Give My Regards to Broadway, I Can’t Afford a Ticket
…in which two intersectional feminists babble about the problematic implications of high ticket prices.
Hamilton is all anyone can talk about when it comes to Broadway.
For those who may not be theater-obsessed, Broadway savvy, or history buffs, here is a synopsis from Playbill:
From bastard orphan to Washington’s right hand man, rebel to war hero, loving husband caught in the country’s first sex scandal to Treasury head who made an untrusting world believe in the American economy, HAMILTON is an exploration of a political mastermind. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Eliza Hamilton, and lifelong Hamilton friend and foe, Aaron Burr, all attend this revolutionary tale of America’s fiery past told through the sounds of the ever-changing nation we’ve become.
It’s the story of a man from very humble beginnings living The American Dream, capital letters and all. It’s an integral part of the American Fable about our Founding Fathers, it features an intentionally diverse cast, and it’s told using rap, hip-hop, R&B — it’s a culmination of everything that’s uniquely American.
“Yes. It really is that good,” said Ben Brantley in his review for The New York Times. “Hamilton is making its own resonant history by changing the language of musicals. And it does so by insisting that the forms of song most frequently heard on pop radio stations…have both the narrative force and the emotional interiority to propel a hefty musical about long-dead white men.”
So, what’s to complain about?
Tickets available starting at $600!
The show is fundamentally American. So is capitalism. The official box office is currently sold out until the end of January 2017 .
Box office prices start as low as $159 — expensive, but not unreasonable. It’s one week’s pay at a minimum wage, part-time job. It’s barely more than a day’s work at $15 per hour.
Unfortunately, the box office is sold out.
Unfortunately, third parties — persons who, selling their tickets on the street would be considered scalpers — are making a tidy profit. Here’s what pricing looks like at Ticketmaster for a show this week:
And here are the prices at StubHub:
For comparison, here’s what people paid for rent in various cities across the U.S. according to a report from February 2015:
Wait, hasn’t it always been like this?
The short answer: No.
The slightly longer, but still pretty simple answer: No, and let me point you to The Atlantic, which covered some of the “why” in June 2012. Not to spoil that read for you, but the answer is capitalism, or, to be more specific, the basic concept of supply and demand.
The more complicated and most accurate answer probably also has something to do with the internet, since in Hamilton’s case, obscene pricing is not the box office’s fault. Instead, most of the fault lies with the third parties who are taking advantage of a situation in which they can flip tickets for significant gain with minimal effort thanks to sites like Ticketmaster and Stubhub which appear higher in search engine results than the venue’s own ticketing site. Of course, if the theater wanted to prevent this, it could require IDs match tickets for entry, or release only a percentage of the available seats each day, so that seats remain available for each show until the day before. Neither of those solutions is perfect, but I’ve also only spent the last 30 seconds considering possible solutions. Surely, someone associated with Broadway can think of something.
Because, yes, shows are expensive to produce, and yes, theaters are businesses which must make money to survive, but Broadway seems to be turning a hefty profit. Perhaps it’s time to start protecting its consumers, since consumers are arguably the most important part of any sales model, and I’m sure the artists would prefer people in their audience rather than empty seats purchased by greedy opportunists.