By now, the difficulty in procuring Hamilton tickets for anything close to their original price is part of the show’s folklore. Part of the problem surrounding seeing popular shows like Hamilton or Book of Mormon is simple supply and demand — more people want to see the shows than there are seats in the theater. But the bulk of the problem lies in the resale market.
Some resales are legitimate, to be sure. If you buy a ticket and then miss your flight or your dog gets sick, it’s reasonable to try and sell on your ticket on, especially for in-demand shows. But when tickets on resale websites regularly go for between 5 and 20 times face value, something’s wrong.
When tickets are released online, so-called ticket bots swoop in, buying hundreds of tickets minutes, sometimes seconds, after they go on sale. These bots leave legitimate customers and fans empty-handed and out of luck.
It’s an enormously profitable endeavor, since those operating the bots can turn around sell those tickets at an enormous markup, sometimes over 1,000 percent. Who loses? Anyone who can’t pay the inflated price.
And it doesn’t just happen on Broadway. A report from New York’s Attorney General describes bots buying over 1,000 tickets to a U2 concert in Madison Square Garden in 2014.
In an op-ed for The New York Times, Hamilton wunderkind Lin-Manuel Miranda (amid several glorious musical references) describes how ticket bots are illegal under NY state law, but subject only to civil penalties, not criminal charges.
Happily, a bill, A09640, is under discussion in the New York State Assembly, seeks to end this. Among other changes, it adds criminal penalties (including imprisonment) for repeat offenders and requires sites like StubHub to post the original price they paid for the tickets. This, at least, makes the markup more transparent.
The operators of the ticket bots are the ones who pocket the enormous profit. It’s money that the cast and crew of a show (or performers of a concert) never get to see. Worse, it erects a barrier between artist and audience, and ruins the experience for both.
New Yorkers can call 518-455-4100 to find out the number of their Assembly member. It’s past time to get the bots.