How Broadway is Getting Screwed


I remember a time when Producers and the Attorney General of New York were all riled up about say, at the most, a dozen Broadway Box Office Treasurers selling twenty house seat tickets per performance to brokers for a financial kickback known as “Ice.”  Well, Ticketmaster has built a glacier over Broadway and no one seems to care.

For example, most of the HAMILTON tickets sold by Ticketmaster are sold-out thru next October, but if you go on the Ticketmaster site, you will see consistently 1/3rd of the seats available for resale “from fan to fan” for exorbitant prices, 3 to 8 times the face value of the original tickets.  This means that the majority of the money being made by this hit show is not going to help pay the cast, crew, creatives or investors, it is going to the “fans” or more precisely “e-brokers.”  HAMILTON made $1,700,000 gross last week, but there was probably at least another $2,000,000 paid to “e-brokers” above the face value.  This is not good business.

Right now, there is a limit of 14 tickets per person each week for ticket sales, but we all know there are ways around that.  There needs to be a limit on the amount you can charge to resell a ticket.  Or, for every dollar you make over the ticket price, 50 cents should go back to the show.  I know, it would be difficult to regulate that income, but if you can’t regulate the sales, what option do we have?

It’s not only HAMILTON, that’s just the most blatant case.  And it’s not only Ticketmaster, check out Stubhub or any of the other resale sites.  It is SO DAMN HARD TO MAKE MONEY IN THE THEATER BUSINESS. PRODUCERS: DON’T BE SATISFIED WITH A HIT, DEMAND NEW STANDARDS FOR ACCEPTABLE RESALE PRACTICES.  (Yes, I am yelling.)


3 thoughts on “How Broadway is Getting Screwed

  1. I see a lot of merit in Rich’s suggestion, although the process of verifying ID to ticket at the door, would be a nightmare. As well as some leeway for those unforeseen situations where the intended patron is unable to attend. Perhaps tracking purchases and limiting how frequently blocks of tickets can be purchased would help, but I’m sure scalpers would find a way around anything I could think of. Ticket prices are already high enough, but the exorbitant mark up charged by scalpers really does nothing to put more “fannies in the seats”, it just insures that fewer patrons will be able to enjoy the theatre experience. The only other course of action is to refuse to pay inflated fee.

  2. Let me preface this by saying that I know next to nothing about the business of theater, so my comments should be assigned a weight commensurate with my ignorance. Having said that, I must say that I’m conflicted. On the one hand, seat speculators (like stock speculators) while parasitic and producing little or nothing of value, must be willing to take risk in order for their business to be profitable and the market, whether it’s equities or theater seats, will reward or punish them accordingly. Granted, in the case of can’t miss, well received, highly publicized, destination shows like Hamilton, the risk-taking can hardly be described as bold. Of course the shows producers also benefit from not having to pour massive amounts of money into marketing and advertising thanks to free media and third parties who seem eager to do the work for them. Furthermore, high ticket prices and lack of ticket availability creates a certain amount of cachet In the same way that premium pricing strategies employed by luxury goods manufacturers build brand equity. Consumers are then willing to pay more for goods than they might otherwise. The artificial ticket scarcity also creates a backlog that is likely to extend Hamilton’s (for example) run beyond its anticipated shelf life.

    On the other hand you make a great argument on the inequitable split of proceeds between speculators and producers. I imagine it takes a small army to stage an award winning and highly entertaining Broadway show. That army, I am assuming, includes talented individuals at every level an in every functional area, not just the onstage talent. These individuals don’t come cheap and there association with a successful, high profile Broadway play surely increases their stock. The imperative of any successful business that wishes to remain thus is to retain talent while remaining profitable. This is made more, not less difficult by a secondary market that is siphoning of 30 to 50 percent of potential gross revenue.

    I haven’t a clue how to address this problem. Shows could build their own ecommerce infrastructure and cut out third-party resellers altogether. But unless they are willing to take the added step of requiring purchaser to be present for the performance, it’s unlikely this would do anything to curtail speculation, straw purchaes that rob productions of much needed revenue.

  3. Yes, please YELL! It’s so totally unfair to EVERYONE except the scalpers. Wasn’t there a time when resales were simply not permitted? THOSE were the good old days.
    When I order house seats through my various sources, I have to specify whose name the tickets are to be held under – right as I order them. Couldn’t that be implemented for ALL ticket sales – at point of sale? I’m probably being naive, but SOMETHING’s gotta be done.

Comments are closed.