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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.

Single Tickets

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.

Introduction to Classical Music
  Music Categories
  Musical Instruments
  History of Classical Music
  Discover the Classics
     Vol. 1 | Vol. 2 | Vol. 3 | Vol. 4

Glossary of Musical Terms

A-Z of Opera
  Synopses of Opera
  Index of Operas by Composer
  Opera Libretti

How To Enjoy A Live Concert
  A Note from the Author
  The Listener's Job Description
  Part 1: Before the Concert
  Choosing a Concert 
Kinds of Concerts 
Styles of Presentation: Formal, Informal, and Beyond 
Buying a Ticket
Sections of the Theater 
Getting Ready 
Getting There 
  Part 2: At the Concert
  "Concert Manners" 
The Concert Ritual 
Reading the Program 
Instruments of the Orchestra 
Ways to Listen 
Meeting the Performers 
Essential Life Support 
  A Brief Glossary

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