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How to Save Money at Concerts and Music Festivals

June 26, 2018

Tips on how to rock out to live music without ending up stone broke.

5 min read

It’s summer! That means that concert and festival season is in full swing.

The great news is that many of the biggest and most popular acts are out in full-force during the summer months. The bad news? You’ll likely be paying for your tickets.

For many Americans, a trip to Coachella, Burning Man, or Summerfest are simply too expensive. And the ticket prices are just the start. If you don’t live nearby, the costs multiply when you add in expenses for travel, lodging, and food.

You’re not crazy, ticket prices are through the roof

But back to ticket prices—if you haven’t been to a big concert in a while, you’re likely in for a case of sticker shock. While ticket prices vary from event to event and from market to market, the general trend is that prices have been increasing.

Why ticket prices have increased

There are a lot of reasons that ticket prices have increased. Artists are making less and less from record sales in the digital age, for one, which is likely one reason it costs more to see them play live.

Other reasons include an influx of bots which quickly buy up tickets only to sell them later at inflated prices, and, interestingly enough, prospective concert-goers are simply willing to pay more and more to see a show.

So, how can you go to a show without going bankrupt? Here are some tips:

See if you can get fan club discounts

If you really like an artist, you can try getting into their fan club for presale codes and discounted tickets. Not every artist has a fan club, but many larger acts do—including Nickelback, Justin Timberlake, and Carrie Underwood.

Again, not all artists have fan clubs, and not all fan clubs have presale offers. But if you’re looking to save some money, it’s worth checking out.

Credit card specials and presales

Like an artist’s fan club, some offers are only for members. In this case, though, carrying a credit card may be enough to get you in the door.

Some credit cards offer presale tickets and other fan packages. Certain cards from Citi, for example, have concert offers, and American Express has a partnership with Ticketmaster.

Wait for the right venue—or city

Ticket prices vary from city to city, and region to region. For that reason, it may be worth it to wait until a tour or artist schedules a show in a smaller market, or at least in a smaller venue.

If your favorite band is on tour in another city, check out the location and venue that’s friendliest to your wallet. Because who the act is and where they perform makes a big difference.

The more popular the artist or tour, and the bigger the city? The more you should expect to pay, according to industry analysts.

If you purchase a ticket to a big-name concert in New York City for $100, for example, you can expect that same show to cost more than $127 in Los Angeles, or $73 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Tickets at arenas or big amphitheaters typically come with hefty price tags. But tickets to shows at smaller venues, like clubs, can often be found for cheaper.

Buy bootleg merch

Don’t be the guy (or girl) that buys and then wears the t-shirt at the show.

Here’s an example: Metallica sells t-shirts for $42. But you can probably find Metallica shirts for much less than that if you’re willing to shop around—away from the show. You’ll find bootleg merchandise at many concerts, often sold a block or two away.

If buying unauthorized merch feels crummy to you (after all, the band isn’t likely to see any of that money), check out the band’s own website or record label to see if they’re selling merch at a discount.

No matter what you decide, if you feel that $42 is a bit steep for a t-shirt, holding off and picking up a shirt online may be the way to go.

Look for last-minute tickets

The concert you’re going to may not sell out. In that case, it can pay to wait. Set up price alerts on sites like SeatGeek and StubHub, and get notified when prices are dropping. You can also scour Craigslist for tickets, but be wary of getting scammed.

Holding off on buying tickets is always a gamble, but if you don’t anticipate a show being sold out, it can save you some money.

Ask about hotel discounts

Hotels and motels may offer discounts to people coming to town to see a band or festival. Find out if there’s a promo code or package for concert and festival-goers. You and your friends may save some bucks and score a free continental breakfast.

Read the rules

Is there anything more annoying than packing a cooler full of snacks and beverages only to have them taken away by security?

Get smart about what you can and cannot bring into a venue ahead of time so you know what you’ll have to spend money on (water) and what you may be able to bring in (granola bars).

Last resort? See a cover band

Ticket prices to see certain artists can be downright outrageous. This summer, for example, it’ll cost you nearly $240 to see The Eagles. And nearly $230 to see Ed Sheeran. People are apparently willing to pay more than $200 to see U2, too, according to industry data.

If it’s too much, you can always see a cover band. And some of them are pretty good!

Tickets to see Dead & Company (the latest incarnation of The Grateful Dead), can start at $119. Tickets to see Dark Star Orchestra, the well-regarded Dead cover band, start as low as $28.

Expand your horizons and check out tribute bands that honor your favorite bands with a unique take. Cover bands like Skapeche Mode, Brit Floyd, or the all-female Iron Maidens all have their own fan followings.

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By Sam Becker

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