I Can’t Decide Which Is Worse, That “Hamilton” Is So Greedy, Or That They Won’t Admit It




Producers of the smash hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” soon to sweep the Tonys in historic fashion, have raised the top premium seat price to a record-obliterating $849.

The previous high for Broadway show’s ticket prices was $477 for the best seats to “The Book of Mormon.” The producers are taking advantage of the fact that the show has reached mania status, something like the Dutch tulip craze. Waiting lists for tickets are months long. The show is a cultural phenomenon, but it is still a show.

This musical, reinventing the genre with a hip-hop score and an intelligent, challenging book, could be that rarity, a popular musical that matters, and one that draw young…even straight!…young people back to a genre that has been rapidly declining and increasingly irrelevant to modern popular culture. So given that opportunity,and already making money hand over fist, what does the production do?

Raise tickets to an obscene level. Ensure that the tickets to other shows will rise too. Make live theater, which is already too expensive for any family to attend not named Pritzger or the equivalent, even more elite and even more inaccessible to normal, working Americans.

A base canard, says the Hamilton Corp! Producer Jeffrey Seller  protests  that he has  opened access for people unable to spend hundreds by increasing the number of last-minute digital lottery seats for  ten dollars from 21 to 46 people. “It’s not a token amount. Forty-six tickets a night is a lot of tickets,” said Seller , the same day he announced that a single ticket in a prime location could cost more than a flight from Philly to Miami. “On an annual basis, 19,000 people will receive an opportunity to see ‘Hamilton’ in the first two rows for $10.”

What generosity! What compassion!

What deceit. This is a public relations move to distract from the naked greed of a show that makes over two million dollars a week trying to squeeze out even more, at the cost of making live theater seem even more like an elite amusement for the rich than it already is.

Here’s the real spin job, though: we are supposed to believe that “Hamilton” just raised theater tickets to unprecedented levels to foil scalpers. Listen:

“We know that scalpers have been buying our tickets — often in illegal ways — and reselling them for four or five or six times their face value. And we know that all of those dollars are going to those usurious brokers and they’re not going to the very people that create the play, perform the play or work on the play every single day,” said Seller.

So “Hamilton” is raising prices to $849 to “take the air out of those very brokers who are using our tickets to make a killing” and put that money back in the show, “which is where it belongs and which is where it is deserved.”

Seller’s next musical should be “Brooklyn Bridge.”

Amusingly, New York Times critics Ben Brantley and Charles Isherwood wrote a column he titled, “Hamilton’ Costs Too Much? Here Are Some (Cheaper) Alternatives.” Some of their suggestions:

  • $16.99 for the MP3 cast recording.
  • $12.37 for paperback of the Ron Chernow biography.
  • “The Color Purple,” $145 (full-price orchestra, totally worth it)
  • Ivo van Hove’s “genuinely scary, genuinely brilliant” reinvention of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” for which  an orchestra seat costs $150 or less.

Not that those ticket prices aren’t too expensive for most people too.

Theater artists bemoan the fact that attending live theater has become a forgotten cultural activity, but this betrayal by the “Hamilton” crew–it’s a musical about poor people succeeding in a democracy, remember, shows that as long as they keep making money, these artists who espouse contempt for the nation’s “income inequality” don’t care where their own lucre comes from , who is buying the tickets, or the fate of theater in America.

28 thoughts on “I Can’t Decide Which Is Worse, That “Hamilton” Is So Greedy, Or That They Won’t Admit It

  1. I did over pay for a ticket when it first came out but not like what is being demanded now. And I think I replied once on your site several months ago that I was disappointed in the show. I thought 1776 and Bloody Andrew Jackson and better shows. But that is just me. That is why there is vanilla and chocolate ice cream.

  2. I’m pretty picky about my seats and I’m willing to pay for good ones and mostly unwilling to see a show if I can’t get good seats. This pretty much guarantees I won’t see “Hamilton” until they release performance rights to high schools and community theater.

  3. My understanding is that this price increase is designed (at least in part) to respond to and counteract the effects of ticket scalping. Scalpers routinely sell the tickets for $2000 or more. That’s the market; and they’re reduced the scalpers’ profits.

  4. They are between a rock and a hard place. Seats are going for as much as $10,000 on the open market. If they charge less money for seats, they he snapped up by the ticket brokers, and the price goes for $800 bucks anyway. So why shouldn’t the theater actually profit from the actual prices the ticket goes for, rather than creating a fictitious market of tickets that no one can actually purchase for the prices listed?

    Miranda wrote a impassioned op-ed against ticket brokers, and the way they have inflated the prices for Hamilton. I subscribe to Hamilton alerts, so I got a text when a new block of tickets went on sale recently. I immediately notified my friends, one of whom scored front row seats for a nominal price (less than $500 for a pair of tickets). My other friends were out of luck, but noted that some of the tickets they were trying to secure got snapped up, and immediately put back on the market for three times the asking price. What can a theater do under such circumstances?

