Maxed out your credit card? Missed out in the pre-sale? There might be another way to see your favourite musician or comedian perform for a steal.
Last Monday, the event announcements began landing thick and fast. Irish comics Joanna McNally and Foil Arms and Hog announced tours. The following day, the line-up for Golden Lights, a new Auckland dance festival set for January, was confirmed. On Wednesday, pop-punk legends Blink-182 announced they would rerform for two shows here in 2024. Not to be outdone, just a few hours later Black Books star Dylan Moran announced a run of stand-up comedy shows.
On Thursday a summer run of six Fatboy Slim concerts was announced, including a new Auckland festival at Victoria Park. Later that day, a series of Bluesfest sideshows were confirmed, including a combined show by rappers GZA and Talib Kweli. Then, on Friday, Sting was confirmed as the Mission Estate’s headliner. The tantric love-making advocate will also play a Christchurch show.
If you’re a fan of live entertainment, last week was a week. It’s likely you’re maxed out. Your credit card is probably tapped out. After more than two years of Covid-related show postponements and cancellations, the live music and event industry is coming back en masse. Every musician and comedian is desperate to get down under and perform. Veteran promoter Paul Dainty calls it a “traffic jam” and says “there’s a gridlock of acts trying to tour”.
Many of those shows have been incredibly popular. Tickets to Laneway, the Auckland indie festival that hasn’t been held for three years, sold out in just a few hours. The only tickets available for this past weekend’s performance by psychedelic rockers Tame Impala were right down the back. Upcoming performances by Kings of Leon, Kendrick Lamar and Dua Lipa are all in hot demand, either sold out or with just a handful of tickets left.
It’s not over yet. Recently, Aotearoa singer Hollie Smith tweeted that she couldn’t find a venue with a single night free to perform in Auckland “due to the backlog”. A tour by one of the world’s biggest pop stars, Beyonce, appears to be looming, which is bound to put another major dent in the finances. With shows by Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Backstreet Boys, Rüfüs du Sol, Florence and the Machine and Tash Sultana, as well as festivals like Rhythm & Vines, Bay Dreams and Northern Bass all returning, this summer is looking likely to become the biggest on record.
If you’re missing out on tickets, struggling to land any in the pre-sale, or plain can’t afford them, there might be another way to see your favourite artists on the cheap. Secondary ticketing sites like Viagogo and Ticketmaster Resale are the places fans turn to when shows are sold out and they’re desperate. Those sites often charge astronomical prices, and, if anyone’s still using Viagogo, they may never get their tickets in the first place.
But on at least one site used for reselling tickets, prices seem to be falling. “With Aotearoa now well and truly out of lockdown and all Covid restrictions lifted, we have seen an uptick in activity in our event tickets category onsite,” says Trade Me’s policy and compliance manager James Ryan. He’s understating things. The country’s most popular auction site is experiencing a massive surge, with ticket listings jumping 440% in September compared to the same time last year. Sales are up by a whopping 785% on this time last year, and they’re up another 61% from August.
These tickets are not always selling for more than face value. Often, they’re selling for less. Right now there are some very good deals to be had. Blame the cost of living crisis, a complete swamping of the live entertainment market, or the fact that people made plans to go to shows many months ago and life got in the way, but there are hundreds of tickets listed, many well below the retail price that had been paid for them.
Two tickets to Conan Gray’s Auckland show are listed with a buy now price of $125 when the Ticketmaster price is close to $190. Two tickets to Aldous Harding’s upcoming Auckland show are listed for $140, well below the $160 retail price. Two tickets to Guns N Roses in Wellington are listed with a reserve of $400 but the seller paid $570.
Recently, I scored two general admission tickets to Kings of Leon’s Auckland show later this month for $210, when buying them through Ticketmaster would have cost me $350, as well as all of the additional fees the dominant ticketing site adds on top of the ticket price.
“Heaps of events are often sold at bargain prices,” says Ryan. He tells those after a deal to check Trade Me in the days leading up to the event they want to go to. “There is a huge audience and sometimes people’s plans change and they are left with a ticket they can no longer use.” If there are many tickets to the same event listed, prices can fall even further. “These are trades between a willing buyer and a willing seller and the prices are simply market forces at work,” he says.
Buying second-hand tickets isn’t risk-free. Trade Me suggests checking the seller’s verification and feedback ratings to see if they’ve been selling for a long time. Sellers must have the ticket, including e-tickets, in their possession before being listed. In some cases, Trade Me requests proof that the seller has the ticket.
In many of these cases, it seems the sellers have had post-lockdown changes of plan. One is selling three seated tickets to Dua Lipa’s sold out Auckland show for just $450 to visit a sick family member in the UK. Two ticket to George Thorogood’s Auckland’s show are being sold for just $120 because of “family commitments”. Then there’s this person, who claims she can no longer attend Dua Lipa’s Auckland show because “some of my girls got knocked up”.
Whatever your financial situation, it may pay to check Trade Me to see if you can score some concert ticket bargains. But it’s worth repeating: do not use Viagogo, as this Stuff reporter recently did for Hannah Gadsby’s Auckland show. You’ll almost certainly never get the tickets you want that way.