If you've ever found yourself standing outside Gund Arena, waiting for tickets to go on sale, and ended up with a seat closer to the ceiling than to the stage, then you need to read this. Getting good seats is one part luck and three parts planning. No matter what type of ticket-buyer you are — take this brief quiz to find out — we've got information to help you.
1. When tickets went on sale for Green Day's summer tour, coming to Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center May 6, you:
a) got out your camping gear and roughed it outside of the box office just before tickets went on sale.
b) staked your chances on getting tickets from a scalper outside the show.
c) searched StubHub.com for "Green Day" and hoped for the best.
d) were able to order tickets online a week before everyone else because you're a member of the fan club.
2. "Hairspray" is coming to Playhouse Square Center in June. You may be a sucker for '60s-inspired show tunes, but you don't want to end up a sucker with nosebleed seats. You:
a) grab the phone at 9:59 a.m. the day the tickets go on sale at 10 a.m.
b) call up your regular ticket dealer and pay twice face value for so-so seats.
c) find people selling tickets on eBay and let the bidding wars begin.
d) get first dibs on seats because you're a Playhouse Square donor.
3. You're sure this is the year the Indians will break that 56-year streak and win the World Series. You:
a) use Ticketmaster's new online Team Exchange program, which allows season ticket-holders to sell tickets they don't want.
b) get out a permanent marker and cardboard for a homemade "I need tickets" sign.
c) spend hours at the computer, checking prices, bidding and re-bidding.
d) convince your office to go in on a set of season tickets, then snap up seats for the games you want to see.
Mostly A's: The Traditionalist
Ticketmaster allows you to buy tickets for events over the phone, on the Internet, at one of its retail locations or at the venue itself. Every method sells from the same pool of tickets, so there are multiple "first in lines." Camping out hours before tickets go on sale won't do any good: There's often a lottery to determine who gets first choice. New programs, such as TeamExchange, help even the playing field, but your best bet is to try early and keep trying in case additional seats open up closer to the date.
Mostly B's: The Risk Taker
This is a chancy option, and you'll need to watch out for unlicensed (and illegal) ticket-sellers, the ones not advertising their prices up front. One such scalper standing outside the Josh Groban concert admitted that ticket scalping is a "gray area" of the law, equivalent to driving 5 miles over the speed limit. Keep in mind there's no guarantee you'll get what you pay for with unlicensed scalpers, and you have no refund option in the case of a rainout or cancellation.
Mostly C's: The Cyber Buyer
Online sites aren't bad options, but it can be difficult to get a deal on them. In March, tickets for Green Day's summer tour were selling on eBay for around $75 each (twice face value) and around $100 on StubHub.com. Read those user agreements carefully, because eBay says the company cannot ensure that you'll get what you pay for, but StubHub.com guarantees buyers they will receive what they order.
Mostly D's: Joe in the Know
Without being a VIP, you can still get VIP seats. Being a member of a band's fan club, while sometimes requiring a membership fee, often gives you first crack at tickets. Also, nonprofit organizations such as the Playhouse Square Foundation reward donors by giving them a chance to buy tickets weeks before the general public. Gund Arena gives its Cavs season-ticket holders a chance to buy tickets first to all arena events. So if you're willing to invest some time and money, this is probably your best bet.