We’ve all seen the images.
Teenage girls weeping because they missed out on a Justin Bieber ticket; grown men sniveling after all the seats for the “game of the century” sold out before they got their hands on one; and thousands of disappointed Republicans lining the streets of Washington after they missed out on a pass for Trump’s inauguration.
Okay, that last one was a joke — but the problem is real. Concert halls and sports arenas have limited capacities. For the biggest events, the venues could sell out several times over.
Alas, there’s no reason to despair just because you were unsuccessful in the initial sale. After all, even hotspots like Spotify fuel the rush for concert tickets now.
There are plenty of sites on the side where you can buy, swap, and exchange other people’s unwanted tickets. Here are five of the best.
Seatwave is a subsidiary of Ticketmaster. While it’s big brother focus on initial releases, Seatwave brands itself as an online marketplace for buying and selling “second hand” tickets.
Events in Western Europe are the main focus for the site. But Seatwave also covers the United States, Canada, and South Africa.
Tickets are split into five broad areas: sports, concerts, festivals, theater, and comedy. Each of the five sections is further divided into subsections to help you find the event you want. The advanced search lets you find events across all categories by price and by date — perfect if you just want to see what’s available so you can get out of the house.
Seatwave covers all tickets bought through the site with its “Ticket Integrity Guarantee“. If your ticket goes astray before you receive it, or if you don’t get the ticket in time for the event, you’ll get a full refund.
The company takes responsibility for all tickets deliveries. In most circumstances, it will post them to you. For certain events, you can collect at the venue.
StubHub is Seatwave’s competition. It is the world’s largest ticket marketplace and claims to have more than 10 million individual events listed on its books. It’s owned by eBay and has been operating since 2000.
During testing, it quickly became apparent StubHub has a better global outlook than Seatwave. More than 40 countries are covered including most of Europe, North America, and South America. Like Seatwave, it focuses on sport, music, theater, and comedy. Festivals are not listed as a separate category.
It also has some cool features that are missing from Seatwave. For example, the world’s biggest venues have 360-degree virtual views of your seat, and there’s an algorithm that determines whether the sellers have correctly valued their tickets.
Virtual Views are available for select venues so far, but it interesting how they are working with virtual reality.
However, despite the positives, I found the site was harder to use and navigate than its rival. If you’re living outside a major market, it’s not easy to see what’s available and when.
With operations in more than 60 countries, Viagogo is arguably the best choice for people who want to book an event as part of their far-flung vacations.
There are a couple of features that make it easy to monitor the ticketing situation for your event of choice. Firstly, the site will tell you how many people are looking at tickets for a particular event at the same time as you. Secondly, tickets that sell quickly receive a special icon.
For example, in the image above you can see I was looking at tickets for the Coachella Music Festival. According to the site, 4,019 were looking at the same time as me, and the Lady Gaga and Radiohead tickets were selling like hot cakes.
In comparison, only 319 people were looking at Jimmy Buffett tickets. Poor Jimmy.
4. Scarlet Mist
Scarlet Mist is the most unique of the five sites in this piece.
The site claims to be an “ethical ticket exchange“. In practice, that means all tickets sold on the site change hands for face value — none of the sellers are making a profit.
Additionally, it has a “buddy” system in place. It allows buyers to pair up with the seller and go to an event together. It’s a great feature if your favorite band is coming to town, but you’re the only person in your circle of friends who likes them.
If you’re planning to use the site, you need to take some precautions. It does not have the same consumer safety protections in place as the biggest brands, so the site recommends you meet with the seller in person. If that’s impossible, it also offers an escrow service. The escrow isn’t free, but Scarlet Mist doesn’t make a profit out of it.
Unfortunately, the site only covers music events.
SeatGeek focuses on the United States and specializes in music and sports.
Unlike the previous four entries, it doesn’t host its own tickets. Instead, it’s a search engine that scans thousands of smaller and possibly unknown ticket sites. Think of it like a Skyscanner for events.
Interestingly, it has an exclusive partnership with MLS. You can buy and sell tickets for your favorite team, and send matches tickets to friends in the mobile app. All the MLS stadiums offer 360-degree panoramic views of your seat, and the site’s algorithm assesses whether you’re getting a good deal.
Sellers can use SeatGeek to shift their unwanted passes. Simply upload your tickets, set the price, and SeatGeek will take care of the rest of the selling process.
Some Final Tips
Keep these four simple tips in mind when you go shopping. The idea is to not only get the tickets at the right time but also the cheapest ones possible.
- Search around the web and compare. If you’re looking for tickets for an event, don’t rely on a single site. Shop around various sites and establish the differences in price.
- Wait for the price drop. If all the sites indicate that there are a lot of tickets left, keep your wallet in your pocket and wait. The closer it gets to the event, the cheaper the tickets will become as the current holders get desperate to sell.
- This also works in reverse. If there are only five tickets left in the week before a Madonna concert, the sellers will try and charge several times the face value. There is some risk involved in holding back too long. You may not find the best selection of seats or tickets for your group in one place.
- Hit the sweet stop between time and availability. There’s no science to it, you need to monitor the sites every day and pay attention to price fluctuations.
With a little practice, you’ll be able to find reasonably priced tickets for almost any event you want to see. And yes, avoid scams.
Which Sites Do You Use?
I’ve shown you five great sites for exchanging or buying tickets for sports events and concerts, but there are hundreds of smaller sites out there.
I want to know what sites you use. What makes them so good? Why are they better than some of the sites I discussed in the article?
You can let me know your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below.
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