How To Become A Craigslist Concertgoer

September 23, 2011

It’s tougher than ever to score great tickets to events, particularly concerts. First there’s a fan club pre-sale, which usually includes more brokers than fans. Then there’s the internet pre-sale for people who are on an email list or pay attention to Twitter and Facebook messages from the artist, venue or various partners. When the tickets finally go on sale to the general public, the best seats have already been sniped. And you’re still faced with paying the outrageous “convenience charges” from Ticketmaster, even though you’re not thrilled with your tickets and the process isn’t all that convenient.

So what’s a music lover to do? Some are hopeful that Axs Ticketing, a new rival to Ticketmaster recently launched by AEG, will offer some competition and spur some changes in the industry. I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, I’ll continue to bypass traditional ticketing options for most shows and use Craigslist to find the best seats and the best deals.

I’ve had an incredible run of success with Craigslist over the last 7+ years, consistently finding myself in prime seats without breaking the bank. And I’ve never had a deal turn sketchy, including the time Jorg and I picked up Foo Fighters tickets at a halfway house in St. Paul. I’ve honed my approach over the years, and although I need to keep a few tricks up my sleeve to keep you out of my sight line, I thought I’d share some basic tips.

  • Be patient – It’s rare that you’ll find a great deal more than a week out and the prices get lower the closer you get to show time. It takes nerves of steel, but the best deals can be found the day of the event. Brokers sitting on unsold inventory and people left with extras will start to panic and slash prices.
  • Filter the search results – Don’t even bother with the “by dealer” listings, you want to see tickets in the “by owner” section.
  • Know the seating chart – Make sure you’ve seen how the venue will be configured and scope out the sections closest to the stage. If people don’t list the section of the tickets they’re selling, the odds are good that the seats are bad.
  • Spot the motivated seller – In some cases, people will unnecessarily explain why they can’t use their tickets and that they need to get rid of them. You probably don’t need me to tell you they are easy targets. But in most cases, there tends to be a common asking price for sellers with comparable tickets. Look for tickets priced just a bit lower than the rest – if everyone wants $100, they’ll be asking $90. These people want to sell more than they want to get rich and are more likely to negotiate.
  • Gauge the market – You have far more leverage when tickets are still readily available than you do for a sold out show. Never pay face value, even for awesome seats, if there are still plenty of decent tickets on sale.
  • Call instead of email – People are easier to negotiate with on the phone and you can also get a better sense of whether or not they are legit.
  • Meet in the middle – Choose your offer wisely. If you try to lowball somebody, you’ll likely be dismissed. I’ve never encountered anyone unwilling to negotiate on price. If they’re asking $60 you can offer $40 and expect to pay $50. Everyone feels good about meeting in the middle.
  • Go solo – Who are you going to talk to during the show anyway? If you’re comfortable going alone, you can get a great ticket cheap from a poor sole who had a buddy bail.

Like any Craigslist deal, be smart. If it seems too good to be true, it is. And always meet people in a public place (or a halfway house) to make the exchange.