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What to Know before You Try to Buy Concert Tickets

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By Nedra Rhone

concert_ticket(MCT)—Have you found it almost impossible to get tickets to in-demand live events? You’re not alone.

More than a decade ago, the ticket buying industry underwent radical change, pretty much wiping out the days of going to the box office or camping out overnight to buy tickets for a big show. Even getting tickets through Ticketmaster — the dominant ticket seller in the country — isn’t guaranteed. Last month, for example, plenty of would-be concertgoers logged on to buy tickets to Beyonce’s July 12 show at the Arena at Gwinnett Center outside Atlanta only to find themselves shut out. Why? Because in reality — for some of the biggest live ticketed events — the majority of seats are gone before the public sale even begins.

Presale allotments to sources ranging from fan clubs to credit card companies and sales to secondary ticket brokers can leave a limited number of tickets for the buying public. Those who do manage to score tickets, pay for them dearly, and not just in the face-value of the ticket. Fees — sometimes clear and sometimes not so clear — are attached to most online ticket sales and can quickly hike up the price of a ticket by 20 percent or more.

So how can you navigate this tricky ticket buying terrain? Here are a some tips culled from a range of sources including Fan Freedom, a consumer advocacy group initially funded by ticket reseller StubHub.com, a division of eBay and Seat Geek, an online ticket aggregator that helps consumers find the best ticket deals: Get in on the presale action. Ticket presales and holdbacks can amount to up to 90 percent of the total tickets, leaving only 10 percent available to the general public, according to Fan Freedom. Holdbacks occur when artists, management, venues and ticketing companies presell or reserve tickets to fan club members, VIPs, premium credit card holders and personal acquaintances. For a recent Justin Bieber concert in Nashville, only 1,001 out of 14,000 seats were available during the public sale, says a spokesperson for Fan Freedom.

The upshot? Join the fan clubs of your favorite artists. Look for alerts from your credit card company regarding presales. Get on the mailing lists of venues that host big events. Sign up with Ticketmaster and LiveNation to gain access to Web or app based presales. You give up some personal information (email address, demographics), but in return you get early access to tickets.

Go solo. You have a good chance of getting a good seat during a public sale if you’re only looking for one seat. Most people are seeking multiple tickets all in a row. That’s a bummer if you want to go with friends, but hey … Consider buying from alternate sources … but exercise caution. Fan Freedom cites a Bruce Springsteen fan who was tricked by a website he thought was for the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., but was actually a ticket reseller. Even if a website looks like the official site, it may be bogus.

To avoid scams: Pay attention to URLs: When buying tickets directly from a venue, check the website’s URL to ensure you don’t get duped by an imposter.

Use reliable sellers: Brokers like TicketNetwork.com and StubHub.com have tickets at prices higher than face value, but not as high as you may pay for leftovers from the public sale or ridiculously priced VIP packages. Fan Freedom suggests checking company ratings with the Better Business Bureau and verifying ticket brokers are members of the National Association of Ticket Brokers, whose Code of Ethics requires members to adhere to basic consumer protections.

Check your ticket vendor’s guarantee policy: According to Fan Freedom, secondary ticket sellers like Stub Hub, TicketsNow, Ace Tickets and All-Shows guarantee every ticket sold on their sites and will replace them or provide refunds to consumers if they receive the wrong tickets, their tickets are invalid or an event is cancel ed. This may not be the case for all online ticket sellers.

Rate your deal: To determine if you’re getting a good deal, check online ticket aggregators like SeatGeek.com, which offers Deal Score, a proprietary system that analyzes and rates available tickets for sale online to show you which ones offer the most value for the money. It also provides a link directly to Ticketmaster’s official box office so you can check there for available tickets instead of using a secondary seller.

Buy with a credit card: Regardless of where you buy tickets, be sure to use a credit card so you can dispute any unfair or unauthorized charges.

Read the fine print: Some artists and venues sell restricted paperless tickets, requiring the buyer to show up at the venue and present the purchasing credit card and photo ID, according to Fan Freedom. With these tickets, the buyer does not receive a physical ticket and cannot easily transfer these tickets. When buying paperless tickets as a gift, Ticketmaster recommends you pay with the recipient’s credit card and reimburse them. To which we say, Huh? How is that a gift? Some venues also may limit the number of tickets you can buy. If you are able to buy tickets on behalf of friends, make sure you know the maximum number of tickets allotted or your order may be canceled without notice.

Know the fees. This isn’t always easy since fees tend to change with the wind. There are buyer fees, shipping fees and fees that don’t seem to be for any reason other than charging a fee. Last year, Seat Geek showed a sample fees from top resellers on a $100 ticket. The fees added an additional $25 to $41 on tickets from every source other than eBay (no fees there, but also limited protections). Pay attention to your subtotal, says Fan Freedom, as it can change throughout the ticket buying process.

©2013 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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