Your guide to buying UK gig tickets

By on Thursday, 25th September 2008 at 1:06 pm

Your favourite band is on tour. You want to go and see them – and guarantee that you’ll get tickets to get you in to the venue. So, what’s the best (and cheapest) way to get legitimate tickets? We guide you through the best ways to get hold of those tickets.

Fees, costs and money

When buying gig tickets there are three parts you pay for: the face price, the service charge and the delivery charge.

The face price is what it says on the ticket: the amount of money that goes to the event organisers, who in turn pay the artist, the caterers and crew and things like that.

The event organisers don’t give any of their money to the ticket vendors, so in order to cover their costs they charge a “service charge”. The actual amount the ticket vendor charges is negotiated with the venue or promoter for each event. This money goes to for order processing, labour costs, credit card commissions and all the other costs associated with running a company like ticketmaster or see tickets.

The delivery charge is exactly what it says on the tin: the cost of getting the ticket from the ticket vendors’ office to your home. You’d think this would be what it would cost you or I to send an envelope, but no, the ticket vendors like to make a bit of profit on this as well, so you could end up spending as much as £5 to deliver one ticket. Oh, and many companies won’t let you dispatch to anywhere other than the cardholders address, so bad luck for those of us with real jobs.

Ticket Delivery

For a lot of events there are three different types of ticket delivery to you: Mail, Box office collection and some bigger venues have “TicketFast”.

Tickets by post are exactly what you’d expect it to be: your tickets come in the post, usually a week or two before the event. Sometimes you have to sign for them, sometimes you simply get them in with your normal post.

Box Office Collection means you have to go to venue box office with the card used to purchase the tickets, the confirmation code or print out of the confirmation page or email. Sometimes you may also be asked to provide valid photo ID, drivers license or passport. Oh, and an arm or leg, dependent on the venues policies. Often the box office doesn’t open until after the main doors open, so don’t be surprised if you’re nowhere near the front.

Increasingly the bigger venues have a service known as “TicketFast”, which lets you print out your tickets from your home computer for the gig – a great service, and you’d think it would have reduced costs for the companies involved, but no – they charge the same for this as normal mail delivery.

Ticket Outlets

There are around 3 “big” official ticket outlets, along with about three more minor ticket sellers that we’re aware of.

Ticketweb is my personal favourite of all the ticket sellers. Their fees are some of the lowest you’ll find, and their checkout procedures on their website are the best. However, when big events and tours go on sale their website is one of the most unhelpful, as it simply has a message that says “service unavailable”.

See Tickets have a penchant for sending its tickets special delivery (which means that you have to be in to sign for the tickets, and the emails to say that they’ve been dispatched are often several days late, meaning you often have the tickets before you get the email to say they’ve been dispatched). They’re the ticket outlet for Glastonbury, so they’re no small outfit, but you pay for it with some higher fees, and the fact that almost all tickets are sent out special delivery whilst they’re sent normal post from ticketweb.

Ticketmaster is the big daddy of selling tickets online, Ticketmaster is the go to for the big events, and has the capacity to ensure that they don’t crash come the big on-sale times for big gigs and festivals. For the big tours, gigs and festivals they are simply the only place you need to go – they’ve got the capabilities to get you the tickets, quickly and efficiently, even having a “queuing” system for busy events.

On top of these “three big ones”, there are also at least three other reputable companies that I know of:

WeGotTickets – this is a local company to us here in Oxfordshire, and operates a sort of electronic guestlist – they send you a confirmation number, and then you go the venue with your confirmation number, they tick you off and in you go. As you can imagine this has reduced overheads, allowing them to have service charges around the 70p mark.

Gigantic seems to have some great gigs on sale that other sites don’t have, and gives 10% of its service charge to charity, which is always good.

LiveNation uses Ticketmaster’s backend, but has some of its own events and a rather snazzy frontend.

Along with these official sellers, there are also a few search engines which search all of the ticket sellers to find the cheapest one. The likes of searches through all of the official sellers and helps to find the one with tickets still on sale at the lowest price. They can be great to find tickets for the more expensive gigs, or if you’re not sure who’s selling tickets for a gig and want to get your mits on them pronto.

So that’s all our advice on buying your gig tickets, but do you have any advice to share with us? Any hints or tips? If so, why not leave them in the comments below.

Photos come from atomicjeep’s flickr stream and Simon Collison’s flickr stream under the Creative Commons License.

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2 Responses

11:58 pm
20th February 2009

I work with Brown Paper Tickets – we’re a ticketing company that has been operating in the USA for the last seven years, and just launched in the UK! We donate a portion of our profit to charity, too. Check us out!

1:07 pm
21st October 2011

need two tickets to and of the stone roses gigs,please help.
have tried everywhere

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