Buying Rolling Stones, Justin Bieber tickets? Expect sticker shock

Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing and paperless tickets might raise the ire of fans hoping to see them at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.
Mick Jagger, left, and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones perform during their concert at the Rose Bowl on Aug. 22, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif.
Mick Jagger, left, and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones perform during their concert at the Rose Bowl on Aug. 22, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif. [ Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP ]
Published Feb. 13, 2020|Updated Feb. 13, 2020

Buying tickets to see the Rolling Stones or Justin Bieber at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium? Here’s our advice:

1. Take a deep breath.

2. Bring money. Lots of money. More money than you think you’re going to need.

3. Try not to hurl your phone or computer into oncoming traffic.

Tickets to both concerts go on sale to the general public on Friday, the Stones (July 5) at 10 a.m., and Bieber (July 25) at noon. And based on how the pre-sales have gone so far, it’s fair to expect some frustration.

Related: Rolling Stones announce July tour date at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium

First, a word about pre-sales: Most concerts feature an array of opportunities for fans to purchase seats before the general on-sale, whether it’s through a fan club, credit card or other program. According to Ticketmaster, the Stones show had a dozen pre-sale opportunities, Bieber had five. In Bieber’s case, pre-ordering his new album Changes came with the opportunity to register for pre-sale concert tickets.

The Rolling Stones announced their show last week, but did not actively publicize prices (according to promoters AEG, face value runs from $49.50 to $499.50, plus service charges). There may be a reason for that: In the pre-sale, at least, Ticketmaster appeared to deploy its dynamic pricing model, in which prices can fluctuate based on demand, sort of like airline tickets.

Ticketmaster instituted the policy in 2011, in part to discourage scalpers and resellers scooping up seats to the hottest shows. The results, it’s safe to say, have been mixed. Just two weeks ago, My Chemical Romance’s upcoming reunion tour sold out in hours, with livid fans reporting queues in the thousands to purchase tickets for well above face value.

On Wednesday, Paul Zulkoski of Tierra Verde tried to buy two lower-level tickets to the Stones for what he thought was in the $800 range. When he clicked through to purchase, they were $1,277 apiece — and he had to pay nearly $400 in ticket fees. The next day, he saw tickets in the same section for $1,106.63 apiece, and the fees were significantly lower. He asked Ticketmaster for a partial refund, but they said no, pointing him back to their elastic pricing policy.

“It’s certainly going to affect the way I buy tickets in the future,” he said. “It’s a shame. We’re getting screwed.”

As for Bieber, tickets to his show also start at $49.50, and were available at that price point during Thusday’s pre-sale (before all those fees, of course). Kehlani and Jaden Smith will open the show. Click here for details.

The bottom line: Whether you buy seats through Ticketmaster or elsewhere, accept that it might be tough to find seats at the stated bottom level. Be prepared to pay hundreds of dollars in service fees. Don’t feel like you have to shell out top dollar for seats right away; you may well have that, uh, luxury later on.

And know that thousands of other fans will be suffering right along with you.