Direct – Nothing is cheaper or quicker than email, and almost every form of cultural arts performance group (including film and jazz) are using email to distribute discount information (usually via discount codes) to their current shows. You do not have to be a member or subscriber (though you frequently get better quality email if you are), just visit the website and see where you can sign up for email messages.
Half-Price and Deep Discount – Although Broadway’s well-known half-price TKTS booth is not online yet, many other cities have half-price ticketing services that allow you to purchase day-of tickets online (or sometimes even days in advance). There are also websites like Goldstar that offer significant discounts on tickets to performance events in several cities. Just get on the email list to learn about their offerings in advance. New Yorkers who qualify for TDF membership can use their extensive website (see New York City Discounts).
Discount Codes – Why more people don’t use discount codes, we’ll never know. They’re much more convenient than any half-price booth because you can use them to get your tickets well in advance and from the comfort of your home. Sites like Playbill and TheaterMania allow you to access these codes by signing up for free, or you can find many of them at BroadwayBox. Discount codes are distributed in numerous other ways too, including snail mail flyers and Telecharge e-mails. And here’s a tip: Take the code to the box office and buy your tickets in person if you want to save on service and handling fees.
Through Third Parties – Many towns (and as you can guess, especially New York) have organizations, usually ticket agencies, that regularly send out discount notices on shows.
Papering Services – “Papering” is mostly a New York thing right now (though LA is coming on), but it is probably the best way to see a maximum of performances for a minimum of cost. With Theater Extras, for instance, you pay an annual membership fee of $99 and then you only pay a $4 per ticket service charge for any event that you see through the year. Each day you can login to their database and see that they have tickets for different Off-Off Broadway shows and performance events, as well as tickets for some Off-Broadway and even the occasional Broadway show.
Almost every steady theater and concertgoer has been in the situation where their spouse or date has cancelled on them (maybe three days before or maybe the last minute), but they still want to see the show anyway. They’ve checked with all of their friends and no one is interested – so out of kindness or a desire to not to have an empty seat next to them, they offer the ticket on the FREE section of Craigslist or go to the theater to see if anyone wants it.
If you want to be the lucky recipient of that ticket, here are some suggestions. When answering a Craigslist free ad, tell as much about yourself as possible including your sex, approximate age and why you want to see the show. You may consider sending a picture. Do not include your phone number or mailing address – your email address is enough. It is probably a good idea to say upfront if you are married or in a relationship so the other party does not begin with the wrong agenda. If you get a positive response (which should also have a picture) then agree to meet in front of the theater no less than 20 minutes before the show.
Trying to get a free ticket the night of the show? Tip one – have a good clean appearance. No one wants to spend two hours sitting next to a bum! Tip two – stand in front of the theater and ask “does anyone have a free ticket they are not using?” Make sure you say “free” so everyone knows the score. If there are people around selling tickets (usually they are holding them up in their hand) then politely say to them “I cannot afford to pay for the ticket, but if you cannot sell it, I would be glad to have it.” Be polite and friendly, and do not ask anyone more than once. Most important of all, do not become a pest. Due to complains, several of the larger venues (including Lincoln Center) are cracking down on insistent ticket begging. You want to see the show, not spend the evening at Night Court!
Re-Sale –When people can’t use their already-purchased tickets, they often sell them on websites such as Craigslist, eBay, and Stubhub, and to entice buyers, they may sell the tickets for less than face value. Beware, though: frequently the people selling tickets on these sites are actually brokers. Summertime in New York City brings a cottage industry of folks willing to stand in line for free Shakespeare in the Park tickets and then sell them online for $30-$100 a pop depending on how popular the particular show is.
Three months ago you purchased two tickets to the ballet, but a week before the curtain goes up you find out that your recently pregnant niece is suddenly getting married that weekend. What do you do? The first thing is to contact the organization that sold you the tickets and find out what your options are. Even though the tickets say non-refundable non-exchangeable, most theatres know that they are in the goodwill business and will try to help you. When William Compton Jr. died in Los Angeles he had over $1,200 worth of tickets. Jeffrey had to contact over a dozen theatres, but all of them (with the sole exception of the Pasadena Playhouse) agreed to credit a full refund back to Bill’s credit cards.
Frequently subscribers and members can just call the organization and arrange to go on a different night – or even do the entire process over the Internet.
If the theatre will not take back your tickets, then you can try to sell them (or give them) to your friends or to the general public on eBay, Craigslist or a site like StubHub using Paypal to collect the funds. As with all Internet transactions, use common sense and read the help sections of the various sites to make sure that you understand what your protections are. You can also post a sign at work, around your apartment or condo complex or at the gym.
Night of the show and still no takers? Then consider going to the theatre and selling the tickets by the door. If you can before you go, contact the theatre or check their website to see if the show is sold out. That will help you determine how much to ask. In most cities, including New York, selling personal tickets for a profit is not a crime, so you do not have to be super discreet about it. Just go to the theatre 60-90 minutes before curtain and hold the two tickets where everybody can see them. Have the seat numbers and locations written down on a separate piece of paper so someone can check to see where the seats are without handling the tickets. Most importantly, agree to the price before turning over the tickets – and it does not hurt to see the money first.
Finally, if you cannot trade the tickets in or do not want to deal with a stranger-related sale, then find out if they can be donated back to the theatre or venue (which has to be non-profit) for a tax deduction. At least you can get a portion of your money back – and some organizations even credit the donation toward membership privileges.