UPDATED: 2/16/2013 @ 8PM
NOTE: The information below refers to US and Canadian ticket sales only. Pre-sales for UK/Europe work differently.
Both! The 2 companies merged in early 2010. Although events and ticketing information are listed on the Live Nation website, all of the ticket transactions are actually done via Ticketmaster. So when you click to buy tickets on the Live Nation site you are actually redirected to Ticketmaster. VIP Nation now separately handles all VIP ticket packages however.
Pre-sale times are given in the time local to the particular venue unless otherwise specified. So a pre-sale that starts at 10AM in Los Angeles means 10AM PDT. A pre-sale that starts at 10AM in Chicago means 10AM CDT.
Music Today is the company that has been handling Rush's fan pre-sales for the last few tours. To participate in these pre-sales you simply need to visit Rush Music Today website; it is free, you do not need to be a member of any Rush fan club (there isn't any official Rush fan club), and there are no pre-sale passwords. There will be a fan pre-sale for all of Rush's North American tour stops, including Canadian dates. The fan pre-sales for any given date generally occur the week leading up to the general on-sale date and usually run from 12PM Monday or Tuesday until 5PM Wednesday or Thursday local venue time, or until the allotted number of tickets runs out (this has happened in the past). The upcoming week's pre-sales are announced via the Rush.com mailing list but that varies; sometimes they give several days notice and sometimes there's no information until the night before (or day of!). When you are on the Rush Music Today site and a pre-sale is open, you will see a link to buy tickets on the Rush Music Today schedule. From that point things play out like most ticketing websites; you choose the level and number of seats (usually there is a max of 4 or 8) you want, they find tickets for you, you choose to either take the tickets or try again. If you decide to move forward with the purchase then you are asked to enter your payment information. Ticket prices are face value although the fees might make the final cost slightly different from Ticketmaster, but not significantly so. The system often runs very slowly - especially right when pre-sales begin. So you will often be presented with a no tickets currently available message. This doesn't mean they are sold out - it just means their system can't accommodate your request at that time. Just keep trying. It often takes several tries until any tickets come up. When you purchase tickets, you will be given the option to pre-order some exclusive merchandise (usually a t-shirt and some other item). By purchasing tickets along with the merchandise, you will be automatically entered into a contest where one winner from each tour stop will be selected for a meet-and-greet with Rush. These pre-sales are called out as Fan pre-sales in the Rush is a Band tour section.
NOTE: Occasionally the Music Today site will redirect users to Ticketmaster and have them purchase the fan pre-sale tickets there using a password of RUSHMT. It's not clear why this happens although it might have to do with Music Today's website going over capacity.
The Rush VIP or Premium Ticket Package pre-sales simply allow ticket buyers to purchase a ticket bundle which guarantees a seat in the first 15 rows along with a package of Rush swag as detailed here. The definition of first 15 rows varies from venue to venue and you are not given the option of choosing where your seat is. These pre-sales are available for most Live Nation sponsored shows and run during the week leading up to the general on sale date. VIP ticket packages will work a little differently for the Clockwork Angels tour than on the Time Machine tour. On the Time Machine tour, VIP ticket packages were handled via the Ticketmaster website through the same interface that regular tickets were sold, and no password was required. Now the packages are sold through the VIPNation.com website and require a password of 2013Rush for the first 24 hours (it has been angelfan and headlong in the past). After this point they remain available for purchase without a password until they run out. These pre-sales are called out as VIP pre-sales in the Rush is a Band tour section. The VIP package pre-sales will begin at the same time as the Music Today fan pre-sales (typically Noon on the Monday/Tuesday prior to the general on-sale date). The ticket packages will cost about $275-350 depending on the venue. You need to sign up for an account on their system at this link to purchase VIP ticket packages. Here are some other important items from the FAQ at the website:
* All ticket packages ordered under one order ID number will be seated together (if same package-type).
