Why do concert tickets go on sale so early these days?

Tickets went on sale Aug. 24  - more than a year in advance - for Carrie Underwood’s Sept. 18, 2019, concert at Intrust Bank Arena.
Tickets went on sale Aug. 24 - more than a year in advance - for Carrie Underwood’s Sept. 18, 2019, concert at Intrust Bank Arena. AP

In early August, Intrust Bank Arena announced popular country singer Carrie Underwood would be returning to the arena for her “Cry Pretty Tour” in September 2019.

Tickets went on sale a few weeks later.

These days, it’s not uncommon for major touring acts to sell tickets to shows more than a year in advance – Metallica did the same thing in February of this year (with a March 2019 show date).

But why?

Many people have difficulty committing to what they’re doing this weekend – much less 13 months from now.

The reason is not totally clear, but entertainment industrial officials have said concerts announced earlier tend to outperform ones with a shorter turnaround time.

More tours, more tickets

The biggest player in the live music industry is Live Nation, which is responsible for selling tickets for artists like Taylor Swift, Imagine Dragons and Pink (the latter two have recently been at Intrust Bank Arena). It’s also responsible for the upcoming Metallica show in Wichita.

A representative for Live Nation did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but its president of U.S. concerts, Bob Roux, recently told the Kansas City Star that a three-year study showed the company sells more tickets when sales start earlier.

“It became quite evident that tours that had their dates on sale for an average of 150 days outperformed those who were on sale for a shorter period of time,” Roux told the newspaper. “Since 2014, we have worked hard to encourage tours with all or a majority of their dates in the summer months to get confirmed and to go on sale in January and February, and it seems to be working as we are selling more and more tickets every year.”

As sales of recorded music have tumbled, many musicians have ramped up their touring schedules — and people are willing to shell out big bucks to see those artists perform live.

According to Pollstar, an industry publication often cited by Intrust Bank Arena, revenue from the top 100 North American concert tours in 2017 was up 10 percent over 2016, and about 66 percent higher than in 2010.

More artists are touring these days, and ticket prices are getting more expensive, too, according to Pollstar data.

Christine Pileckas, director of booking and marketing for Intrust Bank Arena, said Wichita has only had two shows with more than a year of lead time – Metallica and Underwood.

She said “it seems to be that the artists are just coordinating (on-sale dates) around something going on in their career.”

How early are people buying?

The logic, it would seem, is that the longer tickets are on sale the more opportunity there will be to sell tickets (a sound conclusion).

But how true is that?

According to a survey from Eventbrite, a popular ticketing website, it depends on how much those tickets cost.

If tickets cost more than $65, the survey showed more than 50 percent buy them at least three months in advance. If they are cheaper than that, people are more likely to buy them generally closer to the day of the show, according to the survey.

Eugene Loj consults event promoters on best practices for advance ticket sales.

He referenced the “demand quotient,” saying that the level of demand for concert tickets dictates when they typically go on sale.

For example, Metallica hasn’t been in Wichita in 14 years. Pent-up demand for the major metal band’s performance likely helped drive strong early ticket sales at Intrust Bank Arena.

It remains to be seen if Underwood tickets will sell as well, given the country star has performed at Intrust Bank Arena three times in the past eight years — but country shows tend to sell well at the arena.

The ticket industry in general seems to be moving toward a longer on-sale process — “a slow ticketing method where the goal isn’t necessarily to sell out immediately,” said Jack Slingland, director of client relations for TickPick, an online ticket marketplace.

Major artists including Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Pink, Adele, Bruce Springsteen and U2 have all employed early ticket-sale strategies — though the Ticketmaster Verified Fan program, primarily — to great success.

Swift, who will bring her Reputation Tour to Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium next month, is expected to break all kinds of ticket-sales records on the tour, despite initial hiccups with the service.

When should you buy?

So when does it make sense to buy tickets months and months in advance of a show?

The short answer: It depends.

If it’s a concert you think is sure to sell out (and sell out quickly), it makes sense to buy them as soon as they’re put on the market — so you can avoid the markups that often come with second-hand ticket sites.

“If it’s someone who hasn’t been around in several years, or maybe it’s a local artist from the area, those are generally the situations where those prices could increase as the event approaches,” Slingland said.

If it’s a show that probably won’t sell out, it’s usually worth waiting until the week prior to the concert.

“Normally there will be inventory available in a last-minute situation — it’s just a matter of what that price is and the locations that are available,” Slingland said.

Sometimes, the venue will open up more seats (seats known in the business as holds) to a show shortly before — so stay tuned to the venue’s social media channels close to concert time.

Slingland said there is “not one general rule of thumb” for when to buy concert tickets.

“It’s always hard to say when they do plan these so far in advance,” he said. “You could just say, ‘I want to buy now and I don’t want to worry about it,’ and if inventory is low at show time, you could see a spike in (last-minute ticket) prices. On the other side, if ... there’s more supply than demand as they’re approaching the date, prices could come down and you could have saved if you had waited.

“Because of the slow ticketing model, it’s kind of changing the dynamic a bit.”