The gig-goers guide to scoring concert tickets

Photo credit: Alessandro Bergonzoni

Here at The First Pint, we know that amazing sensation of crossing the venue gates with a cheap ticket in your hand. That’s why we’ve approached both experienced music journalists and shameless scalpers to give you the essential handbook for gig-goers.

Trust the organisers

Buy your ticket from the official website of whoever organises the gig – the most straightforward way is also the cheapest. Music venues like HMV Forum have their website set up to welcome all credit cards. Royal Albert Hall, Royal Opera House or Barbican will deliver the tickets to your postbox in just a couple of days.

Charing Cross

Vendors in Charing Cross generally set their prices cheaper than online. However, as music critic Antonello Furione reveals: “they are not fixed and vendors can make them up on the spot according to some abstract criteria”.

On the other hand, when it comes to musicals “it’s better to head straight to the box office and bargain the price at the theatre,” Furione said. “It sounds absurd, but we got a third-row ticket for £17 in a few minutes before the musical started. The original price was around £70”.

The TKTS booth in Leicester Square sells discounted tickets, sometimes up to half price.

Watch out for bogus websites

“Get it from legitimate sources if you don’t want be disappointed,” recommends an experienced NME journalist who preferred not to be named.

In 2009, for example, some people were jumping for joy after having found the leftovers for the Reading and Leeds festival only to find out later that the website they’ve bought from was bogus. “They seemed legitimate websites, yet, people just got ripped off,” our NME insider said.

Ticketmaster or ripper-master?

Even if your ticket will be a 100 per cent guaranteed, be aware of Internet ticket sales and distribution companies. They could have different names (Ticketmaster, Stargreen, See Tickets, Sonisphere, Ticketline, Ticketweb, etc.), “but they are all the same when it comes to charging you unreasonable booking fees. They don’t even do text messages on the mobile, you still have to print the ticket yourself. We live in bloody 2011,” our NME insider said.

From 1994 to 1998, Pearl Jam boycotted Ticketmaster-affiliated venues because of the company’s high booking fees. The band was then forced to give up its dispute so as not to disappoint concertgoers struggling to find tickets for small venues.

Don’t e-buy

You can never eliminate the risk from online shopping. Websites like Gumtree and eBay could be your worst nightmare, but remember if something bad happens, it is always possible to raise a query. However in the worst-case scenario you could end up spending your summer in court instead of the mosh-pit.

Therefore, trust only sellers living in your town and avoid the digital divide – arrange a meeting and feel the ticket with your fingertips before buying it.

Scalp the scalpers

We would never recommend that you do something illegal. Always remember that scalpers are only there to make money. However, sometimes there’s no other way in than asking touts for tickets outside the venue. Our reporter has spoken with Michael, local tout at the HMV Forum in Kentish Town, right before the latest Wolfmother concert. Here are his golden tips:

  • Always come with the exact amount of cash you want to spend in your wallet, hide the rest in your pockets before talking to the scalper
  • Start bargaining for half the sum and then hold your ground as much as you can
  • Get to the venue a few minutes before the concert starts since scalpers will be more eager to get rid of surplus tickets
  • Keep in mind that scalpers usually get their tickets from insiders in the venue or buy them in huge stocks. Since they pay almost nothing for them, there’s no reason why you should pay more than the original price given.

Give it a name

Recently a lot of venues introduced a new scheme to jeopardise scalpers’ business – releasing tickets with the name of the buyer or his credit card details printed on them. “The tendency is on the increase, it is a good thing,” an anonymous NME journalist told us, “as it is impossible to sell those tickets on the black market. The only problem is that if your daddy bought the ticket for you, you have to bring him to the very gate to guarantee your entry with the bouncers.”

Be careful in your choices
If an artist plays for more than one night at the same venue, try to go on the very last day. The performer may not deliver the same brilliant performance of the first gig, but tickets on the black market will be cheaper and easier to find.

Once-in-a-lifetime events like a Pink Floyd reunion, however, are fat cows to milk for scalpers. “We can make whatever price we want with the certainty people will always buy tickets,” scalper Michael revealed.