Use for: Tickets for almost all major rock and pop concerts nationwide can be purchased on ticketmaster.com, by phone, or at one of hundreds of local retail outlets. The authenticity of the tickets is guaranteed, and the website provides detailed seating charts for most venues.
You should know: Tickets for popular events can sell out quickly online (even in minutes), and phone wait times can be excruciating. And the retail locations don’t operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Rather, customers are randomly assigned numbers that determine their position in the ticket-buying line.
The fine print: Surcharges vary by venue and can add as much as $15 to the ticket price; expedited mail delivery or print-at-home service raises the total even more. Refunds or exchanges are issued at the discretion of the event’s venue or promoter (typically, they’re granted only when an event is canceled).
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Use for:Find comprehensive theater listings on Theatermania.com, the exclusive agent for several hundred of the 2,000 productions nationwide that it covers at any given time. For all other shows, it directs you to the relevant seller's website or provides contact information.
You should know: Because TheaterMania.com does not sell tickets directly for all the shows it lists, there are no universal policies for ticket delivery, service charges, refunds, or exchanges. Instead, fees and regulations vary and are determined by individual vendors.
The fine print: For the tickets that TheaterMania.com sells directly, there is a service charge of $1.50 to $5.25 per seat, plus a shipping cost ranging from $3 to $5 (unless you choose to have your tickets held at the venue's box office). Tickets are refunded only if a show is canceled.
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Fandango & Movietickets.com
Use for: Bypass the block-long line for the latest blockbuster by ordering movie tickets on fandango.com or movietickets.com; you can print them at home or pick them up at a special kiosk at the theater. The sites also post reviews for current releases.
You should know: Not all theaters participate, and not all allow you to print your tickets at home (the websites indicate which of them do). Also, each site serves different theater chains, so you may have to search both to find the films you’re looking for.
The fine print: Movietickets.com tacks on a $1-a-ticket service fee; Fandango charges from 75 cents to $1.50 per ticket. Refunds and exchanges are awarded at the box office and are governed by policies set by the individual cinemas.
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Use for: StubHub (stubhub.com) is one of the best resale ticket marketplaces for games of all kinds. Tickets are sold by both professional ticket resellers and regular folks; credit-card info for all sellers is kept on file to protect customers from fraud.
You should know: The lowest-priced delivery option (FedEx second-day) starts at $12, and unless you ask the seller to waive the “signature required on delivery” stipulation when shipping the order, someone must be available to receive it in person.
The fine print: The buyer pays a 10 percent fee plus shipping costs (for events in major markets, tickets may be collected from a StubHub rep at the venue for free). If your tickets don’t arrive in time or are invalid in any way, StubHub refunds your money or replaces the tickets with comparable or better seats.
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Use for: Audiences Unlimited, the authorized distributor for most major Los Angeles TV production companies, accepts ticket requests online (tvtickets.com) or by phone (818-753-3470). Tickets are free and are given away on a first-come, first-served basis.
You should know: Studios issue tickets in the recipient’s name, and a photo ID is required upon entry, meaning that the tickets are nontransferable and can’t legally be sold. (Since the tickets are free to begin with, be wary of anyone who tries to sell any to you.)
The fine print: Many shows have minimum-age requirements for guests (these are noted on the site), and most suggest that you check in at least 90 minutes prior to the start of taping. To compensate for no-shows, studios often distribute more tickets than the facility can accommodate, so arrive early.
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Use for: When tickets are sold out at every other source, chances are there is still a seat or two available on eBay (ebay.com). Tickets sell for the price the market will bear at any given moment, so you could wind up scoring a great deal―or paying an arm and a leg.
You should know: The auction process can be time-consuming, and though eBay has well-established procedures for dealing with issues like fraud (see the “Buyer Protection” area on the website), make sure you leave enough time to rectify any problems before the date of the show you wish to attend.
The fine print: As a general rule, buy only from sellers who offer PayPal buyer protection and have feedback scores in the high 90s (eBay also recommends using escrow.com for transactions over $500). Your shipping costs will vary with the time frame and the seller.
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Use for: Operated by New York City's nonprofit Theatre Development Fund, TKTS offers 25 percent to 50 percent discounts on Broadway shows. The Times Square booth sells only day-of-show seats; the South Street Seaport location also sells matinee tickets one day in advance.
You should know: Both booths take only cash or traveler's checks, and neither announces in advance which shows will be offered on a given day. You must purchase tickets in person, and the open-air lines can be long, making for uncomfortable waits in bad weather.
The fine print: A $3 service charge applies to all tickets, and no exchanges or refunds are given. For hours of operation, visit tdf.org/tkts. Note that large batches of seats are often sent to the booths at around 3 p.m. and again at around 6 p.m.
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Club & Package Deals
Use for: Businesses like Boston’s Show of the Month Club (showofthemonth.com) and New York’s Play by Play (play-by-play.com) offer such perks as discounted tickets for plays and dance performances, priority seating, and advance show listings, all for an annual fee.
You should know: If you’re not a regular theatergoer or don’t have the flexibility to see shows on the dates when seats are offered, you may not get your money’s worth from the membership. Fees and membership options vary from club to club.
The fine print: Contact your local chamber of commerce or event venue to find out about similar businesses and cultural organizations in your area.