Dear Lifehacker, I have just missed out on buying tickets for the concert of a lifetime (Prince in my case) after getting partway through the process and then landing on an error page. This is a very common occurrence. Are there any techniques or strategies that you know of to beat the pesky time out on the major sites, any way around the annoyingly-impossible-to-read security pictures (CAPTCHA) and any way to improve my chances of securing those all-important tickets? Thanks, Purple Strain
Buying tickets online is a risky business. For high-demand events, site time-outs, a lack of access to the seats you want, and a mounting sense of frustration are very much the norm. There's no guaranteed way to get around these issues (short of sleeping with the promoter) and CAPTCHA is a suckfest we're all stuck with, but there are a few tactics that are worth bearing in mind:
Register for fan clubs and email newsletters for artists you like. There's often an early preview sale promoted through these channels before regular tickets go on sale. This is an easy thing to do which means lots of people will try it, but it still can make a difference. Make sure you're already signed up for the relevant ticketing company. Virtually every ticketing site will require you to have an account before buying a ticket. Set this up in advance, rather than risking losing out because server overload means the registration process isn't working. Review the venue map in advance. Have a copy of the venue map open in a separate tab before bookings open so you can quickly judge how good the seats are. Again, this isn't infallible -- seating can vary heavily -- but every second saved can help. Try the mobile version of a site. It won't always work, but sometimes using the mobile version of a ticketing site -- an address starting with m. rather than www. (such as m.ticketek.com.au) -- can be more responsive and less competitive than the full-blown site. Make sure your credit card is functional. Having a card rejected because of an insufficient balance just when you have the perfect tickets is an easily-avoided annoyance. Also make sure you know the correct registered address to avoid last-minute rejection.
Nothing will guarantee good tickets, especially for short-notice acts like Prince who can easily sell out a venue with virtually no promotion, but advance planning can definitely help.
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