Face-value tickets to ‘Hamilton’ in Boston? Not buying it
If you want the hottest ticket in town — a seat at the Boston Opera House for “Hamilton” — plenty are still available through Ticketmaster.
But there’s a catch. You must be prepared to pay hundreds of dollars per ticket, even as high as $1,500 apiece. That’s because Ticketmaster participates in the resale market it says it is trying to control, offering seats for far more than their face value.
It’s delivering a jolt to Boston theatergoers who had been told, when the tickets went on sale, that efforts would be made to keep “Hamilton’’ ticket prices from soaring into the stratosphere, as they have in New York and other cities.
“It just stinks,’’ said Tom Large, 60, of Natick, who was stunned by the sky-high asking prices he encountered on Ticketmaster. “There hasn’t been a level playing field for years, but this is the most outrageous thing I’ve seen.’’
Third-party sellers like Ace Ticket and StubHub have long participated in the resale market, offering tickets to sporting and entertainment events at much higher prices, depending on demand. Ticketmaster has touted itself as a stabilizing presence in the so-called secondary ticket market, saying that it could do it in a more responsible manner that protects both the customer and the client while preventing the computer programs known as “bots’’ or other tools used by scalpers.
In June, when Broadway In Boston and the lead producer of “Hamilton’’ announced that tickets to the blockbuster musical would be sold online through Ticketmaster, they trumpeted their determination to combat scalpers. Producer Jeffrey Seller proclaimed that Ticketmaster’s “Verified Fan’’ process — which requires customers to preregister online and limits them to four tickets — would “make tickets available . . . at regular prices’’ by thwarting scalpers and bots.
But the large number of “Hamilton’’ tickets being resold raises the question: Why would so many people willingly surrender such a coveted ducat? “Hamilton’’ represents the hardest-to-get theater ticket in the country, and Bostonians have been waiting since its 2015 breakout to see the hip-hop-infused musical about Alexander Hamilton and the other Founding Fathers. “There can’t be this many people who are having emergencies,’’ said Large, a lifelong theatergoer and former longtime drama teacher in Wayland.
Neither Seller nor Broadway In Boston vice president Tivon Marcus would respond to questions by phone or e-mail on whether Ticketmaster’s well-established involvement in the resale market runs counter to its stated goal of keeping tickets affordable.
Catherine Martin, Ticketmaster’s senior vice president of communications, said by e-mail that Ticketmaster “offers the safest platform for the buying and selling of tickets from venues and from third-party sellers, including other fans.’’ But she did not directly respond to the question of whether scalpers might be conducting business on Ticketmaster’s site.
What is without question is that you will search in vain for tickets at the prices originally announced for “Hamilton,’’ which ranged from $84.50 to $199.50, not including a limited number of more costly “premium’’ seats. Now, when a theatergoer clicks on “Buy Tickets” from Broadway In Boston’s website and is taken to Ticketmaster, many “Hamilton’’ seats are listed for up to four, five, or six times their original face value, with a striking number of seats $1,000 or more apiece.
Only in small gray letters can one see the words “Verified Resale Ticket” next to the prices, an indication that these tickets have already been sold once by Ticketmaster and are now being sold again, with a fee collected on each transaction.
The bottom line is that for every remaining performance of “Hamilton’’ at the Boston Opera House, a “Verified Resale Ticket” or a “Premium Ticket” appear to be the only options available. All regular-priced tickets to the show, which runs to Nov. 18, have apparently been sold, with many of them reincarnated as high-priced resale tickets.
The numbers can be jaw-dropping. A check of the Ticketmaster website for Friday’s upcoming performance found that the cheapest seat available was $300, and it was in the balcony. Orchestra seats to that performance were listed as high as $1,200.
For Saturday’s matinee, many seats were listed in the $500 to $800 range, and two were over $1,000 apiece. An orchestra seat for that night’s show was asking $1,400. Even at these lofty heights, an orchestra seat at the Oct. 28 matinee stood out, offered for the tidy sum of . . . $15,560.
“Hamilton’’ tickets are also being sold at very high prices on StubHub, where, for instance, a ticket to Thursday night’s performance was listed at $1,875, and Ace Ticket, where a single ticket to Sunday’s matinee ran as high as $2,356.
The phenomenon of high prices on Ticketmaster and elsewhere for resold tickets does not just apply to “Hamilton’’ or to theater, but also to sporting events, concerts, and other live entertainment. If you were in search of tickets to Elton John’s show last weekend at TD Garden and you clicked through to the Ticketmaster site from the Garden’s “buy tickets’’ tab, you would have found “verified resale tickets’’ listed as high as $1,534, $1,688, and $1,710 apiece.
Entering the secondary market is the last resort for “Hamilton” fans, unless — facing steep odds — they participate in the digital lottery, where 40 tickets costing only $10 each are sold to each Boston performance.
In his post, Smith described TradeDesk as “an inventory management tool for professional ticket resellers (brokers)’’ while offering a broader defense of Ticketmaster’s participation in the secondary market. Smith said that “as long as there is a massive disconnect between supply and demand in live event tickets, there is going to be a secondary market. Choosing not to participate would simply push resale back to those who care less than we do about artists and fans.”
He maintained that the steps his company has taken in the past 18 months, including the “Verified Fan’’ initiative, have “cut resale by as much as 90 percent’’; that the company has “invested more than anyone else in an arms race against the use of bots’’; and that Ticketmaster is “by far the leader in fighting for fans and against scalpers using tools that let them cheat.’’
Natick’s Large, however, questions whether Ticketmaster itself has become one of those tools. In the meantime, he is left to swallow his disappointment at not being able to afford to see the phenomenon that is “Hamilton,’’ which he knows might have been a significant addition to his trove of lifetime theater memories. “This hurts. You feel kind of kicked out,’’ he said.
“Basically it feels to me like they’ve brought scalping to the masses,’’ he added. “No matter what happens, Ticketmaster makes money off of it.’’