June 29, 2017
'Hamilton' Ticket Scalpers Make $240,000 Per Week

Ticket scalpers of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton are pocketing $240,000 a week, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The wildly successful hip-hop musical about Founding Father Alexander Hamilton seems unstoppable - it's making millions on Broadway, it won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for drama, its advanced sale is upwards of $80 million at last count, and its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, successfully lobbied the U.S. Treasury to keep Hamilton on the $10 bill. By nearly every conceivable measure, the musical is a breakout success.

However, according to Matt Rousu, a professor of economics at Susquehanna University, at least $30,000 from every show goes to ticket resellers instead of the musical's producers, investors, and cast. There are eight shows a week, that comes out to $240,000 a week, or almost $12.5 million a year.

Scalpers are buying up the seats and reselling them for $2,000 a piece or more. According to the New York Post, this could spell bad news for prices, as Broadway executives are considering doubling the price of the coveted tickets from $549 to $995 in order to keep more of the profits for themselves. Demand is so high that tickets to see Hamilton are sold out through January 2017 and, according to the Post, show little signs of slowing down. They may even pick up more speed following the Tony Awards in June should the show win Best Musical. Hamilton has received a record-breaking 16 Tony Award nominations.

"While skyrocketing prices continue to turn Broadway into a playground for the 1 percent, nobody in the theater business is getting too worked up about it. The truth is, ticket brokers are getting $3,000 for good seats to 'Hamilton.' After the inevitable Tony win, that price could hit $4,500."

Although the lead producer, Jeffrey Seller, declined to comment on the potential price hike and stressed that no official decision has been made, it is part of the ongoing contradiction between Broadway producers and ticket scalpers.

The producers of Hamilton "are having discussion after discussion about what they should do about this," said Broadway manager and author Mitch Weiss to Bloomberg. "They don't want to charge people that much to see a show. But if someone is going to make money, it ought to be the people who work on it."

It does seem the executives could name their price at this point -- the show's official Twitter account said that more than 50,000 people tried to apply for a lottery to win $10 tickets and crashed the site.

Scalpers notwithstanding, it seems the cast and producers of Hamilton are doing quite well for themselves as the musical rakes in millions. Last month, a profit-sharing deal was reached where producers would share with the original cast, who distribute profits among each other.

"Now that the actors have a stake in the profits, they are affected by this part of the market," Ronald Shechtman, the lawyer who represented the Hamilton cast in the profit-sharing deal, said to Bloomberg. "That's money that's not going to investors or the artists."

According to the Bloomberg report, even though sites like Ticketmaster use the most advanced bot-clocking tech and methods for blocking the mass purchase of tickets for scalping purposes, brokers are always looking to fix the game in their favor by constantly discovering new methods.

"Brokers buy tickets to live events in bulk using illegal software called 'ticket bots,' according to a report in January by the New York Attorney General's office. Ticketmaster, which has a deal with some Broadway theater owners, tries to thwart bots by requiring buyers to type characters into a box to prove that they're human. Yet sophisticated brokers get around this by employing armies of 'typers' -- or human workers in foreign countries where labor is cheap -- to type the security phrases into the boxes in real-time, the report found. Each year 'tens of thousands' of tickets to live events like concerts are bought by ticket bots, crowding out human buyers and causing prices for good seats to soar, according to the report."

Last month, the lead producer of Hamilton, Jeffrey Seller, told the New York Times that a broker armed with a sophisticated bot managed to purchase 20,000 tickets for the show. It is likely that scalpers will continue to take advantage of the high demand and low supply tickets, as Hamilton is only shown in the 1,300-seat Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City.

Thus far, the cast of Hamilton has not commented on the story.

[Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images]