'Brown Paper Tickets' Offers A Fair Alternative To Ticketmaster

On his Cool Tools blog, Kevin Kelly describes his love for Brown Paper Tickets, a teensy ticketing David to the Ticketmaster Goliath. They don’t gouge customers with outrageous fees, and they’re fair to venues as well, he writes, providing great service and paying promptly.

Brown Paper Tickets is one of several alternative online ticket vendors for anyone hosting a ticketed event. Might be a ball, a fundraiser, a race, a concert, or an exhibit. At Long Now we’ve used them and can recommend them highly.

Brown Paper Tickets bills themselves as “fair-trade” ticketing. What that means is that they offer a fair deal to both the consumer and the venue. BPT provides the lowest consumer fees on tickets (99 cents and 2.5%), with no add-on overcharges, and free first class postage. For hosts setting up an event, they offer fantastic 24/7 live-person phone support, a clean usable website, and cheap (10 cent) printed secure tickets. They offer venue hosts other goodies too. You have control over when to stop sales, how to customize the ticket, ways to manage multiple events, means to offer media tickets, assigned seating, and so on.

Plus, they give you real-time sales, and pay up promptly! Try that with Ticketmaster.

Now the bad news: you can’t use an up-and-comer like Brown Paper Tickets unless your venue can, which makes the whole issue rather academic for now. What you can do is make sure your favorite local venues know about BPT so they can look at it for themselves.

Brown Paper Tickets: Fair Trade Ticketing [Cool Tools]
(Photo: Jakob.Enos)


Edit Your Comment

  1. ohyeahright says:

    I used this to see the Windy City Rollers (Chicago Roller Derby) and thought it was swell.

  2. BigBoat says:

    I used this for Penny Arcade Expo and also thought they were a great outfit.

  3. He says:

    “. . . one of several alternative online ticket vendors . . .”
    Anybody know the other alternatives and have any experience with them?

  4. Someone, anyone – kill Ticketmaster. Brown Paper Tickets, I’m looking at you. You drew the short straw. Kill Kill Kill!

    ::stabbing motions::

  5. MeOhMy says:

    @He: A lot of the theaters in my area are using ticketleap.com . No idea how they are from the theater’s perspective but from the user perspective it seems fine.

  6. ArtlessDodger says:

    In the Atlanta area (and maybe beyond) there’s a pretty nifty site — ticketalternative.com. They do pretty much the same thing as Brown Paper Tickets. They’re reputable and had quick service when I needed to contact them.

  7. loudguitars says:

    @ohyeahright: Yeah, the L.A. Derby Dolls use these guys as well. Great from a consumer’s standpoint, nice to hear they’re making life easy for the venues as well.

  8. tomok97 says:

    What just might kill Ticketmaster is when Live Nation starts their own ticketing company (which they are in the process of doing). Granted, I’m sure it will be just as expensive (if not more so) than Ticketmaster. But once Ticketmaster looses all of the Live Nation venues, you might see some competition in the market place. The non-Live Nation venues will be courted aggressively by both Live Nation and TM. The non-LN venues will do this to drive down the fees passed on to the consumer. And, hopefully, once there is a crack in the armor, it will start a full-on price war between to the two companies.

  9. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    Sounds good, but then again, I’ll go for anything new that comes onto the market if it means not using Ticketmaster

  10. BrianDaBrain says:

    Finally an answer to the #$@#$@%@#$ @#$@ #$ !@$# !@# company we all know so lovingly as ticketmaster. I’m alerting all of the smaller venues around here. Hopefully the bigger ones will start to pick up on it too. I’m excited to see some competition (and $0.99 ticket fees don’t hurt either)!

  11. samurailynn says:

    @tomok97: You already state the unfortunate side of two large companies warring it out – “venues will be courted aggressively by both Live Nation and TM”. The venues will probably get a better deal while the consumer won’t.

  12. stanner says:

    Wow, these comments seem pretty tame. How come no one has blamed the OP and complained that everyone should just stay home and make their own entertainment from scratch?

  13. MBPharmD says:


    In Michigan Startickets Plus handles a decent number of venues and it at least slightly better than Ticketmaster.

    I’ve also used ClicknPrint Tickets for some small one-time local events and they’re super-easy and cheap (although the website is pretty sad).

  14. @tomok97: Live Nation is just as bad as Ticketmaster. Even for events (well, at least one event) that are available through both Live Nation and through Ticketmaster, the fees are about equal. Methinks Live Nation just realized that “convenience” fees are a great revenue stream.

    Ticketmaster is a part of the problem, but they are by no means the sole offender in the racket. For the big name events, the facility (e.g. Live Nation) and whoever else can get in on it tacks on their own fees because people will pay them.

    BPT looks like it caters to smaller-scale events,* rather than large-venue things like a Prince concert at Exxon Coliseum. If BPT wanted to sell tickets to that, they’d probably be forced to be just as evil.

    * Which is great, because it’s lame to pay a $5 convenience fee + $2.50 printing fee on “free” tickets to something like a university lecture.

  15. Framling says:

    @Michael Belisle: BPT handles mostly smaller events, but that’s only because (1) the smaller events are generally more flexible and more free to change their ticketing agency (many agencies lock venues and producers into exclusivity contracts; BPT does not), and (2) there are a lot more small events being produced than large events, and BPT isn’t hostile to small events like some other agencies. They do handle some large events (e.g. Penny Arcade Expo, which drew nearly 40,000 attendees last year) and are built to scale up to pretty much any event size.

