Tickets to see Beyoncé in the U.S. are so expensive that some American fans are flying to Europe instead.
The number of American fans seeing concerts abroad was steadily increasing before the pandemic, but Ticketmaster’s recent controversies have highlighted the difficulties of the ticketing process domestically. With dynamic pricing jacking up the cost of concert tickets in the U.S. and young people increasingly spending money on experiences, seeing Beyoncé in Europe gives some fans more bang for their buck.
In the last month, TikTok users have been demystifying the process of buying international tickets and making more consumers aware of the potential savings.
Mercedes Arielle, a content creator, is no stranger to the strategy. In 2018, she saw Beyoncé and Jay-Z at the “On the Run II Tour” in Paris, securing floor seats for $92 apiece. In her hometown, Dallas, the going rate for the same tickets was $900 higher.
This year, having witnessed the botched Taylor Swift “Eras Tour” rollout, Arielle said she had no desire to rely on Ticketmaster and the U.S. system.
Arielle paid less for her international flight, her hotel stay and a Beyoncé ticket in Stockholm than her hometown friends paid to see the same show in Dallas. Her VIP tickets to the Stockholm show were $366. Even her hotel is “essentially free” because of points and miles.
“Beyoncé is gonna sweat on me,” she said. “That’s how close I am.”
Since she last traveled to Europe to see Beyoncé, Arielle has been sharing affordable luxury travel tips, like using points to purchase flights.
“It’s really important to me to make people aware that living within your means does not mean that your lifestyle cannot be fabulous or that it can’t have these glowing moments that will be forever memories,” she said. “To me, the savings are priceless.”
Others online agreed it can be more economical to splurge on a concert and a vacation than to pay a similar amount to watch the show in their hometowns.
When Kylyn Schnelle, 28, looked at floor tickets for Beyoncé’s “Renaissance World Tour” stop in Louisville, Kentucky, where she lives, she found some seats that were being resold for over $800. Given the steep price tag, she decided to take a look at floor tickets in London to see whether she could find a better deal.
“When I looked in London, it was 167 pounds [about $200], and the flight was, like, $660,” she said. “I was like this is genuinely the same cost.”
Schnelle’s best friend lives in London, so, she said, it took “very little to convince” her to go.
“If you’re going to spend $800, why would you not milk it as much as possible?” she said, adding that she has the privilege to travel abroad for concerts because she is young and single and has a job that gives her paid time off.
Resale restrictions differ in Europe
Frustration at Ticketmaster, which has been embroiled in controversy after the November sale for Swift’s “Eras Tour,” has reached a fever pitch in recent months. The company has been criticized for its outsize role in the ticketing industry in the U.S. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January, the company was questioned about the prevalence of bots, exorbitant fees and high prices.
Ticketmaster’s use of dynamic pricing, which adjusts prices based on demand, has been particularly contentious among U.S. concertgoers. While it is increasingly used in the U.K. and certain other European countries, it is still less common, making the tickets more reasonable in the eyes of U.S. consumers.
Schnelle posted a TikTok video sharing her European ticket-buying experience and praised the U.K. and Europe’s consumer protection laws. In the comments, some viewers shared similar experiences, while others expressed interest in exploring European options for future concerts.
“I don’t think that what Ticketmaster has done in the United States post-pandemic is sustainable for their business, because they’ve made a lot of people upset,” Schnelle said.
In addition, while ticket scalping remains a major problem in Europe, the U.K. and some other European countries limit resale prices, driving market prices down. Ticketmaster also faces more competitive pressure abroad, with Eventim and Dice serving as prominent primary ticket sellers in the region.
A spokesperson for Ticketmaster did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sam Shemtob, the managing director of the ticket resale advocacy group Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing, said that ticketing platforms are able to implement caps in their resale policies but that the numbers vary across Europe. On the European ticket site Eventim, he said, resale tickets are capped at face value plus booking fees in the U.K. and at a 20% markup from face value in countries like the Netherlands. Conversely, he said, Germany has no limit on resale price increases on Eventim.
“The laws are getting better across Europe in that they’re becoming more homogenized and more equal," Shemtob said. "But at the moment, there are quite a few different laws in different member states.”
Last year, the European Parliament passed the Digital Services Act, which includes ticket regulations and will take effect Jan. 1. Shemtob hopes it will create “a more level playing field in terms of both regulation and enforcement.”
The DSA will require resellers to provide proof of identification and contact information, mandate the disclosure of third-party sellers on resale sites and ban “panic-buying” tactics, such as using timers.
“We are exploring and trying to get a better understanding of how it will be enforced, because without enforcement, legislation is meaningless or almost meaningless,” said Shemtob, who said regulatory enforcement remains a problem in European countries.
While the U.K. and the European Union are taking steps to address ticketing issues, fans might still be faced with high prices and confusing resale markups similar to those in the U.S., depending on the country. Shemtob said “consumer education is so important” when it comes to buying tickets and added that campaigns like “Make Tickets Fair!” provide resources about resale laws across the region.
Despite exorbitant prices, some fans are still going big
Jadrian Wooten, an associate professor of economics at Virginia Tech, said two primary behavioral factors lead consumers to spend hundreds of dollars on concert tickets, even if it is not in their best financial interest.
The first is called “present bias,” the idea that we “heavily discount the future and prioritize things we’re doing today.”
We know as consumers and as people who have lived through a pandemic that opportunities for certain experiences may not happen again, causing fans “to go to great lengths to do that today,” Wooten said.
The second factor is that consumers base the value or the price of a product on experience, known as an “anchoring bias.” In the case of buying tickets to see industry titans through Ticketmaster, Beyoncé fans saw certain prices for Swift’s “Eras Tour” and adjusted their expectations and budgets accordingly.
When Wooten first heard that U.S. fans were electing to travel to international shows for the same or cheaper tickets, he thought it was a “really creative way” to get two things for the price of one.
“You’re bundling two experiences in one,” he said. “You’re getting both a concert experience and a trip that you maybe wanted to take anyway.”
But not all fans are opting to jet-set
Some fans said their European ticket-buying strategy backfired.
Jamaya Powell, 26, bought expensive Beyoncé tickets in Germany before she looked into flight prices, which she later realized she could not afford. Powell went viral on TikTok because she desperately tried to sell the two German tickets.
“Online, I really couldn’t get a gauge of how much the tickets would be in the U.S,” said Powell, who lives in Atlanta. “I just considered because of everything that’s been happening that they would be really expensive. So I impulsively bought the tickets in Germany.”
Powell bought dynamically priced tickets from Ticketmaster for 409 euros each. A friend who lives in Austria bought face-value tickets in the same section for a lower price.
Powell was not aware of dynamic pricing at the time and says she felt “scammed by Ticketmaster.” She struggled to resell her tickets because she bought them over face value.
Powell eventually sold the tickets at a loss, at 240 euros each. She also was able to secure two tickets in her hometown, Atlanta, for $741.60.
“It’s hard to not be impulsive when, you know, you want to go to a concert that is very highly anticipated and that people are really interested in going to,” Powell said. “I would just say make smarter decisions than I did."