Many venues operate their own ticketing service and, if they do, they usually require you to use them. In some cities, the venue has a contract with a commercial ticketing service. Most ticket services have a variety of fees that are passed along to the consumer. In general, if there is a facility fee or capital improvement fee (usually $2-5), this fee must be included in the advertised ticket price. Taxes such as GST, PST or HST are also usually included in the advertised price. Convenience fees are also usually charged but will vary by sales source. For many, the fee for buying on the internet may be different than the fee for buying by telephone, with no additional fees for buying in person at the box office. Since these fees are not consistent, you may wish to advertise your prices with the price itself, followed by a line: plus convenience fees where applicable.   

Alternatively, you may sell your own tickets, taking reservations over the telephone and using volunteers or local retailers to deliver tickets to customers.

Selling your own tickets

Running your own ticketing service is recommended if you have a good network of people or locations to sell tickets or if you are dealing with a venue with fewer than a few hundred seats. The cost can be kept very low, for example, by simply printing business cards and hand-numbering them to keep track of sales. 

If setting up your own ticketing system, you will have to print the tickets, find a local sales outlet, devise a system of auditing the sales and more. Learn more about ticketing systems [PDF, 56.9 KB].

Contracting out 

If you are operating in a larger market or in a large venue, there are advantages to using the venue’s ticketing system or a local commercial service (even if you are not required to) as people who regularly attend events at that venue will expect to buy tickets at the usual place.   Also, commercial ticketing services will likely have on-line sales, which is an increasingly important means to sell tickets.

Contracting with a ticketing service is relatively easy.  In setting up the arrangement, ensure that the ticket service can provide you with the desired level of service (e.g., on-line ticketing, telephone access, hours of service, etc.).

Expect to pay the following fees:

  • set-up fee (for building the event into the system and making it ready for sale)
  • ticket printing fees (for complimentary tickets or other tickets that you take out of the system)
  • credit card commissions
  • ticket sales commissions (usually a percentage of ticket sales but sometimes a per ticket charge) 
  • service charges (telephone convenience fees; venue improvement surcharges; mailing charges, etc.)

Inform yourself of these charges so that you can pass them on to the customer in setting the ticket price. The fees will be invisible to the customer, for whom a $29 ticket could become a $40 ticket once the “extra” charges have been included. Learn more about ticket pricing.

General admission vs. reserved seating

In some venues, you may be able to implement reserved seating and even hold subscribers’ seats from season to season. Reserved seating encourages early sales and is especially valuable in subscription renewals as patrons will keep their seats from year to year. 

Complimentary tickets 

You may reserve complimentary seats for the artists’ guests and issue free tickets to contest winners, local media (reviewers), sponsors and dignitaries.  You may also wish to give some complimentary tickets to your volunteers (or sell them at a discount). The house manager will probably need some “emergency” seats to take care of last-minute seating problems. And you may want to hold some “house seats” to accommodate a donor or VIP who confirms they will attend at the last minute. Set up your complimentary tickets in the system before the tickets go on sale and agree with the artist and ticketing service on the date when you will release the tickets you are holding for general sale. If your contract involves a “split” with the artist, confirm how many complimentary tickets you and the artist need.