Ticket Reselling Comes with Fantastic Gains & Crushing Losses: 6 Lessons Learned the Hard Way

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Ticket Reselling Lessons Learned
Adele. Photo by Martin.

Ticket Reselling Lessons Learned

Last year PDX Deals Guy wrote two somewhat controversial posts about ticket reselling for manufactured spend. Just as with regular reselling, ticket reselling is actually more of a business than true MS and it is multiples more risky. Still, if you know what you are doing then the gains can be nice as can the additional spend on credit cards.

The problem is actually in learning the game. It takes time to know when you have spotted a good deal and when you should run away as fast as you can. Unfortunately these lessons are often learned the hard way. This year I have dabbled with ticket reselling and while I have had some nice victories, I have also had a couple of tough, tough losses.

Things to Know

Before I share a couple of my stories, I thought I would lay out a few disclaimers. In addition to being very risky, ticket reselling is a business. You should always consult your financial/legal professionals to determine what that means in your situation. For me, the profits/losses on ticket reselling are calculated as business income and reported on my tax return.

The Case of Adele

Adele announced her world tour last year and fans went crazy. So did ticket prices. There was so much demand in fact, that it was nearly impossible to get tickets. I personally was only able to get a total of 6 tickets. I purchased 4 tickets for her first Seattle show along with a single ticket for the second Seattle show and a single for her Phoenix show.

As of now I have sold five of the six tickets. The only one remaining is the single in Phoenix. Not a huge deal since prices are still strong. All of the Seattle tickets sold for over 5X the face value within days of me buying them. Imagine quintupling your money in just a few days. That is the upside of ticket reselling. If only they were all that way!

The Case of Paul Simon

Ticket Reselling Lessons Learned
Photo by Acme 401.

A few months ago tickets went on sale for Paul Simon at the Hollywood Bowl. The prices were a bit steep, but I personally thought this show would do well. The Hollywood Bowl is a famous venue and the demographics in Southern California seem to support that type of show, or at least I thought.

I bought 8 tickets and quickly realized that they weren’t moving. Prices on StubHub began to drop and eventually I sold a few for a small loss. Of course as the show got closer, things turned ugly quickly. Prices were slashed and in the days before the concert I sold my remaining tickets for 20-50% of face value. In other words, a huge and painful loss!

Lessons Learned

While there are most certainly dozens (hundreds) of lessons to learn when buying/reselling tickets here are a few:

  1. The day of the week matters – The Paul Simon show was on a Tuesday. If you have a choice, weekend/holiday dates are often better.
  2. Watch for Open Dates – Adele didn’t do this, but always watch for the potential of the artist adding new shows. Often they leave open dates in certain cities so they can add more shows if demand is high.
  3. Limit your risk – While you might think you are getting the next big score, it probably isn’t wise to put all of your eggs in one basket. Limiting the quantity you buy does limit profits, but it also limits losses.
  4. Leave emotion out of it – It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of the artist, this is a business. Treat your purchasing decisions as business decisions. Do your best with the information provided and move on.
  5. Get over the losses – If you do it right, then there will be more gains than losses. Many more. That doesn’t make the Paul Simon situations any easier to deal with though. Do your best to accept the losses and move on. It is a cost of doing business, although emotionally it hurts.
  6. Sign up for presales – Amex and other presales help you get tickets before everyone else. Of course you are going against professional ticket brokers and even the occasional fan, but signing up for every presale email, will keep you up to date on potential opportunities. Cough..Hamilton…Cough.

Please share your own lessons learned in the comments!

Paul Simon CD Giveaway

Along with the Paul Simon tickets, came a free copy of his new CD. If you are a Paul Simon fan and are interested in getting a copy, just leave a comment. I will send the first 7 people who ask, a Paul Simon CD. Please only request a CD if you plan to use it since I would love for these VERY COSTLY CDs to go to a good home.

Conclusion

Just like merchandise reselling, ticket reselling is a business, albeit a more risky one. For that reason I don’t think it is something I want to do full time, but I am glad to jump on the right opportunity if it presents itself. Of course being able to spot said opportunities is easier said than done, but I’m getting better. For now I’ll just pray for more Adele wins and less Paul Simon losses.


