If you know anything about Hamilton, the hip-hop musical about our first Secretary of the Treasury, you know that 1) it’s really popular and 2) it’s impossible to find tickets. If you go online and try to order them through the official web site, you will find that the show is sold out through January 2017 – nine months from now. However, if you go to Ticketmaster, you will learn that – miraculous to behold! – you could actually get tickets for tonight. The only catch? They cost two to six times the original cost. Welcome to the world of resale.
The way resale works is that someone waits until the tickets come out and then buys them immediately. And I mean immediately. They’re waiting in line hours or days early, they’ve taken off work (or this is their job), so that the second tickets become available, they snatch them up. Then they put them on resale for several times their original purchase value, ensuring that they make a tidy profit. So, if Hamilton tickets cost $200 (and from what I’ve heard, they can cost much, much more) and someone buys 20 of them, marks them up to $600 apiece (which is on the very low end of the mark-up), they’ve made an $8,000 profit. And that’s just from one night of resales. Imagine how much they’d make if they repeated this con for, say, every night for nine months?
Resales hurt both the consumer and the performer. They ensure that not everyone has access to the shows, effectively turning theater performances and concerts into an elite product that only wealthier people can afford. They discourage people from even trying to see concerts or shows since they “know” they can’t afford it/can’t buy a ticket before a scalper does. This decreases legitimate sales, prevents houses from actually being packed, and drags down the whole industry. Meanwhile, people that did nothing more than wait in line playing on their phones are making thousands or even millions of dollars off hard-working writers, directors, techs, and actors. It’s bullshit.
Resales are especially alarming considering that fewer and fewer people are seeing shows. The number of people seeing shows in the last ten years has repeatedly declined, and it’s only in the last year that Broadway is starting to see the same numbers they enjoyed pre-recession. These declining numbers have necessitated closing numerous smaller houses, laying off thousands of workers, and increasing competition among theater professionals for extremely low pay.
Incredibly, resales are completely legal. Oh, you’re not supposed to resell tickets within two blocks of the show, but it’s perfectly okay for you to advertise your resale tickets on sites like Ticketmaster, Box Office, or Broadway.com. Theaters know this is happening and can’t/aren’t stopping it. The whole thing is ridiculous.
And since resales are legal, well-known, and more or less sanctioned by the industry, there’s really nothing theater-goers can do other than suck it up and pay the exorbitant prices – that or just never see one of the most influential shows of our lifetimes. Yay, capitalism.