There is nothing more disappointing than missing out on tickets to see your favorite artist live in concert.
Especially after two very long years of canceled gigs, postponed tours and ticket refunds.
With pandemic restrictions mostly lifted, pent-up demand is driving concert ticket prices sky high across the country.
It can be really, really hard for an average person to get those prized concert tickets from big name artists without paying an arm and a leg.
Certain concert tickets are so expensive in part because experienced brokers gobble up a big chunk of tickets during the presale and general sale, often enlisting illegal bots to make bulk purchases.
Tickets are then resold on secondary market sites like StubHub, Vivid Seat and Ticketmaster, with anywhere from a 50% to 5,000% mark-up.
Yep, it’s a pretty wacked-out system: Artists sell their tickets low to save face before bots and scalpers scoop up hundreds of tickets to inflate prices, leading to an outrageously expensive night out.
In May, Harry Styles announced a one-night-only show in New York City.
Tickets started at $25, but sold out almost immediately. Within hours, prices soared from $600 to $11,000 for a single resale ticket on Ticketmaster’s secondary market, according to Newsweek.
Yeah, that’s the definition of a lot.
Live Nation, parent company of Ticketmaster, all but gloated about surging consumer demand in its Q1 earnings report, noting that average resale ticket prices are up almost 20% compared to the first quarter of 2019.
“We have sold almost 20 million more tickets to our concerts this year than at this point in 2019,” noted Live Nation President and CEO Michael Rapino in the May 5 report. “Concert fans are showing no signs of slowing down — they are paying more for the best tickets … and spending more onsite.”
Skip the Scalpers, Bypass the Bots
Resale prices rise with high demand. And demand has been breaking records as a seemingly endless procession of big-name musicians hit the road again.
This means you may never get an inexpensive (even relatively so) ticket to a popular artist’s live show unless you can snag one at face value before the bots swoop in — or wait until the last-minute to buy your tickets.
Here are a few tips and tricks on how to get cheap concert tickets to your next unforgettable show.
Get In On the Presale
Buying concert tickets at face value — especially to high-profile stadium shows like Beyoncé or Justin Bieber — is no easy feat.
The presale period might be the best time to snag cheap tickets before the sale is opened to the general public.
Here are a few ways to get in on that presale action.
Become a (Super) Fan
Joining an artist’s fan club can get you early access to their ticket sales.
You can join a fan club (check the artist’s website for details), sign up for email lists or follow the social media accounts of your favorite artists to receive early-access presale codes.
Some musicians also have street teams of volunteers. In exchange for spreading the word about your favorite band by putting up posters and posting about them on social media, you may be able to score discount tickets or at least a presale code.
Whip Out Your Credit Card
While you always want to be cautious signing up for (and using) a credit card, that small but mighty piece of plastic can sometimes be your ticket to the presale realm.
Ticketmaster, the main site for concert ticket sales, often offers exclusive presale opportunities to Chase, Citibank and American Express cardholders.
A growing number of credit card companies also let you redeem your cash back points for live event tickets.
Capital One Entertainment, for example, allows cardholders to purchase or redeem rewards for tickets to hundreds of thousands of events worldwide, including sporting events and live music.
Whether you carry one of Capital One’s travel cards or a simple cash-back card, you can get access to presale events along with curated “exclusive” packages that can include things like meet-and-greets not available to the general public.
Search Online for Presale Codes
As a last-ditch effort to get your hands on a presale access code, you can simply take to the internet with a Google or Twitter search. “Artists name” + “presale” will generally get you where you want to be.
Buy Tickets the Day They Drop
To purchase concert tickets to your dream show during the general sale period, you need to be quick — and come prepared.
Create an Account
Prior to the day tickets go on sale, create a user account on whichever website you’ll be using to purchase your concert tickets.
Nothing slows you down more in those frantic moments between loading your cart and checking out than having to create an account and fill out all of your information.
Make a Plan
Set yourself up for success by making a plan. Look at a map of the venue to see how the different sections are labeled and decide which area you’d like to be in.
That way, on the day of the sale, you won’t end up panic-picking seats you’re not totally thrilled about.
