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How to avoid sky-high summer concert ticket prices

Phil Lesh and Bob Weir will reunite with members of the Grateful Dead to perform this summer.
J. Shearer | WireImage | Getty Images
Phil Lesh and Bob Weir will reunite with members of the Grateful Dead to perform this summer.

Depending on your taste in music, attending a summer concert might be harmonious with your budget—or strike a discordant note.

The average secondary market price for a summer concert ticket is $190.60, according to data from marketplace ScoreBig.com. But expect wide swings based on your artist of choice—the average resale price to see the Grateful Dead, for example, is $1,016.20. (Tweet this.) Meanwhile, tickets for The Decemberists average $80.97. (See charts below for more of the summer's most and least expensive artists on tour.)

Fans of certain genres may be in luck, too. "This seems to be the year to be looking at country music," said Alison Burnham, vice president of analytics and pricing for ScoreBig. The typical resale price in that category is 2.4 times face value, versus almost 3.4 times face value for pop music.

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Bargain hunters are too late to take advantage of one concert savings strategy, buying at the box office when there are still (relatively) inexpensive tickets to be had. Which leaves them with the other extreme: Procrastinate. Analysts say the pattern for concert ticket prices on the secondary market usually entails a spike shortly after box office sales begin, followed by a slow but steady decline.

During summer 2014, buying on the day of the concert saved concertgoers 21 percent on top 10 acts compared with prices a month out, said Connor Gregoire, a spokesman for secondary market aggregator SeatGeek.com. On the rest of the summer concert market, the procrastination savings was 37 percent. "If there's a show you're looking out for and you haven't gotten your ticket yet, you're playing it smart even if you don't know it," he said.

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The exception: farewell tours, like that of the Grateful Dead this summer. "Typically you know that going in, and the market is set beforehand," said Gregoire. There's less room for prices to fall, and more often, they rise. So if you see a decent deal, snap it up. Inventory is another sign, Burnham said; fewer than 50 tickets left is an indicator that you're hunting a hot show where price drops are less likely than a sellout.

"Definitely check primary and secondary markets," said Chris Matcovich, vice president of data for secondary market aggregator TiqIQ.com. "Do a little comparison shopping." Credit card issuers including Chase and Citibank offer cardholders access to preferred seats at some shows. Seats can open up, too, if blocks set aside for promoters or those partner credit card issuers don't fill up. On the secondary market side, use an aggregator like SeatGeek or TiqIQ, which pull prices from dozens of resale sites for easy comparison.

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If your favorite artist is performing multiple times in your city and others nearby, compare pricing across all of those shows. Weeknight shows tend to be less expensive—the average ticket price to see Taylor Swift in Los Angeles this August is $236 for her Wednesday show, and $279 on Friday, according to SeatGeek.com. Average prices to see U2 at Madison Square Garden in New York range from $171 to $305, depending on the night.

Bigger venues can also yield better deals, especially as the concert date approaches. Hot acts such as the Rolling Stones or One Direction are more apt to fill a stadium, but for other acts, it's a struggle, said Matcovich. "Sometimes it's a little bit over the artist's head, how many people they can get out there," he said.