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How To Get Into A Sold-out Concert

How To Get Into A Sold-out Concert

Everyone has a special gift, right? Some folks tie cherry stems with their tongues. Others breathe on spoons and stick them to their noses. Me? I get into sold-out concerts at will. Every time. Without fail.

It’s uncanny. No matter how big the band, no matter the small the venue, no matter how rabid and bloodthirsty the fans, I’ve never, ever been turned away.

For some reason, I can walk up to the entrance of a venue without a ticket, and—eschewing the services of scalpers, mind you—walk into sold-out concerts by the likes of U2, Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, Crosby, Stills & Nash and the Black Crowes (often with a pretty good seat). For all you characters fed up with camping on city sidewalks for days and days just to get first crack at concert-hall box offices; for all you sullen souls who’ve had it up to here with speed dialing Ticketmaster for hours on end—only to hear busy signals; for all you true blue music fans who succumb to the will of ticket agencies that (albeit legitimately) inflate the prices of their prized floor seats even more than your average scalpers, your day of liberation is at hand.


Rule 1: Boldly go to that sold-out concert. Don’t be afraid. Extra tickets are plentiful, and they can be yours if you’re willing to exercise a little faith, a little patience and some street smarts.

Rule 2: Never buy from scalpers. Besides the fact it’s illegal pretty much everywhere, buying scalpers’ tickets is just plain dumb. Their prices are typically way above face value (the highest price you’re legally allowed to pay for second-hand tickets in most places). You’ll do much better business with honest ticket holders whose only agenda is to make back the money they spent on their extra tickets.

Rule 3: Go alone. It’s not as much fun, but the vast majority of extra tickets just waiting to be snapped up are from single individuals with friends who, at the last minute, couldn’t come to the show, or big groups with one pal who stood ‘em up.

Rule 4: Always bring a set amount of cash. Bring only the amount of money you’re willing to part with, depending on the quality of the seat—otherwise you might be tempted to pay more to greedier individuals. (You can nab the face value amounts by logging on to If you tell the seller the exact amount you have available to spend, nine times in 10 that seller will take what you offer. If you’re the adventurous type, you might try sticking with a low-ball amount in your pockets—you never know who might be desperate enough to sell you their extra ticket for a ridiculously low price. (I got a $250 face value Pete Townsend ticket that way last summer for a grand total of $50, which was all I brought with me.)

Rule 5: Always bring a seating chart. This will prevent sellers from misinforming you regarding where your seat is actually located. Once again, check out and print a chart. I’ve nailed less-than-truthful sellers many times.

Rule 6: The will-call window is your friend. The will-call window is the portal to the Lost World of Orphaned Tickets.

Rule 7: Police and security guards are not. Move around. Avoid attracting the attention of certain individuals who might not want you doing business right there in front of God and everybody. It’s just not worth raising their ire, no matter how within the law you may be.

Rule 8: Listen for word combinations bandied about such as “extra ticket,” “now I’m stuck with a seat I don’t need,” and “I don’t think I can sell it.”

Rule 9: Look for eyes and bodies that purposefully “scan the land” in search of those like yourself (who appear as though they want to do business). Good potential sellers—like good potential buyers—don’t stand in the same spot for too long. They move around, stop near groups of people and look as though they’re in the middle of an investigation.

Rule 10: Memorize sellers. If you notice more than one seller on the make for buyers, don’t panic. This is a good thing! But since you can’t talk to more than one seller at a time, try to memorize all the folks—their faces, their outfits—who you may want to find later and discuss terms with.

Rule 11: Memorize ticket “looks.” Tickets often will come in different colors, sizes and designs. Get a handle by observing tickets change hands at the will-call or box-office window and make sure the one you’re looking at matches those you’ve seen changing hands.

Rule 12: Be mindful of the start time—and opening acts. If sellers have been resistant to your charms during the preshow period, they’ll likely warm up just before the show begins (they don’t want to miss it any more than you do).


Rule 1: Don’t automatically take the first ticket you’re offered. Remember, you’re in the driver’s seat. No matter how sought after this sold-out show is, sellers will rarely eat unused tickets, even if they don’t get satisfactory offers for them.

Rule 2: Move away from the will-call area during the transaction. Even if it’s legal to transact a ticket at face value on venue grounds, why raise the blood pressure of rent-a-cops just looking for a few more notches on their walkie-talkies?

Rule 3: Never pay more than face value. Hey, first of all, it’s the law. Second, you’re more likely to experience a smooth entrée into the concert hall if you’re buying from somebody who isn’t looking to make a profit.

Rule 4: Inspect the ticket. I learned this the hard way. I trudged down to the Trocadero in downtown Philly to catch the Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream tour stop, and I got what I thought was a sweet deal from a pimply-faced teenager right there in front of the box office—12 bucks (face value) for general admission, right on the floor. One inescapable problem: The ticket was fake. So do yourself a favor and look for anything on the ticket that may be off kilter: the printing, the layout, the spelling, the venue, the date, the price and the disclaimers on the back of the ticket. In a nutshell, let the buyer beware.

Rule 5: Have fun! Don’t wait around and stare at your newfound prize! Get in that arena and have a good time. You’ve earned it!

[Among his other hats—writer, editor, musician—Dave Urbanski is a product director for Youth Specialties, a 30+ year-old company that provides resources and training for youth ministry folks the world over. Dave and his wife, Jenny, bask in sunny San Diego with their Australian Cattle Dog, Abby.]







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