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Two weeks ago I asked you to send me your best ideas for making a side income.
I got a few hundred responses, and they were entertaining to say the least. I’ll investigate a few of them and share the results in a future post.
But for today, let’s jump right in to it.
Today, I am going to show you how to make a side income by reselling tickets online.
Before we get in to the nuts and bolts of how to do this, let me take you back to where it all began.
It was the fall of 2007 and I was a young, broke college student looking for ways to earn a little bit of walking-around money.
I was sitting in my dorm room browsing through Facebook Marketplace (back when this was a thing) looking to buy a Chemistry textbook when I saw 2 posts that caught my eye.
- Selling football ticket, $50
- Looking to buy football ticket, willing to pay $150.
Literally side by side, and posted within minutes of each other.
I figured it was a long shot, but I saw an opportunity to make a quick buck.
So I messaged each person, offered to buy the ticket from the first and sell to the second, and set up 2 meetings a block apart from each other.
I grabbed $50 cash, bought the ticket from the first person, then walked one block away and sold it for $150.
A profit of $100 with about 5 minutes of work.
Now I know that $100 doesn’t sound like a lot of money to some people, but at the time I felt like I had just made $10,000.
I was hooked.
So I decided to try to scale it. I spent hours scouring through every online marketplace and message board I could find, trying to find other similar opportunities.
And there were a TON of them. Turns out people are pretty lazy when it comes to buying and selling tickets online.
This allowed me to generate a pretty substantial profit just by matching buyers and sellers. But I wanted more.
Eventually I started to refine my methods, even buying tickets on speculation and putting together lists of people who were looking for tickets on a regular basis.
Before long I had put together a side-business that was generating a few hundred dollars of profit per month.
My methods have changed drastically since then, but the general concept remains the same.
Like credit card rewards, the concert/event ticket industry is full of loopholes and opportunities that you can take advantage of.
The key is knowing how to play the game.
And that my friends, is where I come in.
Bryce Conway is the name, finding loopholes is my game. Here we go.
How to Profit by Reselling Tickets Online
First, a quick definition:
Ticket resale (also known as ticket scalping or ticket touting): the act of reselling tickets for admission to events.
It’s that simple.
It requires very little time, has the potential to generate a substantial profit, and just about anyone can do it.
Before I go any farther, let me clarify that I am not talking about the type of ticket reselling (“scalping”) that occurs outside of concerts or sporting events. Never in my life have I stood outside a stadium carrying a sign that says “I Need Tickets”.
The type of ticket reselling I do is done entirely from the comfort of my house. Many times without ever seeing the very tickets that I am selling.
Why Does This Work?
Take a second to think about the last 3 concerts/events you have ever attended.
Who was performing? How many people were there? What was the overall vibe of the event?
I’m no psychic, but I would be willing to bet that every single one of the venues was filled to capacity with raucous screaming fans.
Because nothing kills an artist’s brand quite like playing to a half empty venue.
The music would sound terrible (empty seats = strange acoustics), the crowd would feel less energetic, and the concert/event would lose that feeling of exclusivity that makes people brag about having been there.
Artists/events can’t afford to let this happen, so they intentionally price their tickets below market value to make sure that every ticket is sold.
They KNOW they are leaving money on the table, but the risk of playing to an empty venue is too great to take the chance.
This is where ticket reselling comes in.
By buying tickets at their face value, ticket resellers are purchasing an asset at a value that is very likely* priced below what the free market would offer.
(*very likely does not mean guaranteed. More on that later)
Which will lead to a profit more times than not. Simple.
Now I know what you are thinking.
“Bryce, that’s great and all but how am I supposed to get access to tickets at face value? It’s not like I’m a promoter or something.” And you’re absolutely right.
But if you have been following my other advice on credit card use, you already have a MASSIVE advantage that you may not be aware of.
Let’s take a look.
How to Buy Tickets at Face Value
There are 3 ways for the average person to get access to concert/event tickets at face value.
Credit Card Presales
Most major events will have some sort of ticket presale that is limited to specific credit card holders.
The 2 most popular ones are Citi and American Express, and the only requirement to participate is that you pay with either a Citi or American Express card.
Credit card presales are typically limited to 4-8 tickets per person, however, this is incredibly easy to get around if you have multiple cards with either Citi or American Express. I typically have at least 3 cards with each at any given time.
