Buying a Ticket
When to Go
Some concerts happen only once, so you don’t have any choice about when to go. But
operas and big-city symphony concerts are performed more than once, so you can choose
a date and time. This is completely up to you—trust your instincts. Ask around about the
character of the different audiences, to find out which performance might suit you best.
The Saturday night audience can be quite different from the Sunday afternoon audience.
If you can, choose a time when:
• you won’t be exhausted.
• you can get to the concert without having to rush.
• you’re likely to be in a receptive mood.
Getting Answers About a Concert
Q: Where should I park?
Q: What about handicapped access?
Q: How long is the program?
Q: Will the performers sign autographs?
If the web site or ticket office can’t answer
your questions about a concert, try calling the
organization’s Community Relations Manager,
Communications Director, or Marketing Director. You
may have to call a different number: the main office
instead of the ticket office.
People who work for music organizations are used to answering questions and
explaining things. If you reach a person who can’t answer your questions, ask to be
referred to somebody who can.
Some organizations may even be able to give you a list of restaurants near the concert,
so you can make your musical evening a night on the town.
Where to Sit
Everybody’s taste is different. Do you like to sit up close, where you can watch the
musicians’ faces and examine their shoes? Do you like to sit in the middle, where the
sound is more blended together? Do you like to sit in the back, where you can get the big
picture? Do you like to be way up in the top balcony, up near the ceiling, looking down on
everyone? Or do heights make you nervous?
In many concert halls, the cheap seats have the
best sound, because the music floats straight up to
the balcony. Sometimes you can sit extra close to the
musicians, in seats on the stage or just behind it. Don’t
hesitate to ask the ticket seller’s advice about where to
sit. Sometimes they’ll have a good suggestion for you.
By asking around, you can learn whether a theater
has especially good seats to seek out, or especially
bad seats to avoid.
You might like to try out different places to sit, and
find out what you prefer.
When to Buy
Some concerts sell out quickly, so you have to buy tickets as soon as they go on sale.
But for many events, you can wait until concert night to buy your ticket. There are some
disadvantages to waiting, though: you may have to stand in line, you may not have a
good choice of seats, and you may not get a ticket at all.
If you’re nervous about missing out, then buy your tickets early. On the other hand, if
you’re nervous about advance planning, then buy your tickets later.
How to Buy
You can buy concert tickets in many ways: in person, online, by phone, by mail, or by fax.
Every organization offers its own set of ways to buy. Internet or phone sales may add a
service charge to the ticket price.
When you buy your ticket, you may have a chance to select your seat. A diagram of the
concert hall or theater may be available to help you decide where to sit. Many theaters
post seating diagrams online, and some phone books include theater seating charts.
Sometimes instead of choosing a particular seat you will choose a section of the theater
or a ticket price. You will get “the best available seat at that price.” In this case a computer
or a mystery person will choose your seat for you from what is available.
When you order by phone, the number may connect you to the organization’s ticket
office, or it may connect you to a ticket service that sells tickets to many different events.
Ticket services are convenient, because they have more than one outlet and they can also
be reached online or by phone, but you will pay extra for this convenience: ticket services
make their profit by charging you fees. The fees can increase the cost of your concert by
several dollars per ticket.
If you buy your tickets well in advance, you can order them by mail. Season brochures
often have a reply form with space for you to list the concerts you want to attend and
the seat price you desire. Usually you can’t pick your seat with this method, but you can
specify a section of the theater.
If you buy your ticket in person, the salesperson will hand it to you. If
you buy your ticket by Internet, phone, or mail, the ticket will be mailed to
you or held at the box office, where you can pick it up on concert night. In
some cases, online tickets get printed on your own printer.
Make your selection carefully! Tickets are usually non-refundable.
What If You Can’t Use Your Ticket?
Sometimes it does happen: your plans get disrupted, and you can’t attend
the concert. What do you do with your ticket?
