Tonawanda News

July 7, 2013

MUSIC NOTES: Scoring good concert tickets can be challenging

By Thom Jennings
The Tonawanda News

— I’ve been attending concerts for 32 years, and I often get asked what is the best way to get good tickets to a show. Things have changed dramatically since my first show in 1979. Back then, a ticket company called Ticketron was the major ticket company, and even though they had a purchase-by-phone option, the best way to get tickets was to stand in line.

The advantage to camping out overnight, or even getting to a box office or Ticketron locations like Record Theatre, was that everybody that put in a decent effort was virtually guaranteed a ticket. The only time I spent an overnight waiting for tickets and came up short was when Pink Floyd played Toronto in the late 1980s.

The current system makes it somewhat difficult to get decent seats unless you are willing to spend big money. There are a few pointers one can follow to get decent seats in an electronic ticketing age.

Probably the most effective way to get good seats is to join a band’s fan club before tickets go on sale to the public. Some bands actually offer a fan club membership with the purchase of a ticket during the pre-sale period. In other words, you can only buy the ticket early on Ticketmaster with the fan club membership. I did that for a Heart concert once and got early entry to the venue and wound up in the front row.

Not all bands will offer the fan club membership on Ticketmaster, so if you want to participate in a fan club pre-sale you have to know when tickets will be going on sale to take advantage of the benefit. It has only backfired on me twice, first with Chickenfoot. I bought a fan club membership so I could buy tickets to a show of theirs in Toronto at a small venue. The regular tickets sold out in three minutes, and the only tickets available during the pre-sale wound up being $250 seats that included a meet and greet. Inasmuch as I love Sammy Hagar and Joe Satriani’s music, I’m not paying $500 for a pair of tickets and a handshake.

Matchbox 20’s fan club didn’t provide pre-sale codes for 24 hours, so if you attempted to purchase a fan club membership to get access to their pre-sale, you had to buy the membership well in advance.

There are other ways to get decent seats, but they come with a risk. One little known fact is that many people buy tickets in the first few rows within a day or two of a show. If the band does not sell premium ticket packages, they often release the tickets right before the show. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people in the second or third row bragging that they “bought these tickets yesterday.” You really have to keep checking the ticket sites to see when the good seats are released.

You can also check Stub Hub the last few hours before a show as well. Stubhub usually stops selling day of show tickets around 5 p.m., so from about 3 to 4:30 p.m. there can be some amazing deals. I once purchased two $250 tickets for $60 at 3 p.m. on the day of the show. They were in the second row.

Finally, you can take a chance and get tickets from a scalper outside the gate. I have a buddy who talked a guy down from $200 a ticket to $30 for two tickets. It’s risky and you really have to be aggressive, but it can pay off.

I hope some of these methods work for you, and if they do please shoot me an email and let me know.

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyles. Email him at