Slate's Explainer: Concerts Sold Out in Minutes? Fans of Madonna, Radiohead and Bruce Springsteen sometimes find that getting tickets for upcoming concerts a little frustrating. Often, within hours -- or even minutes -- of tickets going sale, breathless reports indicate the shows have already sold out. But can concerts really sell out in 10 minutes? Slate senior editor Andy Bowers explains.
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Slate's Explainer: Concerts Sold Out in Minutes?

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Slate's Explainer: Concerts Sold Out in Minutes?

Slate's Explainer: Concerts Sold Out in Minutes?

Slate's Explainer: Concerts Sold Out in Minutes?

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5405413/5405414" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Fans of Madonna, Radiohead and Bruce Springsteen sometimes find that getting tickets for upcoming concerts a little frustrating. Often, within hours — or even minutes — of tickets going sale, breathless reports indicate the shows have already sold out. But can concerts really sell out in 10 minutes? Slate senior editor Andy Bowers explains.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

It's DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Noah Adams.

Not too long ago, getting tickets to a popular concert meant camping out in front of the box office all night. These days, the camping out can be done virtually in front of a computer. But that also means concerts sell out much more quickly. Recent appearances by Radiohead, Madonna, and Bruce Springsteen allegedly sold out in ten minutes. That got the Explainer team at the online magazine Slate wondering if concerts really do sell out that fast, and here with the answer is Slate's Andy Bowers.

Mr. ANDY BOWERS (Senior Editor, Slate Magazine): Yes, they do. Ticketmaster, the agent for pretty much every big concert in America, sells tickets on it's Web site, over the phone, at 6,500 domestic retail outlets, and through arena box offices. Ticketmaster says internet orders now make up 60 percent of sales. Tickets used to be allotted to retail sellers in paper form, which meant regional outlets had at least some tickets available. But these days, all buyers purchase seats from a single computerized pool. When a fan in Detroit buys tickets on the Web, that's one less ticket available to the guy at the retail store in New Jersey.

That means you could be first in line at the box office, and there's still no guarantee you'll get a seat. Popular shows sell out quickly because many seats are already spoken for. There are presales for fan clubs and venue season ticket holders, tickets for sponsors, radio station giveaways, and comps for the band.

According to USA Today, just 10,000 of the 20,000 seats at Madison Square Garden were made available to the general public for Coldplay's two concerts in September 2004. Individual ticket buyers must also compete with professional ticket brokers who have the know-how, manpower, and technology to beat those of us trying to go it alone from the dorm room or den.

ADAMS: Andy Bowers is a Slate Senior Editor, and that Explainer was compiled by Melony McAphee(ph).

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