Imagine for a second that you’re trying to score the hottest ticket in town, and the concert sells out. Or maybe it’s a band you’re only kind of into but don’t want to drop $100 plus service fees to see. Ticketmaster is near-impossible to beat without a playbook of tips, and StubHub can often be even pricier than the resale market.
But fear not, because there are usually some real-life people – who aren’t scalpers – looking to recoup cash on tickets they can’t use because they got sick, their babysitter canceled, or changed their mind about going. Here’s how to navigate the wide network of resale options before giving up on the show altogether:
Make Facebook event pages your first stop
When they aren’t mining all your data, Facebook’s an excellent resource for getting concert tickets. Your quest usually starts and ends on the concert’s event page, where prospective ticket buyers circle like hyenas. When you’re close to the concert, it can feel like goddamn day trading, but it’s always possible to come away with a ticket.
If the event page permits it, click that you’re attending and subscribe to notifications on all future posts. For high-demand sold out shows, you’ll often see a bunch of people posting “looking for 1/2/however many tickets” with the highest price they’re willing to offer – promoters and venue pages have never seemed to mind this, in my experience. It’s worth your while to post one of these, but it’s often most reliable to just be the first one to DM another user who’s posted that they’re selling tickets. Since this is probably the forum that requires buyers and sellers to be most attentive, you want to give them the least amount of work by taking initiative, being immediately responsive to their messages, and accommodating as possible when it comes time for the transfer.
Craigslist might be the Wild West, but it works
Craigslist is never the most ideal section of the web, but several weeks before the show, it’s surprisingly one of the more reliable spots for getting tickets – often for face value. As with any anonymous service with no customer feedback, there are inherent risks that you’re probably aware of by now. But if a post sounds like it was written by a real person, ideally with a story that explains that they were intending to go to the show – and not a generic or poorly designed one-size-fits-all image, often used for hundreds of different ticket posts – then you might be in luck.
It’s not always easy to shake these things out – calling them up ahead of time and asking to meet at a convenient location is a good place to start. I usually ask to meet outside the venue, but if you can’t do that, pick a neutral location for a handoff of tickets and cash. Digital tickets are always preferable, but lead to some roadblocks of their own. There’s always the game of chicken in these situations – which should be sent first, the ticket or the money? Do you time it with a one-two-three-click? If you feel comfortable that you’re dealing with a real-deal seller, these concerns aren’t as severe. Craigslist is less scary for concert tickets than its reputation for other types of transactions might lead you to believe.
Twitter’s a Hail Mary
Probably the least reliable option, but it’s worth testing out in desperate times. Sometimes searching for the artist’s name in Twitter the day of the show can yield a few tweets from people looking to get rid of extra tickets. If the band isn’t like, Beyoncé or Radiohead, try tagging them in a tweet saying that you’re looking for a ticket to their show – sometimes they will retweet and get you on the radar of other fans.
Be wary of scammers
Many of the aforementioned methods – Craigslist in particular, with Facebook not far behind – inevitably draw come con artists. It’s always comforting to get some kind of confirmation that the person you’re buying from a) lives in the same city as the show or b) had at least had some intention of going to the show in the first place. On Facebook, you can generally figure out this kind of information with a quick scan of someone’s profile for mutual friends or info that ties them to your city. But Craigslist can provide a few more minefields. It’s always best to message back and forth a few times before agreeing to anything, and try to sense if the person seems friendly and normal and real. When in doubt, ask for photo confirmation of their tickets or receipt before going through with the sale.
A friend of mine (who will remain nameless) almost got scammed before a sold-out Jeff Rosenstock show last summer, via a Facebook user who went by Sean Thompson. He very presumptuously sent my friend the fake ticket, rife with misspellings and misinformation about the venue, and took on an aggressive tone early and often in the DMs, proceeding to threaten legal action if he didn’t pay up through money order. This was a case where the scam was clear-cut and avoidable, but still unsettling, especially given that multiple other Facebook users had written about him successfully pulling off the same stunt on other event pages.
When it comes to setting up payment in the safest way possible, cash and in-person is preferable, with PayPal not far behind for situations when it isn’t feasible. If the seller isn’t game for either of those or Venmo, it’s probably time to start looking elsewhere.
Negotiate if you must, just don’t be a dick
Look, if it comes down to eating the entire cost, or selling back your ticket for less than what you spent, obviously anyone would choose the latter. Which can sometimes open the door to getting a ticket for a not particularly in-demand show (hello Smashing Pumpkins) the day-of for under face value. But, please, don’t be a greedy oaf about it.
A good rule of thumb: don’t go below two-thirds of the original price tag in any lowball offers. It’s not the best look, we all have bills to pay, and it’s not a transaction that will leave anyone feeling particularly good.
If all else fails, just show up to the thing
This is a true power move, and could really backfire if you live more than like 10 minutes away from the venue. It’s not something I’ve personally tried, but after waiting at the venue to pick up Craigslist tickets on three separate occasions – or in one case, walking up to the box office – and being stopped by people with extra tickets, literally looking to give them away, I can also attest that it’s a worthy last resort. And if the show’s held in a large enough venue, scalpers might be lingering around the door – most venues surprisingly don’t seem to mind their presence – and as the show gets closer to start time, their bargaining price goes down by the minute. It’s a game of patience, but one that can pay off in a big way.
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