Easy, Illustrated Instructions on How to get a Ticket to a Sold-Out Show.
How to get a ticket to a sold-out show - History
Here's my history of ticket buying and selling. Scroll down to the white section to get to the instructions.
In 1995, I volunteered to drive my sister Jane to Oakland to see Green Day in a sold out show at the Henry J. Kaiser auditorium. Tickets were $10, but I didn't have one. After a two-hour drive from Sacramento, I was thrilled to find a genuine scalper near the door, and bought one of his general admission tickets for $15. This was my introduction to the secondary ticket market. Later, my friend Julie Carniero listened to my experience and let me in on a secret of ticket scalping: The price of a ticket drops rapidly as the show begins. If you wait until after the show has started, you could probably get a ticket "for a pack of cigarettes".
In 1996 I found myself walking up to the Crest Theatre in Sacramento with two tickets in my hand. Joanna Digrigorio had declined my offer of a date to the sold out Everclear show, but I was excited by the prospect of selling this second ticket on the street outside. I hoped I could recoup my $15 purchase price. I had a vague sense that selling tickets was illegal, but wasn't sure enough of the rules to be dissuaded completely. There was a small crowd of guys waiting outside. As I approached, I just took my extra ticket and held it above my head, as if to say "hey, I have an extra ticket!"
I was mobbed.
"How much do you want for it?", was shouted down with inpromptu bidding war. "I'll give you $20", "I'll pay $21", "I'll pay $25".
"Sold." I said.
I sold the ticket for cash, and started to make my way over to the entrance, but the crowd wanted my other ticket too. Who wants to go to a show without Joanna Digrigorio? Not me. I sold my other ticket for another $25, missed the show and walked home counting my money.
How ticket sales work.
In my experience, this is how ticket sales work:
1. The leader of a social group notices that a movie or show is opening soon or coming to town.
2. Their first act as the Event Coordinator is to call or Facebook their friends and ask who would like to attend an event, describing the date, venue and ticket price.
3. Some members of her or his circle respond positively, placing orders for tickets or registering an intent to attend.
4. Tickets are purchased, sometimes by the Event Coordinator.
5. As the event grows near, some interested parties join in, buying more tickets. Other interested parties drop out, asking the event coordinator to dispense of their unwanted ticket.
6. The group gathers at the time and date of the event, where the Event Coordinator distributes the tickets, collecting money from her friends for the tickets.
7. The group attends the show.
How to get a ticket to a sold-out show
Go to the venue before the show and hold up a sign which clearly states what you want.
At almost every single event, concert or movie, extra tickets arrive in the pocket of these "event coordinators" which are no longer needed.
They value these tickets, as they bought them for real money and are about to attend the show themselves. They also know that the show is sold out, which tends to increase the value of tickets. However, most ticket holders do not bring the tool neccesary to sell this extra ticket: A sign. Without a sign, they could stand outside the venue, holding up the ticket. However, as an event coordinator, they have invested a lot of time and money and energy on this event, and would much rather hang out with their friends during this premium social pre-gaming time. Plus, the real owner of the ticket is probably sitting at home, stuck owing the event coordinator for the price of this unused ticket. At the least the would-be buyer and the event coordinator share the responsibility for the price of this unused ticket.
How to Beat Ticket Scalpers Outside of Shows
Sometimes scalpers will be present, likely holding signs offering to "buy and sell tickets". Scalpers can make money by buying these unwanted tickets at face value and selling for a higher price from interested buyers. How can you beat the scalpers? Here's how: By actually wanting to go to the show.
Ticket holders would rather sell their tickets to people who actually want to go to the show, not just those who want to profit from it like a parasite.
Four Steps to Get a Ticket to a Sold-Out Show
- Make a big sign - click here for sign-making instructions
- Arrive about 30 minutes early to the show, but do not expect to get a ticket until 1 minute before the show starts.
- Hold up your sign in a place where the most people can see you.
- When approached, negotiate a price to buy their ticket.
The negotiation should be painless when you are willing to pay the full retail price of the ticket, including the service charge, but every event is going to have different circumstances.
If you could stand to miss the show, offer a price which would be good for you. Your seller might not have any other customers around, giving you a strong negotiating position. If there is assigned seating, you will probably want to make your best offer, because you will be sitting next to the people you bought the ticket from.
If the show is general admission, your seller will be more likely to be pressed for time, anxious to secure a good seat inside.
There are likely to be other people arriving who are trying to buy or sell extra tickets. They may wish to stand nearby you and your sign, as that is where the deals will be made. After you find a ticket, you might abandon your sign where other people can use it.
My final advice is, if you have money, you can see the show. This technique has never failed me.
Warning: This technique may not work for Super Bowl Tickets
Super Bowl tickets are worth thousands of dollars. People wait their whole lives to go to a superbowl, even if their favorite team isn't in the game. Even the used ticket stubs are worth $100. I don't think it is likely you will be able to get a ticket for face value ($300) or less, even at halftime.
Examples of this ticket-buying technique for sold-out shows
- The first time I brought a sign to a show was in February of this year (2012). Hype Machine alerted me to the fact that FUN. was playing in town in a few days, but my wife wasn't interested, so I resolved to go alone. Unfortunately, the show was at Sacramento State University, and the venue was sold out.
Carrying my "NEED FUN TICKET" sign towards the entrance, other fans directed me closer to the box office, where I ran into Christopher Carlson, decked out in tie-dye. He recognized me from cockeyed.com, and knew me from working at the fair... and he had an extra ticket to the show. We were happy to find each other, and I promptly bought his ticket. While we stood there chatting, a trio of gals saw our sign and asked if either of us had another ticket. We didn't, but I was happy to let them use the sign to find another ticket. A few minutes later, they too were successful.
It was a great show! When I left, I found my sign discarded under a bench, having been modified with a question mark to suit a different purpose: NEED FUN TICKET?
- Two weeks later Hype Machine alerted me to another show in Sacramento. Donald Glover, performing as Childish Gambino, was playing a sold-out show at Ace of Spaces. I made another sign and headed downtown. NEED CHILDISH GAMBINO TICKET. I arrived before the main act, but long after the doors had opened. Most of the crowd was already inside, listening to an opening act. Nevertheless, I found a seller. It took 30 seconds. A group of three young people approached and asked me how much I would pay for their ticket. I told them $20, which was face value. The ticket holder, a dude, mentioned that tickets had been selling on Craigslist earlier that day for $60. I don't begrudge him his bargaining tactic. I countered that I thought I could get a ticket "out here" for face value. His companions urged him to make the sale at cost and we ended up splitting the price of the service charge.
I realized later that I was the only person outside waiting to buy a ticket, likely his only option for a sale, and could probably have offered less.
It was a great show!
This was the first show I'd seen where the artist performed in front of a huge light display, filled with the song lyrics as he sung them, a superized audience karaoke.
After this show, I heard that people had lined up for hours beforehand to get in and get a spot near the stage. This was a popular show, and I got a ticket in less than one minute out front with a sign.
After these two events, I was definitely ready to try getting into any event, no matter how popular or valuable the tickets were. I just need a couple more shows to sell out nearby.