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In the old days, when Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel set the price for a concert ticket, it more or less stayed that way. A trench-coat-wearing dude on a street corner across the road from a stadium may have occasionally sold it for double the price — but mostly, face value was face value.
Then came eBay and StubHub. Suppose Springsteen himself wanted to charge $95 apiece for his front-row seats. If fans paid $400 for them online, that became their real value. Stars have dealt with that market-driven increase in different ways:
1. Using a paperless, show-ID-at-the-door system so that resellers are nearly shut out.
2. Strategically raising prices so that scalpers can't possibly resell them for a profit.
3. Using the Garth Brooks approach — keep adding shows so supply is high, demand is low, and prices stay reasonable.
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What does this mean for you, the fan, who just wants the best seats? The short answer is there are more options to buy tickets than ever — face value, resale, paperless, Official Platinum Seats, Verified Fan, VIP and fan-club presales — and you have to pay attention to how to do it to come out ahead. "It can get confusing, trust me!" says Amy Howe, Ticketmaster's chief operating officer. "The world's changing quickly right now." Here are tips for navigating the world of tickets.
Take a spin on the secondary market
Ticket reselling has evolved into an $8 billion business, and prices can be astronomical — orchestra seats for Springsteen's Broadway shows, for example, are going for as much as $3,000 via StubHub. Ticketmaster has jumped into the fray, reselling U2 tickets at the Forum in California through its own TM+ service for $737, while a face-value ticket in a nearby row costs less than half that. "The number-one tip is to avoid that old-school mentality that you have to buy the ticket at the on-sale [price]," says Jessica Erskine, a StubHub spokeswoman. "That's a way of the past."