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Published: Jun 14, 2022 7 min read
Photo of a summer concert crowd
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From The Chicks to Machine Gun Kelly, it seems like all of the nation's hottest performers are on tour this summer. The last of 2020's long-postponed shows are finally happening, plus a slew of new ones — and yet, in many cases, fans are still having a hard time finding affordable tickets.

Service fees are killer, scalping is rampant, and scammers are out in force. But Adam Budelli, a spokesperson for ticket marketplace StubHub, has a tip that can help you score affordable seats: Adjust the number you're trying to buy.

“We’re all conditioned that we want to go with 10 people to the show because it's so fun, but a lot of times the best deals are if you're looking to go solo. Single tickets are typically cheapest that we have on our site — or two or three,” he says. “Odd numbers of tickets have better bargains than traditional four- or six-packs.”

Ahead of what Budelli says “may be the busiest concert season on record” — there are more than double the shows on StubHub from this time in 2019 — here are five quick tips for how to buy tickets online cheaply and safely.

Start at the box office

Always check the box office first, says Brett Goldberg, the cofounder of TickPick, another ticket marketplace. This is your best bet at purchasing a ticket at face value before it gets resold.

Different artists at different levels of fame command different prices at different venues, so there’s a lot of variety here. Generally, the more popular the show, the more important it is to start with a primary seller (like the box office or Ticketmaster).

It’s basic supply and demand: When tickets become harder to get, they get more expensive on resale sites. If you can sidestep that whole process by scoring a face-value ticket directly from the seller, you should.

Check resale sites

If the show is sold out or you can't find a good seat, Goldberg recommends you pivot to secondary marketplaces. These are websites like StubHub, Vivid Seats and TickPick that allow fans — as well as brokers solely trying to make a buck — to resell tickets. The main perk of using a marketplace is protection from ticket counterfeiters or scammers; for example, StubHub guarantees that orders are 100% valid or you’ll get your money back.

Alas, the main drawback of resale sites is that sellers can set their prices as high as they want. That’s where you need to employ these strategies.

Time it right

Often, this means buying a resale ticket as soon as they sell out on the primary marketplace. Sometimes, “there’s a small window of time,” Goldberg says, in which resale prices will be close to face value because no premium has really developed yet. But if you wait as little as five or six hours, he says, that window closes — and prices rise.

Though Budelli says every event and tour has its own unique life cycle, it's possible to score deals by keeping an eye on prices as the show gets closer and buying when you sense a lull in interest (right now is probably a good time to look for tickets to August and September concerts, for example).

Watch out for fees

Because both primary and secondary marketplaces make money by charging fees, they tend to sneak in those charges when you're least likely to notice them. Goldberg warns that some sites may add charges as you go through the process of selecting a ticket, putting it in your cart and checking out. From a savings perspective, you're not really getting a deal if a seller piles back-end processing fees on top of a "cheap" ticket.

The good news is that at least one state is getting wise to these tricks, and others might follow. New York just passed a bill that mandates ticket sellers must be transparent about their fees right away (instead of springing them on you right before you click "submit order"). It also forces resellers to disclose the original cost of the ticket. Goldberg says this is a big deal for consumers like me who want to shop around for deals.

“This will drive fair and transparent competition between ticket sellers, thus leading to lower prices,” he says. “Now that New York has laid the groundwork for all-in pricing, we expect that other states will follow suit in the coming years.”

Don't buy from strangers

As far as what not to do when trying to buy tickets, both experts warn against attempting to purchase seats on social media or on the street. The prices may be lower than on resale sites, but there’s just too much risk. You could get ripped off — or, worse, scammed.

Legit channels are the way to go here. Budelli points out a logistical issue: If you pay for a ticket with cash or a payment app where you can’t track the purchase, you can’t recoup your money if you run into trouble. Goldberg says he can’t count how many times he’s heard of informal ticket exchanges going wrong.

“If the deal is that good, then it's too good to be true,” he adds.

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