Secrets to Scoring Cheap Concert Tickets

Live shows don't need to break the bank

Young woman sells headbands in exchange for tickets before Justin Bieber concert at Staples Center during his Believe Tour in Los Angeles. Credit: Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS

Live Nation came out with a suspiciously good deal this week. The entertainment company, in honor of National Concert Week, announced 1.5 million $20 “all-in” tickets that fans can purchase to attend more than 2,000 performances across its slate of upcoming summer music shows. Artists involved in that offering include Arcade Fire, Halsey, Maroon 5, Post Malone, and the Smashing Pumpkins.

The $20 tickets have no hidden fees attached, and they aren’t a one-off gimmick – rather, they’re smart business strategy that also pays off for fans. One of the reasons Live Nation is floating such a sparkling deal is that consumer demand for live music these days is at record levels, giving concert-runners a guaranteed market. (Live Nation could also be using the discount to fill up some emptier venues. It’s likely making money, not losing it, here.) While the company has not yet responded to request for comment on whether it will unveil more of these deals in the future, it did offer up a fixed-rate, buffet-style festival pass last summer and a similar combination deal for country music in January. With artists now also exploring new models of pricing, concert tickets may soon be much less of a strain on fans’ bank accounts.

There are already steps that fans can take, themselves, to score the best deals on stadium tours and smaller shows alike.

Buy immediately – or immediately beforehand. Ticket prices are a steep bell curve, with the cheapest rates offered right at the sale start and right before the show itself. Because promoters overestimate the number of seats they hold back, a flood of tickets may hit the market during the hours before a gig. Scalpers also tend to give up in the final stretch, slashing prices on tickets they don’t manage to sell for a profit. (A Jay-Z show in New York City this winter was, in desperation, taken down to as low as $6 a seat.) So if you sleep through the initial on-sale, there’s hope yet; you just have to take the risk of waiting until the last minute.

Put yourself on the list. Digital newsletters and subscriptions have made it easier to be in the know about pre-sales and special promotions. Sign up for your favorite artists’ email lists, and set alerts for the moment tickets are available – before sales open up to the general crowd.

Look into your wallet. A number of credit card companies including Citi, American Express, and Chase offer concert perks for cardholders. Sometimes it’s early access or special VIP offers to shows; other times, as was the case with Mastercard’s “Mastercard House” week this January with artists like SZA and Dua Lipa in New York City, customers can get into exclusive shows entirely for free.

Check social media. The secondhand market on sites like Facebook and Craigslist is overwhelmingly more reasonable in price than websites dedicated to ticket reselling, for the sheer reason that people on social media aren’t doing it for a profit. They tend to be fans who wanted to make it to a show themselves, but, for whatever reason, can’t anymore. Running a search on such sites with simple search terms (“selling Drake ticket,” for instance) plus the date you’re looking for is a good way to score a deal, as long as you can verify the authenticity of the offer.

Show up. Ticketmaster’s much-griped-about service charge can sometimes be avoided by purchasing tickets in person, at venues’ box offices. In addition, many venues in the United States reserve a number of tickets for physical sales, so if a show sells out online, it could still be available via the old-fashioned method – perhaps an abhorrence to millennials, but a badge of pride for many older show-goers – of showing up and getting in a queue.