Timing, patience key to nabbing affordable concert, sports resale tickets: fans

By Tara Deschamps in Toronto

When Jagger Long heads to the Rogers Centre to watch a Toronto Blue Jays match, you’ll often spot him in the first row behind home plate and at Scotiabank Arena, he’s a pro at snagging seats with access to the venue’s tunnel where you can bump fists with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

There’s seldom a show or game that goes by that the Toronto-based personal trainer-turned-resale ticket website owner can’t get access to — and sometimes, he and his Karma Tickets customers don’t even wind up paying full price to attend.

It’s an impressive feat given how ticket prices for many concerts and sports events have soared and shows with top-billing artists like Drake, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé sell out within minutes, often forcing many to the resale market where seats can go for thousands of dollars.

Yet Long and other live music and sports fans insist there are still ways to save, if you time your purchase and stay patient.

“My biggest advice is not to panic,” said Long.

“When tickets go on sale from Ticketmaster, they get scooped up by fans and people who resell tickets, then they throw them on (resale sites like) StubHub and they make up prices. Because there’s such high demand, people will panic and buy.”

But prices can ebb and flow in the lead-up to shows and games, so if you miss out on a face-value seat when tickets go on sale, Long said you’re not out of luck.

“There’s always going to be options. Most of the time, I do tell people to wait it out,” said Long. His business, Karma Tickets, has been around since 2015 and includes a Facebook group with 36,000 members constantly offering up deals and advice on scoring tickets.

Sometimes people buy expensive seats to an event thinking it will only become more sought after over time. They plan to resell the tickets, but maybe the event never sells out or demand for it winds up below the buyer’s expectations. In those cases, ticket prices often drop closer to the event as buyers try to make any money they can.

When Elton John visited Toronto for two shows during his farewell tour last year, for example, Long noticed plenty of seats available on resale sites a week ahead of the concerts.

On the other hand, some shows and games go on sale and demand only picks up from there, so tickets can become scarcer the closer you get to showtime, Toronto music fan Rob Johnston warns.

“If you’re not 100 per cent committed, it’s not a bad idea to wait and see what happens,” he said.

“But you have to be prepared that the prices may actually go up.”

When artists announce they’re coming to town, he’ll jump on buying tickets if they’re a must-see, their setlist is impressive or it’s a unique show, like a farewell tour. For events he’s on the fence about, he’ll monitor prices and ticket availability.

In recent months, he immediately bought tickets to Duran Duran and Depeche Mode in Toronto, but took the wait-and-see approach with a Noel Gallagher and Garbage double bill at Budweiser Stage. He also held off on buying tickets for Peter Gabriel at Scotiabank Arena and a Massey Hall appearance from Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers, which all saw prices fall closer to showtime.

Sitting alone also helps, he said, as resellers often charge less for single seats.

When it comes to sports, buyers can save by going to weekday games, said Jordan Shaw, who runs a Calgary Stampeders Facebook group and frequents Calgary Flames games.

“Saturday night, Friday night games, especially for the Flames, are always a little bit more,” he said.

Prices, he added, rise when top teams or rivals come to town or when sports franchises host special games.

For example, tickets to the Flames game where goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff’s jersey will be retired in March are already listed for upwards of $150 on StubHub. Other games are going for $40.

No matter where or when you buy, Shaw warns people to be careful who they purchase from. If a buyer is claiming to be a season’s seat holder, you can request to see their card and if they’re delaying when they can hand over the ticket, it should give you pause, he said.

“If they tell you they can’t get you the ticket until the next day, don’t send the money right away,” he said.

“It comes down to just trusting your gut. If you have a bad feeling or if it seems too good to be true, then there’s probably a reason behind it.”

Newly-made accounts with few or no likes are red flags for Long, who urges people to research any seller’s profile and reputation.

Long also cautions against getting wrapped up in the frenzy to secure a seat.

“Unfortunately, people get excited and that’s what scammers do. They know people are in this anxious mode, this kind of desperate mode, especially with parents,” he said.

“Their daughter wants to really go see Taylor Swift and they see they can get Taylor Swift tickets for $1,000. You’re not finding a Taylor Swift ticket for $1,000. I’d be surprised if you find a Taylor Swift ticket for $1,500 that has a view of the front of the stage.”

If the show or game you want to go to is popular and thus, unlikely to see ticket prices fall, Long said there are still some ways to reduce costs during your night out.

Members of his Karma Tickets Facebook group often research the cheapest parking lots near their events and many advise checking out a venue’s food policy in advance.

“I’m constantly reminding people that you can bring food into the (Rogers Centre) and people don’t realize that,” Long said.

“Chips and candy, that adds up, but you can go to the local variety store and spend $20 and that’s probably like $80 to $100 if you bought that same stuff inside the stadium.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2023

Banner image via The Canadian Press

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