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36 COMMENTS

  1. I’d love to hear the new album! Definitely a Paul Simon fan
    Sorry about your tickets – if I lived in LA I’d have loved to go

  2. I get ticket reselling from an individual, profit perspective. However, from a macro perspective what it does is make tickets difficult to obtain for the average Joe and makes ticket prices higher for everyone else.

    No CD please, not a fan of the artist.

  3. I tried ticket reselling a few years ago and wound up going to way more concerts, games, and shows then I otherwise would have. My wife loved it though it definitely wasn’t that profitable. Id be interested in Paul Simon CD . Thanks!

  4. You’re right that ticket reselling is a business — BUT — if ticket reselling is seen from a perspective to fulfill manufacture spend, then it shouldn’t be viewed as a business. Rather, it should be viewed as a way to not profit at all! I use ticket reselling as the main way to manufacture my spend because I’ll admit it’s easy and only takes 5 mins of my time max. For me, though, I resell the tix first to my friends and family for face value (plus ticketing online fees) so I didn’t lose any money. I’ve found this a great way to fulfill cc minimum spend requirements and also get rid of inventory quickly. If friends are not interested, then I just go on stubhub or TM+ resale and sell the tickets for face value plus the fees of stubhub. I’ll admit I’ve sold 99% of the tickets I bought (if I don’t sell the ticket, then I”ll go and attend that concert or show.) I dont really see it as a loss since most of the tickets I buy are concerts/shows I’d love to go to.
    I agree with you that the day of the week matters but for the market where I buy/sell tickets, weekdays are definitely better.
    Best lesson though is pricing. If you price it 0-20% above face value, I’d say you’d easily resell those tickets. Sure for Adele you can price them higher and people will still buy but be careful not to be too greedy. I always remind myself that I’m not a scalper; just a guy who needs to manufacture spend to fulfill cc minimum spend.

  5. Another way to mitigate loses is buying tickets to an event that sells group tickets. While the seats are typically relegated to the worst of those available, if the demand for the game is even mildly warm, you’ll make your money back (and then some). Group tickets are usually sold at a discount (10-20% off face) and usually without the additional fees that are tacked onto single tickets sold via ticket master or Live Nation.

    Another tip is not to be too greedy with the pricing. I’ve learned to price tickets at lower end of the resale spectrum, so as long as I still make a profit. Case in point, my brother tasked me with selling his beyonce floor seats at the Rose Bowl. Face was $350 a ticket including fees. Average resell was $600, but I priced them at $450, which was the lowest price for floor seats at the time. The tickets sold ASAP and we still made $100 over face value. Of course, there are times when I severely underestimated the market, and probably should have the priced higher (I bought 50 group tickets to Lakers vs Spurs at $54 each and sold them for $60 to friends/family via a FB event. The going rate for the cheapest tickets even up until game day was $95+. I could have made much more In profit, but as long as I didn’t lose money, I’m fine).

    I’ve lost money doing ticket reselling when I bought a large number of NBA playoff tickets in 2014 for clippers v thunder, thinking it was gonna be a box office hit. Not only was it not a hit, the game fell on Mother’s Day, and I sold only a fraction of the tickets last minute at a loss, and ate the cost on the unsold tickets. It effectly wiped out all the profits I made previously in those playoffs. The Clippers definitely don’t have the same pull as the Lakers, even when they’ve been the better team in LA for the last 4 years.

    Hamilton will be going on sale at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles this winter for performances next fall. As with most shows at the Pantages, they will be offering group tickets. I plan on making a big group purchase this time around (for as many shows dates as possible) and reselling them. Even at the lowest end of the resale market, Hamilton is one show where you’ll still make a significant profit. I plan on opening a few new credit cards in advance of the sale date lol.

  6. I am definitely interested in how you managed to make 5x on your Adele tickets. I am still sitting on a pair at MSG that is right on the side of the stage, which I purchased originally because I thought my wife might like to go (and I was wrong, go figure).

  7. I’ll take the CD. I am thinking of purchasing it actually, physically, actually.

    The ticket game can be rough, and I would always curse the scalpers when I had to buy from them.

  8. I nabbed 8 pre-sale tickets to Hamilton with Shawn’s excellent post giving notice. I intend to resale them all with October to December shows in Chicago.