    Full disclosure: my wife works in their call center (which is less anonymous-drone-y than it sounds, since it’s a pretty small company). Concordantly, I can also tell you they treat their employees pretty well, and they’re all pretty cool folks.

  16. therethinker says:

    The local high school uses them, further proof that they respect venues.

  17. MercuryPDX says:

    @stanner: You’re only a torrent away from “free movie night” or owning and entire artists catalog… or maybe that’s why they say ticket places are so outrageous in the first place. ;)

    As to battling Ticketmaster, the DOJ pointed out the proper party to take them down, but I don’t think the larger venues are hurting enough to make this happen:

    These exclusive contracts contain two interesting provisions – one of which
    helps explain the variety of high leveles of Ticketmaster service charges.
    Arenas or promoters who sign them are prohibited from allowing anyone else
    to sell their tickets; and Ticketmaser “rebates” or in the words of its
    critics, “kick back” some of the service charges to its contractors. Venues that
    have entered into such agreements with Ticketmaster are reported to have taken
    in as much as $500,000 per year from the ticketer as a result – payment,
    essentially, for freezing competitors out of the market.

    Ow. Ow. Stop….. the big bags of money hurt!

    Kudos to BPT. If a local venue gives me the option of buying at the door or from BPT, I’ll be sure to give them the business.

  18. waldito says:

    what-evah. I own a venue; I just rolled my own! A little php and sql, dash of css and there we are! In this day and age, there’s not much barrier to entry. This way i keep the fees low for the punters, and we bring in an extra 2-3k per year.

    The only ‘indie’ solution that really sucks is groovetickets. god help you if you need to buy tickets thru them.

  19. sicknick says:



    Yup. This is what the Detroit Derby Girls use for bouts at the Masonic Temple downtown. As a side note, Drew Barrymore is currently filming parts of “Whip It” her roller derby movie, in Detroit with girls from the team.

  20. myabloodyvalentine says:

    It’s awesome to see so many people familiar with BPT via derby. I think it’s safe to say most roller derby leagues around the country (the larger ones) are using BPT right now. We are in Charm City and have had little to no issues that I’ve heard of. This also goes with larger events like regional competitions, Rollercon and ECE which draw thousands of people (not like PAX, but still).

    However, it does depend on where your event is located. It’s my understanding that DC, for example, has to use Ticketmaster because their bout location is tied to them as a ticket handler. Sucks because on a $12 quickly becomes a $20 ticket with all the fees.

    As for ticketalternative.com, I’ve used them for a local venue in DC and it was fantastic. $2 handling fees and they even sent a little magnet with a slot to stick your tickets to the fridge or whatev.

  21. ambrooks16 says:

    While I agree that Ticketmaster’s fees are extremely high, I question the wisdom of Consumerist to blatantly promote a particular alternative site. What happens when complaints start rolling in about BPT?

    • OttaviaAegina says:


      When the communication between customer and BPT is clear, most issues can be resolved because they’re genuinely trying to help.

      Im from a smaller town, and our theater recently switched to BPT. It was a little questionable why they would do that, I preferred to just pay cash in advance, and in person.
      I wasn’t clear on how a few things worked with their company, but after thorough explanation on how their service works (producer driven), everything had been resolved.

      Most complaints generally come from mis-communication, or just not knowing the full details.

      Bottom line, any business with the sort of philosophy on giving the people fair, reliable, and respectful service can continue running a successful business.

      They seem to take any complaint by the grain of salt to further fix the kinks of their still growing company.

  22. darkryd says:

    The Kansas City Roller Warriors used them at their bout against Austin.

    They’re great!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Anything to get rid of Ticket Disaster. They should be runner-up most evil company to Wal Mart.

  24. Kitteridge says:

    I’d like to note that I bought tickets to a trolley tour via Brown Paper, then at the last minute had to cancel my whole trip. I figured it was lost money, but what the heck, I wrote them anyway and requested a refund.

    They had every right to keep the money, and instead refunded it. Now, that’s service!

  25. Alex Brewer says:

    I love BPT, but their service isn’t perfect. Lots of people going to PAX have had issues changing addresses/getting refunds merely because emails aren’t responded to. Once the message is communicated to a human BPT is always great.

  26. @He: I don’t know if you consider it competition, but StubHub is much more user friendly than Ticketmaster. The biggest problem with StubHub is that since the users are responsible for shipping the fees for shipping can be high, but shipping is usually much quicker than what you get with Ticketmaster. I’m finding more and more that it is better to check with StubHub for a baseball game before buying tickets because you can often times find tickets for below cost. For example, I got 2 tickets for a Sox/O’s game that are $55 each before fees for $70 total, and that was partially because I had to priority overnight ship the tickets due to short notice. Being able to search for tickets at a price range makes StubHub infinitely better than Ticketmaster forcing you to search a specific section or overall best available especially when looking at tickets for venues like Yankees Stadium where clicking best available on Ticketmaster is going to find you $300 tickets everytime and searching by section requires you to keep searching to find sections that are not sold out. Also, the interactive seating charts let you see where tickets are.

  27. DogStarMan says:

    I used BPT for a Cloud Cult show in Indy. Very nice little service. The fees were way less than TicketBastard.