Simply create additional Ticketmaster accounts and link a different card to each one.
Cha-ching. Now you can buy more than a dozen tickets at face value while everyone else is scrambling just to get a couple of them.
Fan Club Presales
Before we go any further I need to share an intimate secret with you.
(looks over shoulder, speaking in a hushed tone)
I am currently a member of Justin Bieber’s fan club.
In fact, I joined multiple times using multiple email addresses (more on this later).
Now before you pass judgment on why a 20-something year old man is enrolled in Justin Bieber’s fan club, let me explain myself.
You see, back in 2012 Justin Bieber was the hottest ticket in the world. His Believe Tour was set to be the biggest tour of the year and tickets were sure to fetch a hefty profit in the secondary markets.
Getting access to his tickets however would prove to be challenging. Everyone from 10-year old fan girls to suburban soccer moms were trying to get them.
I needed an edge, and I got one thanks to the presale offered to members of his fan club.
I was able to scoop up more than a dozen tickets on presale thanks to the fact that I was a card carrying “Bieber Fever Belieber” with multiple accounts.
(It causes me physical pain to write the word “Belieber” by the way)
Less than 3 weeks later I had unloaded all of them for a hefty profit.
This strategy can be used for almost any artist, but be careful to read all the terms and conditions of their fan club presales.
Some fan clubs now require you to pay a membership fee in order to access ticket presales, and having access to the presale doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to score tickets.
Others will require that you are a member for a certain amount of time before giving you access to the presales.
Just make sure to do your homework to determine if it’s worth your time.
And make sure you opt out of their emails. I learned that one the hard way.
When all else fails your best option is to take a chance with the general public sale.
This is much more difficult than it used to be, thanks to the large use of computer bots, but every now and then you will get lucky.
Your best bet is to use multiple browsers as well as the Ticketmaster app on your phone.
And pull up the official U.S. clock to make sure you click “search” the moment tickets go on sale.
Ok, moving right along.
We have talked about why ticket reselling is an easy way to profit and how to get access to tickets before anyone else, but there’s one crucial question left to answer.
So what concerts/events should I buy tickets for?
This is the million dollar question.
It’s easy to buy up a bunch of tickets just because you can, but which ones will generate the most profit with the least risk of a loss?
To do that, let’s take a look Bryce’s 5 factors of a good reselling opportunity:
Audience has access to disposable income
This is pretty obvious but it needs to be mentioned. You absolutely, no-doubt-about-it, guaranteed, will never be able to make a substantial profit by reselling tickets to people who do not have disposable income.
To do this, try to picture what the “average” concert goer for a particular event looks like.
Middle-aged men or women going to see their favorite band’s farewell tour? Goldmine.
Hipsters looking for general admission tickets to a 3-day outdoor music festival? Probably not a lot of money to be made.
Focus on selling tickets for events that cater to a wealthier clientele and you’ll find it much easier to turn a profit with less work.
This factor can be divided in to two sub factors.
1. Audiences who don’t plan ahead.
Let’s face it, most people simply don’t plan ahead when it comes to buying event tickets. I learned in my early days of reselling college football tickets.
They either aren’t aware of when tickets initially go on sale or they just don’t care (see factor #1).
This is ideal for resellers, as these folks are forced to look to the secondary market for tickets.
So how do you know who doesn’t plan ahead?
Well, experience for one. There’s no substitute for that.
But you can also guess this based on demographics and common sense.
In general, older crowds don’t plan as far in advance. I’m not trying to offend anyone here, I am just sharing an observation learned from years of experience in this game.
Younger event goers tend to be more on the ball when it comes to planning ahead. They follow their favorite bands/events closely and jump at the opportunity to buy tickets.
So again, think about who your average concert goer is here and look for groups who don’t plan ahead.
2. Audiences who can’t plan ahead.
Sometimes audiences want to plan ahead, but can’t. This is another goldmine for ticket resellers.
Think about the Super Bowl for example. You have to have some serious connections to score Super Bowl tickets anyway but go with me here.
Tickets for the Super Bowl go on sale weeks, or even months, before anyone has any idea of who will be playing in the game.
So why does the average fan choose not to buy them?
Because they don’t know if their team will be playing in the game!
(When it comes to Super Bowls, the only sure bet is that my Cleveland Browns WON’T be playing)
They aren’t prepared to take that gamble, so they wait and hope to find tickets on the secondary market.