    I have never resold before and thought I would try it for experience and high likelihood of profit. I have all Friday and Saturday, dress circle and mezz. Stub Hub lists two sales for $800 and $850 for my first night in same section.

    I infer Ticketmaster and Stub-Hub the best and also inferred about one month before show time best time to list per an article I read. Any quick thoughts or comments would be appreciated for this newbie.

    Also, I don’t see a transfer button on ticketmaster active. How in the hell do I get the tickets to Stub Hub? Maybe ability to transfer opens up closer to showtime….

    Thanks for your time.

    • Amongst ticket buyers, I’ve learned Ticketmaster is the most reliable, then Stubhub. Do you have the Hamilton tix as e-tickets? If so, you can upload the tickets on stubhub and make sure to choose the option that allows for “Instant Download”. Good luck!

        • Depends on how you wish to price them. Also depends on how soon you want to get rid of inventory. For me, I prefer to get rid of inventory ASAP so I can pay my cc bill on time in full…. so I normally list it online within 1-2 days of purchase for the face value + stubhub/TM+ fees (so roughly 3-5% above face value.) I’ll know if that show is in demand if I can sell those tix within a day or two.

  9. Interesting Amex Hamilton Chicago story. I did the presale Amex tickets the first second they went on sale and got some good Mezz seats but couldn’t get Orchestra. Today I went online for the regular sale and got amazing Orchestra tickets- much better seats. It didn’t feel like the time on hold and expense of the Amex Platinum worked to my advantage at all. In this particular case

  10. I have to say I have a huge problem with this, one person makes money by gaming the system at the expense of many. I can’t pay jacked up prices for shows/concerts so I simply don’t get to go. It is also illegal in many states.I use my resale codes whenever I can, but those codes are not meant to enrich your wallet, and every time you use them for reselling, another person who uses credit cards to make life a little nicer gets shafted.

    • It all depends on perspective. I think most people who opt to do this think of it as a service so you didn’t have to go online at the exact time when tickets were sold and compete with others to buy tickets at face value. As always, something is only worth whatever someone else is willing to pay for it. As for me, this is definitely not my full time job but with most of the easy MS stuff gone, this is my form of MS that only takes 5 mins of time yet am able to fulfill cc minimum spend. I’m able to sell my ‘inventory’ quickly mainly because I resell tickets at face value + stubhub/TM fees (or rounding up with at most 5% profit.) I sell the most wanted tix like Adele and Hamilton to my friends/family first at face value and all of them are thrilled! I’m just happy that I get cash from them and am able to pay my cc bills in full on time.
      Unlike MilesToMemories, I can’t think of this as a business at all since I’m not in it to profit. I’m just in it to get my miles.

    • Leslie,
      I’m not sure how selling Paul Simon tickets at half price is a horrible thing. There is risk involved. I am also not sure how helping others take advantage of credit card deals earns someone like Shawn blowback.

      The scalpers with high speed internet connections and hundreds of credit cards who make 7 figures a year deserve my ire, as do all the CEOs who sell bonds to buy back shares of their companies and extract value from their companies to line their pockets with bonuses (the next looming debt crisis at taxpayer and worker expense).

      The person who buys 4 or 8 tickets so they can justify taking their wife to a $500 per ticket show is not going to crash the system. Folks shouldn’t knowingly break the law but to call what Shawn is doing “gaming the system” is like saying that someone who is driving 2 miles an hour over the speed limit is breaking the law. You are certainly entitled to your opinions about right and wrong but I would be happier if you saved your online indignation for the real villians in our economy. I am sorry if this sounds harsh but you struck a nerve with me.

  11. There is a solution which would allow people like Joey to continue to MS and help family and friends, while putting the wealthy scalpers out of business. Do what they do at the French Open. Buy tickets attached to names and require IDs at the door (with only 1 official resale site which can only add 10% to the face value of the ticket). The real villians in our economy will prevent that from ever happening though.

    • I thought this was part of what Adele was trying to do with tickets to her tour – require the CC used for purchase to be present at admission time – basically eliminating resale for most scalpers?

      Did this not end up being the way things worked?

  12. You picked the wrong city for Paul Simon. We tried to get tickets to see his show in Portland, OR, but they sold out way in advance and I personally didn’t want to pay the huge mark ups for the stub hub tickets offered here.
    Hope I win one of your CDs!!

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