Stop Buying Blind – A Guide to Sports and Concert Primary Ticket Markets

May 19, 2010



Update: You can now sell tickets right on SeatGeek! Learn more →

Part I of our Buying Event Tickets, Expert Series

When buying NFL tickets, or other event tickets, we are all faced with numerous options – some familiar and some very unfamiliar. Most of us have bought tickets from a local ticket box office or from a friend with an extra ticket. Some of us have also purchased traditionally from Ticketmaster and more recently online with Ticketmaster.com, StubHub and other websites.Though many of these paths might seem elementary, they are still unfamiliar to a large segment of sports and music fans. Even for those that are familiar with these purchasing methods, not all realize that they are interacting with very different types of ticket markets with varying pros and cons. In this article, we outline the different places to buy sports and music tickets –  after you have finished you will be able to:

  • Understand the different types of sports and concert ticket markets (primary ticket market vs secondary ticket market

  • Know the traits of each ticket market

  • Have a sense of the pros and cons to each method of buying tickets

  • Be able to use this information to take actionable steps to improve your ticket buying experience in the future

Primary Ticket Market and Sellers (first time sale)

If you have purchased event tickets before, you have certainly used the primary ticket market. Whether or not you internalized that, is a different story, but if you have purchased tickets off of Ticketmaster, Live Nation, a box office or right at a venues ticket booth before entering, these were all primary market tickets. Whereas tickets on StubHub, eBay, Craigslist etc. would be secondary market tickets (aka they were purchased on the primary market and then resold). Now that you know the basic difference, let’s look at the different aspects of the primary ticket market along with the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Box offices

Most of us have been to a ticket box office (i.e. when attending the movies). A box office is a place where tickets are sold to the public for admission to a venue. In sports and music, box offices exist as physical locations at stadiums, arenas, and venues. If you like to buy your tickets in the full atmosphere of the event and receive person-to-person interaction, this might be the market for you. The downsides though are that box office tickets are often sold out, require waiting in long lines, and are In some cities, getting to the box office can be a major inconvenience. With many of them being located in downtown areas, located in inconvenient locations. Even so, there are many purists who still enjoy the process of waiting in a long line as it can build fanaticism and camaraderie (i.e. Duke students camp out for big game).

Box Office Pros

  • Box offices allow fans to get tickets at face value (this is often a pro, but at the same time fans can often get tickets for below face value on the secondary ticket market for certain events, most often in the MLB)

  • Box offices are located in the heart of the team or event setting

Box Office Cons

  • Tickets often sell out before they even become available in the box office

  • Box offices tend to have long lines/long waiting times

  • Inconvenient locations which require travel before tickets can be bought

Team or Venue Websites

Tickets can also be accessed directly on the primary market from a team or venue website.  These are often fulfilled via a primary authorized seller.

Team or Venue Website Pros

  • Going straight to the source provides the first access to tickets (though with the speed of the modern secondary markets, this advantage is eroding fast)

  • You can view only tickets from your favorite teams and artists, at the venues you have access to (making it a simpler browsing experience)

  • Tickets sold at face value

Team or Venue Website Cons

  • Even though these don’t require waiting in physical lines, the demand is still high and popular tickets sell out quickly on venue websites

  • Many of these sites don’t specialize in online ticket sales, so the user experience can be tough to navigate and frustrating for the user

Primary Authorized Sellers

Primary authorized sellers are the original providers of tickets at face value. Buying with a primary seller often includes fees above and beyond the face value ticket price. Ticketmaster is the quintessential primary authorized seller serving both the offline and online primary ticket markets. These authorized companies sell ‘first sale’ tickets on behalf of individual teams and venues at face value. Primary tickets can also be purchased directly from sports companies such as the MLB, as well as team sites.

Primary Authorized Seller Pros

  • Partner directly with teams, bands, and venues to offer first access to tickets

  • Offer services both offline and online allowing access to tickets regardless of user purchasing preferences

Primary Authorized Seller Cons

  • High “convenience” and service fees

  • Non-transparent pricing–you don’t see the full price (including fees) until late in the checkout process (update: Ticketmaster has since started surfacing fees earlier in the checkout flow)

  • High demand frequently yields sold out tickets

  • Prices are fixed, leaving no room for bargains on cheap tickets, which can often be find on the secondary ticket market

That wraps up our analysis of the primary ticket market. Check back tomorrow for the conclusion to this ticket market guide including a full profile of the secondary ticket market and a side-by-side comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of both. Agree or disagree with anything in this post? Comment below, we would love to hear your thoughts.

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