But you, the reseller, KNOW that there is going to be a huge premium on these tickets. Regardless of which teams end up playing in the game.
So you can afford to take that risk. And trust me, it will pay off in a big way.
These opportunities occur when there is any sort of event with contingent participants. Playoff games, sports tournaments, college football bowl games, etc.
Pop quiz. Which of these headlines sounds more believable to you?
“Taylor Swift Gets in Fight with Fans While High on Drugs”
“Miley Cyrus Gets in Fight with Fans While High on Drugs”
I’m guessing you picked the latter.
This introduces the concept of artist popularity/stability.
Ticket prices are highly dependent on how popular an artist is at the time, and as history has shown, that popularity can change almost overnight.
There is no way to quantify this, but you always need to think about how stable an artist is before investing in their tickets.
Back to my Justin Bieber example, I was certainly glad to have unloaded his tickets before he was photographed spitting on his fans from an elevated balcony. This caused a significant drop in his ticket prices on the secondary market, all in a matter of minutes.
Same issue came up when Chris Brown assaulted Rihanna.
Always be looking out for red flags and unload your tickets at the first sign of trouble.
Favorable Venue or Date
When and where an event occurs can have a MAJOR effect on ticket prices, even when every other factor is accounted for.
So while most events will charge the same face value for every ticket on the tour, prices on the secondary market can vary based on the following factors:
- Iconic venues (Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Hollywood Bowl, etc.) will always fetch higher prices than other venues.
- High cost of living markets (NYC, LA, etc.) are willing to pay more for tickets than lower cost of living markets.
- People will always pay more to see an event on a weekend vs a weekday.
- Smaller venues will usually have a higher price per ticket than larger venues.
Again, this comes down to common sense.
Is the average person willing to pay more to see Maroon 5 on a Tuesday night in Des Moines, Iowa or on a Friday night in the Hollywood Bowl in LA?
Exactly. Keep this in mind when deciding which tickets you decide to by.
Ok, last one. Let’s talk about which specific tickets in an event are going to fetch the highest premium.
My general rule is that the “business class” tickets are best.
(Yes, everything is an airline analogy to me)
Not front row, but not the cheap seats either. Somewhere in-between.
It all comes down to who your market is.
The super-premium tickets (VIP Experiences, backstage passes, etc.) are usually controlled by companies and given away as promotions. Getting access to these tickets is nearly impossible and only a select few people are willing to pay a premium for them anyway.
The cheap tickets are too abundant and rarely sell for much of a premium. The market is often flooded with people who suddenly can’t attend and are just trying to unload their tickets for $10 to $20 above face value.
But the tickets in-between the two tend to do best. I’m talking mid-range floor seats, stadium seats in the first few rows, etc.
These are the ones who attract your ideal buyers who are willing to pay a premium for a quality experience.
Here are a couple more thoughts:
- Pairs of tickets will always fetch the highest price per ticket. This is because most people go to concerts in pairs.
- If not pairs, stick to even numbers so that you can split them in to pairs if needed. Liquidity = less risk.
Never buy single tickets, regardless of how lucrative the opportunity looks. Nobody wants to go to a concert by themselves, and those that do aren’t willing to pay much for it. This is non-negotiable. Do not ever buy a single ticket to try to flip it. Period.
Ok, now that we’ve covered that let’s talk about where to sell your tickets.
Where to sell your tickets
There are dozens of ways to sell your tickets (Craiglist, eBay, etc.) but the only one you should ever use is StubHub.
StubHub is simply the most effective way to sell your tickets quickly without any risk of fraud.
(I am not compensated in any way to endorse StubHub. I simply find their product to be the best in the business)
Yes, they’ll take 15% of the sales price but that’s the cost of doing business in this game. And it’s a fair price to pay for the protections that they offer their buyers and sellers.
StubHub has a great reputation with buyers and tends to attract the higher-end clients that you are looking for.
Craigslist is full of scams and buyers who are looking for rock bottom prices. Take it from me, it’s not worth the time, hassle, and risk of getting defrauded by a buyer.
Lastly, StubHub makes it easy to price your tickets to sell. You can browse similar listings and even use tools that will update the price for you.
What are the risks in this game?
Like any activity designed to generate a profit, there are risks in reselling tickets.
