Ticketmaster is the largest primary ticket outlet in the United States. According to Ticketmaster itself, it sells over 500 million tickets per year across concerts, sporting events, and other live entertainment events. However, despite being the go-to source for event tickets for millions of people, Ticketmaster has developed a reputation for tickets selling out extremely quickly – sometimes in mere seconds. This leaves many fans frustrated when they can’t get tickets to see their favorite artists or teams perform live.
High Demand for Limited Ticket Supply
The main reason Ticketmaster tickets sell out so quickly is simply the laws of supply and demand. For major concerts and sporting events, there is often far more demand for tickets than there is supply. Venues can only seat a certain capacity, so there are a finite number of tickets available. However, when extremely popular artists or teams are performing, demand for tickets can easily be in the millions. This creates intense competition for the limited number of seats. Even large stadiums and arenas rarely have more than 100,000 seats or so. When millions of fans all rush to buy their tickets at the exact same time when they first go on sale, it’s inevitable that tickets will sell out in seconds.
To illustrate with an example, when Taylor Swift announced her Reputation Stadium Tour in 2018, over 2 million tickets were sold on the first day of sales. However, her tour only had 86 shows scheduled across North America and Europe. If each stadium held 55,000 fans, that’s only around 4.7 million seats available in total across all shows on the whole tour – far less than the opening day demand. That massive imbalance between supply and demand is why tickets disappeared so quickly.
Bots and Scalpers
Making the issue of high demand vs limited supply even worse is the role played by ticket scalpers and bot networks. Ticket scalpers are people who buy up large quantities of tickets solely for the purpose of reselling them at a higher price. Often entire scalper networks will work together to try to dominate ticket sales. They utilize bots – automated software programs designed to quickly purchase as many tickets as possible the moment they go on sale. This lets them snap up hundreds of the best seats before real fans even have a chance to get tickets. The scalpers will then turn around and list the tickets on secondary marketplaces like StubHub for often outrageous prices. The use of scalper bots has become so problematic that it has led to anti-bot legislation being proposed, such as the BOSS Act.
Ticketmaster’s Sales System
Ticketmaster essentially has a virtual monopoly on being the primary box office for most major live entertainment events. This means all of the factors above get amplified through Ticketmaster’s platform. However, Ticketmaster’s own systems and policies also exacerbate the “sold out instantly” issue in their own ways.
Many events now utilize dynamic pricing on Ticketmaster. This means ticket prices will adjust in real-time based on demand. So as more and more fans try to buy tickets, the prices will continuously go up. By dramatically increasing prices for the best seats, this discourages budget-conscious fans and helps limit sales to some degree. However, while dynamic pricing does slow down the sell out rate slightly, it certainly doesn’t prevent the most desirable tickets from getting snatched up right away.
Online Sales Only
It used to be that venues would have physical box office locations where fans could line up to buy tickets. Now, almost all major events require you to purchase online through Ticketmaster. This actually speeds up sell-outs, because it funnels all buyers into a single digital point of sale. In the past, sell-outs might take days or weeks as tickets gradually got purchased from various sources. Now, they happen instantly since millions of buyers flood Ticketmaster’s website and app the moment tickets go live.
Limited Ticket Releases
Another trend is for Ticketmaster to only release a portion of event tickets for initial sale. The biggest shows will often hold back anywhere from 20% to even 50% of seats to release incrementally leading up to the event. This creates a false sense of scarcity to drive more impulse purchases. Again, combined with online-only sales, it concentrates buyer frenzy into the small chunk of seats made available right at the start.
Is It Done Intentionally?
With so many factors making Ticketmaster tickets sell out nearly instantly, it makes many customers wonder – is Ticketmaster doing this intentionally? After all, rapid sell outs fuel the perception that tickets are highly sought after, which further accelerates sales. Below are some of the motivations Ticketmaster may have for quickly selling out tickets:
When big on-sales happen, they often get covered heavily by media and discussed excitedly by fans online. Rapid sell outs create a media narrative around the tickets being incredibly hard to get and in ultra-high demand. This generates hype that leads even more people to try to snag tickets or pay higher resell prices.
Higher Resale Value
Rapid sell outs also drive up prices on secondary resale markets, where Ticketmaster has partnerships with major players like StubHub. If all tickets instantly get snatched up, desperate fans will shell out much more money to get seats. StubHub made over $1 billion in revenue in 2016 largely through inflated resale fees.
Justifies Service Fees
Ticketmaster charges fees like order processing charges, facility charges, and sometimes delivery fees that can add 30% or more to every ticket price. If tickets are instantly scarce commodities, it helps justify these “convenience fees” that customers must pay to secure seats.
Many events now do special pre-sales for groups like credit card holders or fan club members. This primes buyers to expect instant shortages. Pre-sale codes create an urgency to buy ahead of the “real” on-sale, which will surely be instant chaos.
Tips for Buying Ticketmaster Tickets
Given the above analysis, what is the best way to tackle buying in-demand tickets on Ticketmaster? Here are some tips to improve your chances:
Take advantage of any pre-sales you can access. This gets you shopping for tickets ahead of the general public on-sale time when competition is lower. Popular pre-sales include fan clubs, venue/promoter pre-sales, and Citi cardmember pre-sales.
Register ahead of time
Make sure to have an account already set up on Ticketmaster in advance with your payment info saved. This skips registration steps when the clock is ticking during a frenzied on-sale.
Be ready at your computer
Log in 10-15 minutes early and keep refreshing to enter the waiting room as soon as it opens. Don’t rely on your mobile connection.
Work through screens as rapidly as possible if you do get in to buy tickets. Have an idea of the seats you want ahead of time.
Don’t reward scalpers by buying their marked-up resale tickets, which further incentivizes the problem.
If you don’t get ideal seats, consider less popular locations you might still enjoy rather than overpaying.
In summary, Ticketmaster tickets sell out almost instantly for major events due to massive fan demand chasing ultra-limited ticket supply. Scalpers employing ticket bots further shrink general public availability. While Ticketmaster’s sales system enables rapid sell-outs in some ways, this also generates hype, higher resale prices, and service fee justification that benefit Ticketmaster. For fans, the best ticket buying strategy involves pre-sales, preparation, patience, and avoiding feeding the markup mania on secondary markets when possible.