How to Score the Best Tickets Ever — Even at the Last Minute


The twilight of summer is always that special time when America morphs into a live-event-going nation of ticket buyers. And 2015’s shaping up to be the biggest summer yet. So whether you’re a Deadmau5 fanatic or a NASCAR buff, a Lollapalooza regular, or a Chicago Cubs diehard, there’s no reason you should find yourself marooned on the couch, the only one of your friends who didn’t score a ticket. Thanks to the rise of e-tickets and the second- ary market online for ticket resellers, there’s just about zero live events you can’t game your way into at the last minute, and at a reasonable price. Here’s what you need to know.

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How to crash any sold-out concert at the last minute:

Okay, so all the tickets for that Black Keys show you’re dying to see this summer are gone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still see them in the flesh. In fact, your journey to the front row is only just beginning.

Your first order of business: Download the free apps SeatGeek and StubHub. SeatGeek, the ticket world’s answer to Orbitz or Kayak, aggregates prices and deals across nearly every ticket reseller on the market, including big sites like TicketsNow and Razorgator. (The only holdout from SeatGeek is StubHub, which used to be listed there, too, until the eBay-owned marketplace yanked its listings and decided to launch its own standalone smartphone app in 2010.)

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Now, just about every ticket you can imagine can be found on one of these two apps, so be sure to check them both. (There will be overlap.) When you see your Black Keys ticket, likely at a price you don’t want to pay, don’t be discouraged. As soon as those tickets sold out, the basic laws of economics kicked in: The resale prices began to soar higher and higher on the secondary markets (e.g., SeatGeek and StubHub) in response to the growing demand by all those rabid fans.

But as smart concertgoers—at least those who made it as far as Econ 201— should be able to figure out: Tickets are a perishable commodity. As much as we all love the Keys, July 8 tickets are worth nothing on July 9. In other words, “Wait as long as possible to buy them, and on average it will yield the best result,” says SeatGeek co-founder Russ D’Souza.

Now, back to the Black Keys. They’re playing in a week, and by now the tickets are way too pricey. What do you do?

Well, nothing.

Here’s the game plan: Wait till the day of the show, then head to a bar near the venue and keep your phone in hand. Log on to both apps and watch the prices start tumbling in real time. When they hit your target, buy away. (Though I’d advise you to err on the side of paying more rather than less so you aren’t outbid. But how you play this game of chicken is entirely up to you.)

If you’re worried that buying a ticket five minutes before showtime leaves you no time to find the seller in person to get your tickets, relax, and welcome to 2015: They’re e-tickets. “You used to have to stand in front of a venue and pay some guy; now you can use the app, wait until the last second, and use a mobile device to get in,” says StubHub’s Glenn Lehrman.

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Game your way into the big game:

The same principles apply to getting last-minute tickets to sporting events, but the game is a little less stressful. “It’s much easier to get a deal on a sporting event—there’s no comparison,” says Lehrman. Because while bands might play a handful of concerts in the same venue or a festival might last just a few days, the Detroit Tigers will have 81 home games. “If you play it right, there’s no reason you can’t go to a game for as little as $3.”

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So do the same thing you did with the Black Keys, but keep in mind a few tips: First, go after single seats, not blocks, because it’ll raise your chances of getting a reseller who’s a stand-up guy just trying to get rid of an extra seat, rather than a professional broker who’s trying to rip you off, according to Lehrman.

And pay attention to the SeatGeek function called Deal Score, which rates every ticket for its “true value” on a scale from one to 100—taking into account factors like angle of view and obstructions— rather than real cost. In general, advises d’Souza, don’t even consider tickets rated below 75. (Unless, of course, you don’t care about nosebleeds or a foul pole directly in your line of view.)

And perhaps most importantly: If you can live with the idea of missing the first pitch, know that SeatGeek allows you to continue browsing for tickets even after the game’s started. Trust us: Tickets in the second inning are cheap.

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What if you need to buy in advance but still want to score a deal? That’s easy, too. Just think like your mom and delve into the world of discounts and coupons.

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Start with your bank’s website. Citibank, for example, offers deals for Live Nation events. Just bookmark,, and—all of them offer deals for everything from concerts to NASCAR races.

Also scan the websites for venues and ticket sellers who routinely offer discounts if you do little things like subscribing to a newsletter (that you can immediately unsubscribe to). And be sure to browse the bargain forums and These sites may look hokey, but they’re very handy, as they aggregate discounts and list coupon codes online.

Finally, before you buy, head over to a coupon-voucher-exchange site, such as,, or These act as niche marketplaces where people offload unwanted gift cards in exchange for cash. Here you can expect to find Ticketmaster vouchers with discounts of around 10%. But if you miss out, don’t worry. There’s always buying later.

Mark Ellwood is the author of Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World.

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