Most tickets are non-refundable, so you probably won’t get your money
back. It never hurts to ask, though. Sometimes you can get a refund or
a credit for a future concert. If you are a subscriber, you might be able to
exchange your ticket for another time. Call the box office to check their policy.
If you can’t get a refund or an exchange, then you can a.) give your ticket to
somebody., b.) sell it to somebody, c.) call the box office and ask whether you can donate
your ticket back and take a tax deduction for the price of the ticket.
How Much Will It Cost?
Ticket prices vary from zero to more than a hundred dollars.
Large theaters have more than one ticket price. In general, the seats get cheaper as they
get farther from the stage. In some concert halls, the cheapest seats have the best sound.
Web sites, concert brochures, and advertisements often list ticket prices, or they’ll give a
number to call for more information.
Reserved and Unreserved Seats
Usually when you buy a ticket to a classical music concert, your ticket says exactly where
you will sit. This is called “reserved seating.”
Sometimes, though, your ticket does not specify a particular seat. In that case, people
arrive at the theater and choose their seats after being admitted. This is “unreserved
seating” or “open seating”. Be sure that you know which kind of ticket you are buying! If
seating is unreserved, you may want to arrive early to claim a good seat.
Organizations that give more than one concert in a season usually encourage people to
buy a package deal, a “subscription.” It’s similar to subscribing to a magazine: If you buy
several concerts at once, you get a price break. Another advantage is that package deals
go on sale before single tickets, so if you subscribe you can get better seats, and you can
be sure to get a ticket to popular events. Subscribers often get special treatment, such as
preferred seating for other events, special subscriber-only concerts, and so on.
Usually the season brochure offers several different package deals, for different wallets
and different tastes. Each package is called a “series.” Consult the brochure to see
what choices are offered. If you have any questions— or even the tiniest doubt—call the
number listed in the brochure. They want to sell you a subscription, so they’re probably
going to be helpful!
Some organizations let you design your own series. You pick a certain number of events
from the season, choosing the concerts you want and the dates that are best for you.
When you subscribe, you choose your concerts far in advance. If you have a scheduling
conflict when concert night arrives, many organizations will let you, the valued subscriber,
exchange your ticket for another date.
If you like to wait until the last minute to choose your concerts, or if you only want one
concert, then you’ll buy a “single ticket.” These go on sale after the subscriptions, so
you’ll choose from the seats that subscribers didn’t buy.
Of course many concerts are one-time-only events that are not part of any subscription
series. In such cases, the only kinds of tickets available are single tickets.
Partial Concerts and Partially-Live Concerts
New ways of selling tickets keep evolving. A brand new approach, still quite rare, is to sell
tickets to part of a concert. Concertgoers can buy a ticket to half of a concert or to one
part of an opera or ballet.
At almost every concert, there
are people waiting out front with
extra tickets to unload, and other
people looking for tickets. More
than once while I waited in a long,
discouraging ticket line, a total
stranger has approached me to
offer a ticket. “I’ve got an extra
ticket, do you want it?” Sometimes
the stranger won’ t take any money,
but just wants to see the ticket used.
Sometimes I have paid for the ticket.
Be careful, though: in some
places it is illegal to resell
tickets near the box office. Also,
sometimes there are scalpers who
resell tickets at inflated prices.
Another approach lies between live music and recorded music, in a world of semi-live
events: streamed concerts on the Internet, live performances on TV and radio, unedited
recordings and videos of live concerts. Some
organizations now transmit high-definition video
of live performances to movie theaters in other
cities, giving listeners a new way to attend a
distant performance. While not really live concerts,
these semi-live events let audiences see and hear
performances that they otherwise would miss.
Discounts and Rush Tickets
Many organizations offer discounts to senior citizens
and to students (you’ll need an I.D.) Discounts are
often available for groups.
For some events, low-priced “rush tickets” become
available late on the day of the performance. This
is a way of selling those last few unsold tickets by
making them available at a discount. Sometimes rush
tickets are only available to students; in other cases
they are available to anybody who shows up. You
have to come in person to buy rush tickets.