I love Music! I’m not an outwardly emotional guy, but man, something about music just connects with my heart in a way that’s different than anything else.
Studies have shown that for some people, discovering new music or a new band is similar to a high that one could get from taking drugs. It’s literally euphoric. I’m one of those people.
Why does that matter? Because music is something that adds value to my life. It’s something that comforts, excites, soothes, and encourages. It’s something that I’m willing to pay for in order to have access to.
Therein lies the rub.
I’m on a financial journey where I’m aggressively making payments on student loan debt and working towards financial independence, but I also spend time and money acquiring music and attending concerts.
Some financial experts might argue, (and rightfully so) that every single extra dollar you have should go towards your debts.
For the most part I agree. However, for my personality, I need to include some room in my budget for things that give me life and add value or else I would quit altogether.
I’ll be completely clear, in theory you should be using all of your available funds to get out of debt in the fastest time period possible. That’s the truth. However, most people have some area in which they utilize a little fun money, and typically music is mine.
So how do I justify using money for music and specifically concerts?
Well first, I plan for it.
I have a small portion of funds set aside in my budget for music. I know it is important for me, so I plan accordingly. It’s not something that blows my budget, and if I don’t have the funds or I can’t find a ticket at the price I want, I don’t go to the show!
Second, I haven’t paid full price for a concert or theater ticket in almost two years!
By utilizing principles of negotiation and an understanding of scarcity, both of which are vital in strengthening your personal finance muscles, I’ve been able to see incredible shows at a fraction of the cost.
How? Well first and foremost, you have to understand scarcity. There are a finite number of tickets available to the event. As a buyer, I’m experiencing scarcity because I only have so many opportunities to get a ticket at the price that I want.
However, on the flip side, the seller experiences scarcity because there are only so many people who are willing to buy a ticket that they are trying to sell. Additionally, for the seller, the value of that ticket decreases dramatically once the event has started. A ticket valued at $100 at 5pm quickly becomes just a worthless piece of paper by 9pm. Understanding this, you just leverage negotiation skills and score great seats!
I’ve been able to see Mumford, Bastille, The Lumineers, Zac Brown Band, Drew Holcomb, Needtobreahte, John Paul White, Ben Rector, Judah & the Lion, Bethel, the musicals Motown and Hamilton and many others all for cheap or free!
Want to know how I do it? You’re in luck!
I use three main methods when attempting to procure concert tickets. The first is Craigslist. Typically on Craigslist you have two types of sellers. There are the ticket companies that overinflate prices like crazy, and then you have Average Joe whose friend dropped out at the last minute.
I only work with the Average Joe type. I usually start highlighting ticket options a day or two before the event.
The day before the event I contact the seller to see if the tickets are still available. If they are, I make an offer on the tickets. I’m pretty firm, and I basically say, “I’d really like to go to this show, but all I’m able to offer is X for the pair. If that doesn’t work for you, I understand.”
This method works well because it’s firm, polite, and also subconsciously invites scarcity into the mind of the seller by insinuating you are willing to walk away from the beginning.
As an example, for the Ben Rector concert I mentioned above, there was an ad for two General Admission tickets listed at $75 for the pair. Face Value was 30$ per ticket.
I made an offer for $25 for the pair. Initially, my offer was denied, but the next day, which was the day of the event, I received an email around 1pm asking if I was still interested in the tickets. I said yes, and ended up with two concert tickets for less than the price of one!
You never know if you don’t ask, and the worst thing that can happen is someone doesn’t reply or says no.
The second way I find great deals on tickets is by using StubHub. You may find this shocking, as StubHub is known for high service fees and overpriced resale tickets. However, the key with StubHub is buying at the right time.
StubHub sells tickets for up to 60-90 minutes after an event has started (the time frame depends on the show). You obviously have to be flexible here, as well as willing to miss out on the opening act, but you can walk away with some great tickets if you’re willing to risk it and buy the tickets after the show has started.
A recent example for me happened at a completely sold out Zac Brown Band concert a couple weeks ago. I had a few friends that were going, and I decided that I’d look into purchasing a ticket to meet up with them.
The concert started at 7pm, and the venue was about 40 minutes away from my house. I didn’t really care to see the opening act, so getting there on time was not a big deal. I was casually watching StubHub resale prices, and noticed some great deals coming up around 7:30pm with a decent amount of tickets* still available.
Around 7:45, I decided to head toward the venue and see what would happen. I had a $35 limit for the ticket in mind, and I highlighted a couple of ticket options that would fit that budget. I waited to buy, as prices kept falling.
I pulled into the venue parking lot at 8:25pm, five minutes before StubHub stops selling tickets and right before Zac Brown hit the stage. The ticket I found was a floor seat about 25 rows from the stage.
The ticket started at $175.00 (Face Value was $150) and by 8:25pm was down to $25.00. With taxes and fees I ended up paying $33.00 for a $150 dollar ticket. I only missed one song from the headliner, and I was able to meet up with my friends for a great show.
(As an aside, going late to the show had it’s own perks. The venue is notoriously terrible when it comes to traffic. By getting there over an hour after the show started, I breezed in, grabbed a nice parking spot right by an easily accessible exit, purchased my ticket, and walked right in. There was no traffic, no ticket lines, and no stress.)
*Important Note: When using this method, you must make sure the ticket you purchase is available for instant download. Otherwise you could show up to the venue and the person you purchased the ticket from could be somewhere across town.
3. In Person Negotiation
Finally, the third way that I acquire tickets is to just show up at the venue and try to get a ticket from someone on site (Not the Box Office). Obviously, this method takes time and may not always work, but it can be one of the best ways to score great seats.
As I discussed earlier, people trying to sell tickets get extremely nervous once the show is about to start. It greatly increases your negotiation position, as they are typically just trying to get into the show and pocket whatever money they can for their leftover tickets.
I have two examples of this method working to my benefit. First, about a year or so ago, I took my mom out to dinner to celebrate an occasion. After the event, we decided to head to the local theater to see what was showing.
We found out that the event was Motown the Musical. We were both interested in seeing the show, so we fashioned a makeshift “Need Tickets” sign and stood in front of the venue. A couple of scalpers approached us with offers, but they were more than we wanted to pay so we declined.
Finally, a group approached us and had two extra tickets for the show. They weren’t worried about the money, and offered to give the tickets to us for free. The tickets were in a great spot, and we ended up enjoying a really good show and making new friends all at once.
We never would have had this opportunity if we hadn’t gone to the venue to try to get tickets.
Another way that this worked out well was on a trip to Chicago. I was with my girlfriend at the time, and we had been planning to try to secure tickets for Hamilton The Musical as a Christmas present for one another.
Hamilton fever was at it’s peak, and tickets were reselling for double the face value price. We had no leads and no plans, but we showed up at the venue hoping to find something in our price range.
The show started at 7:00pm and around 6:55pm we found a guy who was offering great tickets a little over face value. I spent some time negotiating with him and was able to score some incredible Dress Circle seats (which is the best section in this particular venue) for below face value.
Earlier in the day those exact tickets were on StubHub for $400 each (Face Value was $175), and we were able to get them down to $300 for the pair for seriously some of the best seats in the house.
So there you have it! My “magic formula” to scoring great concert tickets. All it takes is confidence, flexibility, and the willingness to walk away from paying too much.
If you end up using one of these methods, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
I’d also love to hear if there are some things that you are able to score great deals on that many people may not know about. Share in the comments below!