* Seating is based on date & time order is placed. First orders get seated closest.
* Packages are non-transferable (Only person listed as "Attendee" is authorized to attend).
* Packages cannot be re-sold.
Also note that you will not know where your seats are until you pick them up at will-call on the day of the show. These pre-sales have no set end date, but typically sell out before general on-sales begin.
These pre-sales are sponsored by Citi Bank and are open to anyone with access to a valid Citi consumer or business credit card. These pre-sales are available for most Live Nation sponsored shows and usually run the week leading up to the general on sale date from 10AM Tuesday or Wednesday to 5PM Thursday or Friday. Tickets are purchased via Live Nation/Ticketmaster just like you would buy any other ticket through these outlets. When prompted to enter your Passcode or Member Code on the billing information page you simply enter the first six (6) digits of your credit card account number (no dashes) located on the front of your Citi card. You will then need to use a Citi credit card to complete your ticket purchase. These pre-sales are called out with a code of CITI in the Rush is a Band tour section.
If a pre-sale is sponsored by Live Nation, members of their mailing list in the city where the show is scheduled may receive an e-mail in advance of the pre-sale which will include any necessary password information. For information on how to sign up for their mailing list go to the Live Nation website. The Live Nation pre-sales usually will use the same password for all dates but this is subject to change. You can typically get the password for a particular venue if you are signed up to receive alerts at the Live Nation website. These pre-sales are available for most Live Nation sponsored shows and usually run the week leading up to the general on sale date for one or two days. Tickets are purchased via Live Nation/Ticketmaster just like you would buy any other ticket through these outlets. When prompted for a passcode simply enter the passcode that was provided to you. I will post these passwords in the tour section as soon as I become aware of them. These pre-sales are called out with a code of LIVENATION or VENUE in the Rush is a Band tour section unless the password is known, in which case the password will instead be displayed.
Radio station sponsored pre-sales often require that participants join the station's mailing list before receiving the password although some stations post the password on their site for all to see or announce it on air. Visit the specific radio station's site or check the Rush is a Band tour section for details. I will post any passwords I become aware of to the tour section as soon as I learn of them. These pre-sales are called out with a code of RADIO in the Rush is a Band tour section unless the password is known, in which case the password will instead be displayed.
As far as the quality of the tickets obtained in the different pre-sales, the Rush VIP pre-sales will guarantee you the best seats. But if you want to pay face value then the Music Today or Citi pre-sales are your best bet and usually get fans better seats than any of the Live Nation or radio pre-sales. Opinions vary on this though, so I suggest you check the comments on the various pre-sales posts to get a better idea of the types of tickets and experiences fans have had purchasing tickets thus far. A good general rule when purchasing tickets is to go into it prepared. Make sure you are very familiar with the seating at the venue for which you are purchasing tickets, have your credit card handy and decide how much you are willing to pay for tickets along with the seating you'll settle for.
For the 2012 Rush tour Ticketmaster started making Official Platinum tickets available. This essentially amounts to Ticketmaster scalping their own tickets as the prices are marked up significantly over the regular price and you have to buy the tickets in pairs. However, unlike the VIP pre-sales, you know exactly what seats you are getting. These tickets are not pre-sale tickets - they become available when the general on-sales begin. They can be accessed by going to the Ticketmaster page for the selected show and clicking on the Official Platinum Seats tab. More information on these tickets can be found at the Ticketmaster site.
If you miss out on the pre-sales, or don't get the seats you were hoping for there are always third-party ticket brokers. These are just companies that buy up tickets and resell them for profit. A couple of the major players are StubHub and TicketLiquidator. You can usually get very good seats through brokers, but at a significant cost increase. Opinions regarding brokers vary, so do your research.
Another way to get good seats is through ticket auctions. Very good seats can be obtained through auctions, but you always run the risk of not winning the auction and being left without a ticket. Information on Ticketmaster auctions can be found here, and there's also eBay ticket auctions.