Like many theatergoers, I confidently bought tickets in January P.P. (pre-pandemic) to a mid-April matinee of the musical “Something Rotten!” here in Denver. Lucky for me, the Arvada Center kept me fully informed. When it became clear the show was a no-go, I received an email with the option to take a credit for future use, request a refund or donate the value of my tickets to the nonprofit.

The coronavirus has completely shut down concerts, plays and other live events both large and small. That leaves ticket holders scrambling to learn what to do. My North Carolina-based colleague Jody Mace, who publishes the website Charlotte on the Cheap (, loves music so much that she attends a concert of some kind, on average, once a week … until now.

To date, four concerts for which she held tickets have been canceled or postponed. Her advice: No matter the venue, check its website for refund policies and options. Then, sit tight and wait for notification.

One concert hall automatically refunded payment to her credit card after canceling a show. An April performance by Béla Fleck and the Flecktones is postponed with no new date announced, leaving Mace in wait-and-see mode. When the Evening Muse, a 120-seat performance space, canceled singer-songwriter Andrew Duhon, she emailed the venue owners and told them to keep the money (about $25) and distribute it to the performer and staff.

Whether you are a symphony season subscriber, bought seats to a Broadway musical or are headed to the mosh pit at a local club, here’s some advice on what to do if you are left holding tickets.

First, determine from whom you bought the tickets – through a ticket broker, such as Ticketmaster, AEG Presents or Telecharge; direct from the venue’s website (many use Eventbrite); from the presenting organization; or in person at the box office. Then, note these three key words: canceled, postponed or rescheduled.

When an event is canceled: You typically don’t need to do anything. The venue or ticket seller will email you instructions on how to apply for a refund or other options.

When an event is rescheduled: You’ll get new event details and dates. If the dates work, you don’t have to do anything; present your tickets at the performance. If the dates don’t work, you should receive instructions on how to obtain a refund, if available.

When an event is postponed: You are in limbo. The venue is waiting for the event organizer or performer to decide whether to cancel or reschedule.

For blockbuster concerts and touring shows:

This may be tricky and complicated. Big-name concerts and powerhouse performances (think Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber) sell tickets through major brokers, such as Ticketmaster or AEG Presents. But those companies contract with concert promoters, stadiums and even artists, not the general public.

That means as tickets are sold, the brokers collect the money, take their cut (now you know where “service fees” go), and turn the rest over to event organizers on a weekly basis. Bottom line: Big-time ticket brokers often don’t have the cash to refund unless their clients hand back the dough.

Ticketmaster (owned by Live Nation) said in a statement posted to its website that it is automatically refunding the cost of tickets and fees for all canceled events. If an event is rescheduled and you can’t attend, some event organizers are offering refunds. You can look for a refund link under the event in your Ticketmaster account. If there isn’t a refund link, Ticketmaster suggests you check back, as the status may change. If your event is postponed and you are unable to attend, you may be able to resell your tickets through the Ticketmaster resale marketplace. Again, you need to check your account for the “resale” link.

The company also posted on April 17 that “over 12,000 (events) have already been canceled and we are actively issuing refunds to every one of the purchasers of those events.”

It added: “Roughly 5,000 events have already been rescheduled, and organizers have authorized us to issue refunds to consumers who request them.

“Of the remaining 14,000 events – which include sports, concerts and Broadway shows – promoters are actively working through rescheduling options. … As those events either land new dates or are cancelled, we will work quickly with the event organizers to authorize refunds.”

The other major ticket broker, AEG Presents, says on its website that it will be offering ticket holders the opportunity to obtain refunds on shows that have been postponed: “Refund requests will be honored for any postponed show, once the rescheduled date has been announced. Ticketholders will then have 30 days to request a refund.”

For shows that have already announced a rescheduled date, you will receive an email from the ticketing company with instructions on how to get a refund. You have 30 days from the time the email is sent to you to request your refund. If a show hasn’t announced a new date yet, hang on to your tickets. You will receive an email when the show is rescheduled, along with information on how to request a refund, should you choose not to attend. If you want to attend the rescheduled show, your tickets will be valid for the new date.

Although AEG Presents promises to automatically issue refunds for all canceled events within 30 days (usually by crediting the card used to purchase them), many events are only listed as postponed – meaning refunds are not yet available.

For season tickets or special engagements:

Nonprofit performing arts organizations are more likely to be accommodating. Refunds can be requested. People who have already purchased tickets will be notified by email. You may be asked to fill out a form that requests detailed information on the performance, date, time and what credit card you used.

Then you’ll be asked if you want a refund, credit or to donate the price of the ticket to the organization. If you request a refund, expect to wait. Be patient. Most nonprofits are working with a skeleton crew, and it takes time to manually track down your transaction and refund it.

Some presenters are biding their time, hoping the show will go on at a future date. For instance, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia posted to its website that its 2020 summer schedule is being rescheduled, so patrons should hold on to their tickets, which will be honored on the rescheduled performance date.

Those who are unable to attend a rescheduled performance (or if a show is canceled) may donate their tickets as a tax-deductible contribution, exchange tickets for a Wolf Trap gift card to be used on future ticket purchases or return tickets for a refund. We found similar policies at the Kennedy Center, Washington Ballet and other organizations nationwide.

For independent, smaller local venues:

It’s no secret that independent venues operate on a thin profit margin. Most rely on ticket sales, concession sales and contributions to pay staff and artists. Although you are entitled to a full refund, and most venues are offering them, if your tickets weren’t too expensive and you can afford it, consider refusing the refund and donating the value.

“When it’s safe to go out, the first thing I want to do is go to a show at the Evening Muse,” Mace says. “But knowing how bad things are for independent artists and small venues, I wanted to help. That’s why I told them to keep my money. If the Muse closes, we all lose out.”

For Broadway shows:

With Broadway and off-Broadway shows suspended through at least June 7, some shows are automatically refunding tickets to your credit card. Others are offering the opportunity to refund or exchange tickets for a later performance.

If you purchased tickets from Telecharge or another ticket broker for a suspended or canceled performance, you should receive an email with instructions for refund or exchange, or contact your original point of purchase for refund information.

Those holding tickets for performances through June 7 will receive an email from their point of purchase with information regarding exchanges or refunds. If you haven’t yet, check your spam folder, and then try to reach out by email, as call centers and box offices are closed.

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