    Hamilton is a very hot ticket, and the theater has a limited amount of seats. The common man is priced out, no matter what the theater does. It’s simple supply and demand. I think they’ve done what they can to ameliorate the situation. How do you suggest they get around scalping, that other venues haven’t tried (and still be in agreement with the terms of Ticketmaster, also an unspoken conspirator to the scalping)?

      • Those $10 are not available on the open market. Lottery only, so only people who live in NYC, and have wide-open schedules where they can go two hours before showtime as soon as they find out can hope to get seats. It’s a totally different process from people who actually have to schedule these things out, and want some certainty about seeing the show.

        • Why are you defending this? That lottery is designed for the young and flexible A family can’t use it. You can’t buy four. Its a PR gimmick, The huge price jump will inflate all tickets,,,we have seen this before. Nothing is stopping the producers from lowering prices so the middle class can afford to come. Nothing is stopping them from making a work of art more accessible to the public. They don’t HAVE to use the ticket services that are in league with the secondary market. The show’s popularity give them options, and the option they opted for is to raise prices.

    • Art is more than commerce. The author/star got a genius grant. Supposedly he’s not in this for just profit. Real artists aren’t. Theater is a grass roots art…if the public is shut out, it’s a sham. In the end, the Hamilton artists are killing their art’s long-term viability for short-term gain.

      • I agree with you wholeheartedly! However, the market has a way of taking over everything. The long term viability of Broadwy is being killed by the scalped price, that was mentioned, of $10,000 a ticket. The grass root theater is alive and well in the many community theaters and other small production companies. I saw a good production of “Don Juan in Hell” produced locally by a Church sponsored group in the Church’s rather nice small theater. Broadway is not grassroots theater!

        • It is my deep regret that I never saw (and now never will see) a production staged by our host. I suspect that, from the passion he evidences on this subject, he is terrific. That said, Broadway and off-Broadway are off my radar, anyway. I haven’t been able to afford New York for a number of years, and this did NOT help. I’m with Mark…when it hits community theatre I may go see it (if I’m still around).

      • Yet market principles apply.

        Oddly enough, most producers, when they hit a runaway product don’t just raise the price to squeeze those who can afford the product, they actually open production to push more product at a lower price.

        This would translate into this market as run more venues- perhaps across the nation…

        What a thought.

        And “that’s just not how it’s been done” is a a valid response.

  5. I just recently bought tickets for Bruce Springsteen at Nationals Park . My name is on the tickets , I have to be there for the tickets to be used . This prevents me from reseeding them. If they want to prevent the reselling of tickets, raising their prices isn’t the answer adopting this practice is.

    • But that doesn’t make more money for Bruce!
      Exactly, Bill…there a plenty of ways to address scalpers without gouging innocent ticket-buyers.A perfect example of how bogus Seller’s excuse is.

    • DC forbids the scalping of tickets. NY law explicitly allows for the resale of tickets, and it can be for more than the face value of the ticket. In a lot of ways, their hands are tied.

      • Having just been to a Nationals game, I can tell you that DC forbidding the scalping of tickets has had very little effect on the practice.

        • Oh, I know. But the producers of the show in NY can’t forbid the resale of a normal ticket the way they would be able to (theoretically) in other places that forbid scalping.

          I just fail to see the utility of putting tickets out there for sale, at prices that no one who actually wants to see the show would be able to purchase. It’s just a charade. $50 tickets would be bought, and then sold for 10x their face value. Of course. That’s the way the market works, especially if scalping is explicitly legal. I feel if the tickets are going to be sold at that price no matter what, then make the true price clear at the outset, and let the profit go to the ones who actually did the work, not ticket brokers.

        • So the money should go to the ticket brokers instead, who had absolutely nothing to do with the show? That seems like a ridiculous proposition.

          It’s obvious that the market does not let normal tickets be sold for a low price right now. The demand is too strong, and the seats too limited. The extra money will be going *somewhere*, either to ticket brokers or the cast, crew, and producers of the show. I think I would prefer for it to go to the latter, rather than the ticket brokers.

  6. “a popular musical that matters, and one that draws young…even straight!…young people back to a genre that has been rapidly declining and increasingly irrelevant to modern popular culture.”

    Jack Marshall’s Line of the Year. So far. You’re killing me.

  7. Lets be real- the entire broadway industry has priced out anybody but the rich. When i was a young lad in NY I saved some money to go see a broadway production. No young working class person can do that today.
    Greed has overtaken the arts, indeed. P.S. the same can be said for major league sports.

  8. I could have sworn I’ve seen you supporting free market capitalism. This is how it works. Make something valuable, and you get to sell it for a lot of money. You say they’ve reinvented and reinvigorated the Broadway musical. That sounds like a terrific achievement (at least for people who claim to care about musicals, as you do) so I’m happy that they are being well-rewarded. They deserve to be well-rewarded. Maybe other produces will see how much money this show is making, and they will be encouraged to be bolder and more inventive, leading to a whole new wave of astounding musical productions. When people do good things, the free market rewards them, in order to encourage more people to do likewise.

  9. I think it has more to do with the decision to revise the contracts of the performers to allow them to share in the profits.

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