Say you’re the biggest Baha Men fan on the planet, and you’d just die if you missed their show. (Play along, okay?) What to do? Hop online. The number of people who buy tickets to concerts, movies, and stage shows via the Net is dwarfed by those who go the traditional route of phone, record store, or box office. For music and other live events like theater and sports, online accounted for only 2 percent of the tickets sold a few years ago — but that number is increasing almost daily: At Ticketmaster.com, for example, sales were up a robust 25 percent during the April-to-June window.
Believing the growth will continue, major online services are hoping to find customers in their cars, on trains — virtually anywhere. ”People want flexibility and a lot of options,” says Tom Stockham, president of Ticketmaster.com. ”As the technology improves, it makes online buying and wireless buying more and more compelling.”
The tag line says, ”To buy a ticket, just click it.” Not so fast. Type in your zip code, click on the film you want to see, and the site spits out a list of theaters in your vicinity showing it (you can specify a 5- to 40-mile radius). If you try to buy tix to a Mann or UA theater (or General Cinema or Pacific), you’re out of luck; it doesn’t ticket for those chains. Some theater chains may charge up to $1 per ticket by Thanksgiving. B
This AOL-owned site no longer charges a fee. Contains a plethora of reviews, behind-the-scenes info (content from EW and E! Online), polls, chats, Internet short films, and comprehensive lists of movie times and theaters nationwide (same as MovieTickets.com). Same problem exists: It doesn’t ticket National Amusements. It does ticket Cineplex Odeon, UA, Mann, and others regionally. B
Covers several markets (Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth, New York City, and San Jose, Calif.) and only six chains (Loews Cineplex, Regal, Edwards, Cinemark, Magic Johnson, General Cinema). Gives times, locations, prices, snippets, cast info, ratings. C
LIVE MUSIC AND THEATER
Fees, fees, fees. The granddaddy of ticket services is super-easy to navigate, but it ain’t cheap (it’s the same as calling or going to an outlet, though). Its venue list is formidable and far-reaching, so chances are you’ll deal with this company. Like it or lump it. A-
As with rival Ticketmaster.com, fees vary with ticket price. Not nearly as comprehensive as its competitor. Has decent Broadway and Off Broadway listings. B-
Awesome resource, though it sends you to either Ticketmaster.com or Tele-charge.com for buying. It’s a great first stop. Exhaustive listings of Broadway, Off Broadway, and Off Off Broadway shows, with reviews, running times, cast, and credits. Tells you about each venue, how to get there, its comfort level. B+
Scan newspapers, talk to friends, and listen to the radio for info on when tickets go on sale or extra shows are added.
Be ready to jump as soon as tix become available.
If it’s sold out, shop around (eBay, ticket brokers) for a competitive price.
Buy tickets without knowing exactly where you’ll sit. (Get the location and look it up on the seating chart.)
BUYING HOT SEATS
I wanted to see Moby at the Greek Theatre in L.A., but by the time I started poking around on Ticketmaster.com (which has exclusive rights for that venue), all the good seats were gone. After hearing that another show had been added, at the El Rey Theater, I again looked at Ticketmaster.com and saw that tickets would go on sale at noon the day before the show. Ready at the stroke of noon, I sailed through the site quickly, picked two general-admission tickets, entered in my credit card info, and was done. All told, it took about three minutes. I got a confirmation number and, a little later, a confirmation email. This service came at a heavy price, though: For two tickets at $29.50 each, $17 was added in ”convenience,” ”handling,” and ”venue” charges. My total: $76.