today.

Silicon Valley Blogger July 10, 2008 at 9:03 am

Racer X and everyone,

Oh my! Ah, I hope I haven’t exposed myself too much here… LOL! I’m so cheesy sometimes I’ll admit it. But yeah, good clean fun.

Interesting notes on the expenses behind concerts. I can appreciate all the work everyone involved puts into these shows. I realize that the hike in costs is pricing out a lot of people. Still, the arenas and concert venues for some of this stuff remain pretty packed and sold out. So they can only raise prices more to keep the balance….

I still remember those days fondly in the 1980′s when I watched Depeche Mode concerts and I paid around $20 a ticket (or something like that)….!

Discount Concert Tickets July 12, 2008 at 11:14 am

Actually ticket prices have actually gone down as online ticket brokers have increased the competition. Only a few years ago you had to go to a local ticket broker if you wanted tickets to a sold out concert. Now there are thousands of brokers who are all competing for you dollar. So although those $80 + tickets to see the Idols live may seem expensive, those might have been $250 each 5 years ago.

Silicon Valley Blogger July 12, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Hmmmm… that’s interesting. Well that’s good to know that competition is having a downward pressure on ticket prices. I figured it was like the movies when the prices only go up when it comes to entertainment!

TCC September 18, 2008 at 1:21 am

i hate that show American idol. I would never go see it live, even if the tickets were free. I would prefer to see Paula, but she’s always doped up on some type of drug…geeze.

Millie Kay G. November 1, 2011 at 3:39 pm

It’s interesting that until a few years ago, the presence of local promoters was more noticeable. These were promoters who made arrangements for artists to perform at different arenas and theaters. These promoters may still be out there, but they’ve been eclipsed by the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which now package together promotions and ticketing. So these days, an artist can go all across the country, performing in venues that Live Nation owns without involving local promoters.

You’d expect that competing venues and promoters may find it hard to attract performers who don’t have Live Nation’s deep pockets. So what do you think — would you consider the Live Nation and Ticketmaster merger an unhealthy monopoly?

Silicon Valley Blogger November 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm

AI is no longer the “in” thing. It’s jumped the shark and Paula Abdul is no longer a judge. Things have changed this past year in the “reality show” front! So I doubt I’ll be watching any concerts for a while.

Kosmo November 1, 2011 at 6:43 pm

What I hate is paying extra to print off your own tickets at home. I’m saving them the cost of printing the tickets, and I have to pay for the privilege.

krantcents November 1, 2011 at 7:47 pm

We have an inside track. My wife knows somebody who works for a major concert promoter. We get house seats. The price is fair, but the seats are outstanding.

Silicon Valley Blogger November 1, 2011 at 11:05 pm

@Kosmo,
Ah, so glad I am not much of a concert goer that I’ve noticed that you have to pay for printing off tickets! That seems a bit much, I agree!

@Krantcents,
I’m jealous. Millie (the author of the article) also mentions getting really great deals by knowing someone in the biz. That may be the best way to cut costs (or get an upgrade) yet. Befriend a promoter! :) It works the same way with the airline industry. I’ve had many opportunities to get better seats (beyond having the miles) just because we know someone high up enough who is affiliated with a particular airline.

PKamp3 November 2, 2011 at 6:51 am

Finding a scalper is pretty good since you can usually talk them down simply by pulling out a sum and saying it’s all you have. If it doesn’t work? There’s always another scalper.

I don’t this that moving to ‘fair’ ticket prices is going to fix anything. The fact is, most concert tickets are overpriced – that’s why they sell out in 4 minutes only to have tickets pop up on eBay and CL 20 minutes later for 5x face value. In an auction style ‘fair price’ scheme, that mechanism would happen and the money would go to TicketMaster instead of middlemen.

I liked this point, “Although artists and their managers may prefer lower ticket costs for their fans, the venues they perform in need a certain amount of revenue to stay open.”, it reminded me that Pearl Jam got in a tle with TM in the past, lost, and four years later signed up with them again. Truth is, only increasing supply (more shows) will really bring down prices…

catherine turley November 2, 2011 at 11:09 am

i save on the symphony by being a season ticket holder. i usually give away a couple of tickets as gifts, since i can’t go to all the performances. i also have started checking tix4cause, but so far nothing in my area.

Yazmin November 3, 2011 at 12:19 pm

If you like classical music, but can’t stand the ticket price you can go in for free to see their rehearsals. Most concert halls allow this. Just give them a call to check!

Rose November 8, 2011 at 11:23 pm

We get most of our entertainment free – concerts and some sporting events – because my husband is a freelance writer for several music sites and a couple of sports sites, and I am a hobby photographer, so I sometimes get a photo pass and I take photos to go with the reviews. We could probably go to a show every night, but in our 40s & 50s, we don’t want to be out till 3 am quite that frequently. We do probably average a half-dozen things a month though — and I have both a full time job and a one night a week teaching job too, and my husband does other paid reporting as well, so we’re busy. But we like our entertainment, and would probably be spending $300-500 otherwise, and now, at most, we spend maybe $75 a month on entertainment (and we have no expenses for parking, gas, babysitting, drinks — just a couple of bus rides and maybe a soda or water, & that’s it).

Silicon Valley Blogger November 8, 2011 at 11:40 pm

@PKamp3,
An excellent tip regarding saying “that’s all I have to offer” to a scalper. If you’re ready to walk away, there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll take what you’ve got.

@Catherine,
I haven’t gone for a seasons pass for anything yet. But it does make sense to be able to gift some of those tickets out if you are not using them! :)

@Yazmin,
Interesting idea! You’d have to keep up with their rehearsal schedule though. But won’t it involve a lot of fits and starts during a performance because it’s a rehearsal? Also, you’d probably want to attend one of these events with a date (usually), so you may still prefer the real experience…. Just a thought!

@Rose,
That’s a great idea! Online publishers or event journalists may have an insider angle on this because if you decide to build a site or go as a reporter that covers entertainment events and venues, then you may just catch a break with the pricing (or someone will be willing to shoulder the expense for you).

Chris November 21, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Lots of good advice here. At BestEventTickets4U.com, you get the reassurance of knowing that your purchases are backed by a 125% money back guarantee and delivery can be tracked by FedEx through an allocated tracking number. Happy ticket hunting.

Silicon Valley Blogger November 21, 2011 at 7:59 pm

@Chris,
BestEventTickets4U.com looks like it’s just redirecting to ticketnetwork.com. I’d advise just going directly to ticketnetwork.com if that’s the case.

Martin February 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm

You may find cheaper tickets through people desperate to get rid of them, but it may be difficult to find bargain tickets for popular events through any resource.

John R. April 4, 2012 at 11:07 pm

I agree about your points on how to avoid getting ripped off — it’s wise to compare the tickets being offered to the event’s listing at its venue. So if you’re looking at a seat in a particular section at an online ticket broker, you can go to the event listing and see where the seat is located on a map. If the seat doesn’t exist on the arena or theater’s website, then you might be facing trouble.

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