Here are a few that you should be aware of.
Let’s face it, there are some pretty terrible people in this world who are always looking for opportunities to rip you off. Unfortunately, many of them try to do so in the world of ticket reselling.
Some buyers will try to claim that you never sent the tickets, or that the tickets were different than the ones you listed for sale, etc.
Unfortunately, you have little recourse when this happens. Unless of course you sold your tickets on StubHub.
With StubHub it is almost impossible for buyers to rip you off. The tickets are verified by Stubhub, Stubhub handles the delivery process, and they offer a number of protections to both buyers and sellers should there be a dispute.
Try to sell your tickets electronically when possible to ensure that there are no qualms about the tickets being shipped correctly.
If you have to ship the physical tickets, take a cell phone video of you putting the tickets in to the shipping envelope and dropping it in the box. It’s a 10 second inconvenience that could save you a lot of money if things get dicey.
This is related to the “Artist Popularity/Stability” factor that we discussed above.
It’s rare, but occasionally an artist’s popularity will take a complete nosedive seemingly overnight.
(Think Chris Brown after he physically assaulted Rihanna, Brittany Spears going off the deep end, bands losing a key member, etc.)
Often times this is not a total surprise but occasionally it can catch you off guard.
Here’s how you mitigate this risk:
- Do not buy tickets for artists that you believe to be “risky” (covered above)
- Diversify your ticket holdings across a variety of artists and events
- Do not hold on to tickets for too long
The sooner you can flip your tickets for a profit, the better. Even if you have to sacrifice a small amount of profit.
Lack of Liquidity
It is absolutely vital that you do not invest money in tickets that you cannot afford to float.
Sometimes, due on a number of unpredictable market conditions, you might have to hang on to tickets longer than you anticipated.
Which means that your money is tied up in tickets and unable to be used to pay things like rent and utility bills.
So do not, under any circumstances, buy tickets with money that you HAVE to get back in a short time period.
This is also non-negotiable. Set aside a “ticket fund” comprised of money that you can dedicate solely to this side hustle.
You can’t write about ticket reselling without addressing the potential ethical concerns so I’ll mention them briefly.
Unfortunately, a lot of people believe that ticket reselling (or “scalping”, that term is often used in this scenario) is unethical because it prevents the “true fans” from getting tickets to their favorite events.
While I understand where this belief comes from, it is a lot more complicated than that.
First, ticket resellers (generally) do not have any special access to tickets that any other fans can’t get. I know I certainly don’t.
We have simply done our homework and discovered methods that are available to anyone.
If fans are motivated enough to get access to face value tickets they will find a way. The “true fans” argument is really just a disguised attempt to justify laziness.
Secondly, many people have a problem with ticket resellers because they believe that we are making a risk-free profit off of them.
But as we covered above, ticket reselling is far from a riskless activity. There is a lot that can potentially go wrong, and therefore we expect to earn a profit for taking on this risk.
It also would be remiss of me not to touch on the potential legal issues of ticket reselling.
SeatGeek put together a great write up of all the legal issues that you need to be aware of so I am not going to rehash all of them here.
The general gist of it is that most ticket reselling laws are incredibly outdated and apply to on-site selling only (can’t sell within X feet of an event, etc.).
Regardless, I would highly suggest that you give it a read before getting started.
Advice before getting started
Ok, we have covered just about everything that you need to know about how to profit from reselling tickets.
Just a few more things to consider before getting started.
It takes time to learn all the ins and outs of this business, and you certainly can’t learn everything just by reading about it.
Pick an artist or event that you are familiar with and start with just 2 tickets. Even if you have the opportunity to buy more, don’t.
Watch how prices move, learn the basics of how to sell online, and keep track of your profit.
As you get more comfortable with the process you can start to test it with other artists and events.
Keep Good Records
Like travel hacking, reselling tickets takes attention to detail and careful planning.
Create a simple spreadsheet to keep track of what tickets you have, how much you bought them for, and what the final sale price was.
This is especially important as you scale your business to a level where taxes come in to play.
You will never make significant money reselling tickets online unless you are having fun doing it.
So pick artists/events that you enjoy, don’t spend too much time on this, and never take yourself too seriously.
Happy Side Hustling,
Photo credit: Blog.up.co, Pinterest.com, newsroom.uber.com, CNN.com
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