Watch the Clock
Don’t just set an alarm for the exact moment the tickets are supposed to drop. Some sales roll out in phases, and the first bunch may drop a few minutes before the designated time (although there’s no telling when).
Either way, you’ll want time to log into your account and get ready, so make sure you set a reminder for 15 minutes before the actual on-sale time.
Get online using the fastest Wi-Fi or wired internet connection you can. A slow internet connection could seriously impede your chances when you’re competing against thousands of other fans (and machines).
Grab Your Ticket on the Go
Most ticket sale sites have a mobile site or phone app, so you don’t have to miss a sale just because you can’t be tied to your home computer.
Depending on the speed of your device, it might even make sense to buy concert tickets on your phone instead of your regular computer if your mobile device gets the job done faster.
Up Your Chances
If you plan on going to the show with a friend, have that person try to buy tickets at the same time on a different device.
This will up your odds of getting concert tickets on the first try.
If you both (magically) end up buying two tickets, you can sell the extras through a verified resale site. (Just remember to be a good groupie and resist the urge to rip off other fans by jacking up the price.)
Strength in (Smaller) Numbers
If you’re going with a big group, you might have to split up.
Buying a large chunk of tickets is difficult, since even one already-bought seat could make the site cancel your entire order. Decide ahead of time who will sit with whom and plan on buying tickets in pairs instead.
If you’re really on a budget, you can also save money by sitting solo.
Blocks of seats are more popular (and more expensive) than single seats, so venues and ticket brokers often sell isolated single seats at a discounted rate.
Look For Last-Minute Tickets
In the same way that waves of tickets may be released a bit early, some tickets may be held until hours, days or weeks later. Check back once in a while to see whether there are any more tickets available.
When scalpers and resellers fail to sell all their extra tickets, they offer cheap prices at the last minute so they can recoup some of their initial costs.
The day before or the day of an event is the best time to find cheap concert tickets if you missed the presale window.
It might be tough to wait until the very last minute to secure your tickets, especially if you’re traveling to the show and need to arrange accommodations.
But if you live nearby the venue and can keep your calendar clear that night, waiting until the last minute can be a great opportunity to get cheap tickets.
Just make sure to buy tickets from verified, third-party sites like StubHub, SeatGeek, RazorGator, Vivid Seats and TicketsNow.
You’ll still pay fees but they’re generally cheaper than Ticketmaster’s bevy of charges.
You can also try aggregator sites, like Ticketwood, which scans the web for the best deals from several resale sites at once.
Other Ways to Get Cheap Concert Tickets
Even if you didn’t beat the bots, there’s other ways to get cheap concert tickets — if you’re willing to get creative.
Go for the Cheap Seats in Cheap Cities
Be willing to compromise for nosebleeds if seeing Taylor Swift live is really super important to you. You’ll always pay more for seats close to the stage.
And remember: Some tour dates and venues are cheaper than others. If you live within driving distance of two major cities, check ticket prices for both sites. You might find tickets are cheaper in Louisville, Kentucky, for example, than in Nashville.
Try the Box Office
You can always shave a little off the ticket price by going directly to the venue’s box office. Most theaters and arenas have a box office where you can buy concert tickets directly, avoiding ticket seller service fees. Box office hours are limited so make sure to check what hours they’re open before you visit.
Work the Event
Contact the venue to see if event staff or security get free tickets or discounts. You won’t get to hang out and relax like a standard concert goer, but you could save a ton of money on tickets or get access to a sold out show.
Win a Ticket
Sometimes bands, music venues and radio stations offer free concert tickets. You may need to be caller number X to get a pair of free tickets on the radio. Follow your local radio stations or favorite bands on social media so you can learn about giveaways and contests.
Groupon offers great deals on lots of local events and activities — including sports tickets and concerts.
You can score discounted tickets on Groupon, especially for shows less than two months away. For example, lawn seats for Train and Jewel in concert in Tampa were available for $20 on Groupon — but went for $35 on Ticketmaster. The seats probably won’t be great, but it’s a way to save money.
Grace Schweizer is the email content writer at The Penny Hoarder
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.