There are more ways to buy tickets to see your favorite artists and sports teams than ever before, but that can also make the process feel daunting. Should you rush to get the first seats you can on Ticketmaster before an event sells out? Or should you wait it out and try your luck on the secondary marketplace, buying resale tickets from a vendor like StubHub or SeatGeek? MONEY spoke with StubHub spokesperson Jessica Erskine about the value of the secondary marketplace and how you should navigate it to make sure you’re getting the best deal—and how to avoid getting ripped off, or worse, a fake ticket.
Looking for the cheapest? Never buy during the initial sale.
“The good news is that with the secondary marketplace, you no longer have to rely on the on-sale,” Erskine says, referring to the first sale of tickets. “It means you have the option of shopping around and everyone has a different qualification for what they consider value.” Think about what you want out of your tickets. If you’re simply looking to get into the event, she says it’s very rare you’ll get the best price from the on-sale. You’re likely to get the best selection, though.
It actually pays to wait.
It might seem counterintuitive, but you’re generally not going to get a cheaper ticket by buying early. That’s just not how the laws of supply and demand work. “You’ll spend a little less the closer you get to the show,” Erskine says. “There are a lot of people who may want to go to the event, but if they can get a certain price point, they’ll get rid of the ticket. And there’s a lot of people who buy four tickets with the intention of bringing their best friends, and those people can’t show up, so they just need to get rid of the tickets.” With the hours to an event ticking away, people who need to unload their tickets are more likely to accept a lower price.
Set up price alerts.
Reputable sites like StubHub and SeatGeek can feel overwhelming when browsing, but they offer criteria to narrow down what you want. First step: download the StubHub or SeatGeek app from the iTunes Store or Google Play.
Now, say you want to see an upcoming Guns N’ Roses concert, but you don’t want to pay more than $130. Choose that maximum price, and StubHub will let you know when and if what you want becomes available. StubHub also has a “Best Value” tool that allows you to sort by price and section, and it has an algorithm that determines the best deal for what you’re getting.
Be comfortable going solo.
If you’re going to a seated event, it’s always going to be a little tougher to get two or three or four tickets together. “If you just want to get in and you’re really looking at price point, look for single tickets because you’ll find a lot of those instances as well where someone just had that one extra ticket,” Erskine says. Hey, who says you can’t headbang to Metallica by yourself?
Always make sure you’re buying from a vendor with protections.
It’s impossible not to cringe when you read stories about people being denied access to Hamilton because they bought fake tickets. That’s why, no matter how hot the event, you should insist on buying from vendors that offer certain protections on resale tickets. StubHub, for example, has a security team that constantly searches for fraud. As a customer, look out for 24-hour customer service, so you can be sure to get help when you need it. Finally, partnerships like StubHub’s with Major League Baseball insure the ticket you’re buying is legit.
Maybe skip going to that coveted playoff game.
Sporting events that offer the highest stakes also don’t tend to drop much in price. “We don’t see them dropping as much when it’s an experience of that bucket-list nature,” she says. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a great experience for the price of a couple beers. “Look for a game that might not be such a high-risk competition,” she says. “The live experience is indescribable no matter what.”
Similarly, seek out up-and-coming music artists you happen to love. You might be surprised at the level of talent you can see for around $30. Even Chance the Rapper was once an unknown.
If all else fails, look for the unlikely seat.
If all you want to do is see your favorite act (or, well, partly see them), search for tickets most people don’t want. “I would never encourage anyone to get a ticket that says ‘obstructed view.’ But it means it’s a lot cheaper than the ticket right next to it that doesn’t say ‘obstructed view,’” Erskine says. Every venue is different, so you might be surprised by how decent such a seat can be. Get to know the venue better (StubHub offers a “Virtual View” so you don’t have to guess what your seat will offer). Also, general admission “standing room only” tickets can offer a wide range of prices, “and if you get to the venue sooner, you can get right to the front of the stage.” Talk about an indescribable experience.