Monday, March 10, 2014

Caveat Emptor - Ticket version

Yesterday, I got a DM from my friend Kimmi who told me she was getting ready to buy Adam Lambert tickets and needed some advice on getting good seats. Apparently she thinks I know something or something. ;) I gave her the advice, she got the tickets and promptly told me I need to write a book on ticket buying. Personally, I don't think there's enough for a book, but she was convincing, so I decided a blog was in order.

I am no amateur when it comes to ticket buying. I'm not saying I'm an expert by any means, but I do have solid experience when it comes to snatching up good tickets. As someone who suffers from various forms of anxiety, this experience is an anxiety all its own, especially if getting killer seats are of vital importance to you. Just putting that out there. By the way, good seats are always of vital importance to me. I'm a ticket snob. I mean, I would rather not go than to get crappy seats. Yes, it's a sickness. Someday, I may seek help. Until then, I'm happy with my obsession - especially if it can help other people.

Now, I will put this disclaimer out there and get it out of the way: my blog does not guarantee you good seats. As I told Kimmi, 50% of getting good tickets boils down to sheer luck combined with unwavering dedication. If you take my suggestions and you still get crappy seats, don't blame me: I'm not Ticket Master, k? Also, if you don't care where you seats are as long as you're in the building, this blog isn't for you. It's to help die-hard music lovers who want to get within spitting distance of the stage(s).

1. Study your artist and find out the layout of the arena (staging, seating, etc) as early as possible. Sometimes this can be done via social media (Twitter is fantastic for it because you can connect with other fans who can give great advice), your artist's website or Ticketmaster itself. The better idea you have of how the arena will be laid out, the easier it will be for you to determine where you want to sit.

2. Connect with other fans, join social media groups and forums, peruse YouTube to see how your artist performs (if you don't already know). Some artists stick to one main stage, others have a "B" stage. Some even climb up on little platforms throughout the arena. That being said, I have never seen an artist go up to the top level seating, including the "VIP" boxes that typically go for more money. 

3. Be willing to go to more than one concert, if possible. Many artists will have several shows in nearby cities that are a simple road-trip away. Some of you are probably looking at me like "This chick is a total groupie. Different cities? Good lord!" But, if you've ever had seats in the nosebleed section and you're afraid of heights, you'll be much more willing to drive a couple hundred miles if it means not having a panic attack. The purpose of going to at least one additional show is to learn the arena layout and find out where your artist goes and what the views are from those areas. Obviously, the benefit of going to more than one show is getting to see your artist again and who doesn't love that?

4. My experience with pre-sale is mediocre, at best. I've done it once and honestly, I didn't get any better seats than I did if I'd have waited until regular sale. The best seats aren't the only ones offered during pre-sale or fan club sales. Some of them are, but not all. And neither are the best seats only offered to VIP ticket buyers. It may seem that way, but I promise you, they're not. Some artists may prove me wrong, but for the majority of the artists today, you can get front row without taking out a loan from your 401k. If you have the opportunity for pre-sale, by all means, check it out. If you find the exact seats you want, snatch them up. Same goes with VIP, if you want all the goodies that come along with VIP. But with pre-sale, hitting refresh too many times can be dangerous as they usually fill from the front to the back, pushing you further back in the arena. And with VIP, most of the time, the VIP handlers choose your seats for you based on whichever package you buy. More on VIP later.

5. Speaking of which, Kimmi asked me "Where are the best seats?" Honestly, it depends on the artists, but in my opinion, third row is PRIME seating. If you can get front row, obviously, that's awesome, but I've found that you can still get a LOT of great interaction with your artist from third row. Same goes for B-stage seating. Or aisle seating on the way to the platforms your artist may have staged around the arena. The first level balcony next to the stage is also a great area to be, especially those first couple rows. You probably won't get the right angle to see the screens they have hanging next to the stage, but you've got a better chance of being closer to the artist themselves. Again, I highly suggest veering away from top level balcony seats.

6. Make sure to register your personal information with your ticket-buying site before the date of sale. It will save you time later on. This being said, part of me wonders if the sites don't register cookies with your computer that says you've been there before and thereby offers you worse seats than before. It may sound skeptical, but I know airlines do this when you are searching for airfare rates. So it's up to you to gauge which is the truer case.

7. On ticket-buying day, if it's an artist that is likely to sell out (Bieber, One Direction, etc.), buy whatever tickets become available on your first click. If you take the time to click again, not only will you be tossed up to the third balcony (if you're not already), you could risk on a total sell-out. On high-demand artists like this, the entire arena can literally sell out in just a couple of minutes. No, I'm not kidding. One Direction sold out in three minutes. I can't even microwave a burrito in three minutes. If you want better seats, you can always try to find them later, but if you just have-to-or-I'll-just-die get tickets to the show, buy on the first click. Trust me on this.

8.  Buying later is always the option I go for if it's not one of those go-or-die scenarios. Usually about 2-4 weeks before the show, the artists, radio stations, promotional groups and arena have claimed their promo tickets and whichever ones haven't been used are thrown back into the mix and these seats are released to the public. They may say they've "added seats" as if they suddenly found forty feet of room and added more chairs, but this is essentially what is happening. This time frame is the best time to find those VIP seats for regular prices. In 2009, I was able to snatch up 3 third-row seats for a show that had been giving me row H, L and M up til that point. This is where Refresh Hell comes in.

9. Refresh Hell is the term I've given that buying process (either on Ticket Release Day or later on, closer to the show) that causes the most anxiety for me. This is where you keep hitting refresh on your browser to see if better seats become available. Sometimes, I'll even have a couple of different browsers going to hold the seats I have so I can see what comes up if those are taken. If you can't multi-task, it might not be a bad idea to enlist a friend to help you with this. And don't be too impatient with this process. To get those third row seats, I spent about thirty minutes hitting refresh before I finally landed on row A instead of row H.

10. It should also be noted that while I don't typically use sites like Stub Hub or any other second-party ticket sellers, they have been found to be profitable for ticket buyers who want good seats. The benefit is you can get super close to the stage. The downfall is you'll pay up to 500% more for tickets bought on these sites. If that doesn't bother you, knock yourself out. Obviously, in this age of electronic tickets, it's important that you remember not everyone is honest and counterfeit tickets are sold every single day, all day long, so BE CAREFUL to buy from reputable sites with guarantees, not from newspaper ads or Craigslist. Even physical tickets you buy from someone may have been printed out a dozen times and sold to a dozen different people.

The only other tip I can recommend is to become familiar with band, staffs and security for your artist. Every artist wants to know their music is touching lives. The more familiar you are with the artist and the people surrounding them, the more they will want to express their appreciation. This does not mean that I'm telling you to create fake relationships with these people. Their time is valuable and they don't have time for groupies expecting hand-outs or back-stage passes. I'm simply saying, if you're passionate or proud of your artist, this is an excellent way to show it. Don't be annoying. Don't ask for anything. Don't offer sexual favors (yes, it happens). Don't be stalker-ish. Don't be bat shit crazy. 

I'm sure I've forgotten things, so if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment here and I'd be happy to answer it for you. Good luck!