Episode 415: Hamilton Doesn’t Scale

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we talk “Hamilton” on the eve of the Tony awards.

Ben Adams, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather talk about what it means for a musical like Hamilton to be a “mass” cultural phenomenon, about the high price of tickets to the show, and about the story, lyrics, and message of this newest American musical theater phenomenon.

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7 Comments on “Episode 415: Hamilton Doesn’t Scale”

  1. Rambler #

    Pop culture reactions to Mufasa on the $100.

    in Rap:
    “Tryin’ to jack my ride
    Tryin’ to lift my Pride”

    “Seeing her shake that thing,
    My Rafiki tells me spend another Lion King”

    in the inevitable Die Hard reboot:
    Hans: “Just another American who watched too many broadway shows, and thinks he’s Alexander Hamilton.”
    McClane: “I always preferred Mufasa. You know, shaggy hair, anger issues, picture on the hundred.”
    McClane: “Hakuna Matatta MF”

    in Politics… they wouldn’t get the cultural reference:
    {Oval Office LiveStream} – “You had a golden idea, give the people something new, bring advertising revenue into the treasury… but you dropped the ball. You should have delivered Lufthansa, instead you delivered Mufthasa. You’re Fired.”


  2. yellojkt Member #

    I have no qualms about telling what I paid for Hamilton tickets. I paid face price for 2nd row mezzanine seats on the aisle, which I guess was about $170 each after taxes and fees. I bought them in October for a show back in April, so about a six month lead time. I did use my AmEx Gold Card Privilege to get first shot at the tickets, but other than that it was just advance planning and deferred gratification.

    I don’t live in the NYC area but my wife and I visit New York 2 to 3 times a year, usually to see shows. The weekend we were there for Hamilton we also saw Waitress and Fully Committed, the Jesse Tyler Ferguson one-man show, which is an odd coincidence. The only time I’ve paid more than face value was when we on the spur of the moment decided to see 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee and the only tickets available through our concierge were about double face price. The following week the show won a Tony and the ticket got even harder, so I feel vindicated.

    If you don’t want to see Hamilton, Wicked, or Book of Mormon, the availability and price of shows can be very reasonable. Just last month I saw Something Rotten which still had Christian Borle in it who won a Tony for the show last year. I paid $85 for a single seat in the back of the orchestra, which is half of what I paid for Hamilton. Hamilton, however, was easily an order of magnitude of better which made my face value tickets for that a much better entertainment value.


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      Yeah, I meant that it’s the people who bought on the secondary market who feel an unnecessary but easily fathomable shame.


      • yellojkt Member #

        A new batch of tickets went on sale at 11:10 p.m. EDT to coincide with end of the Tony awards. A Facebook friend got face value tickets through Ticketmaster for February. So there were tickets to be had.


  3. yellojkt Member #

    One more note on the value of live theater. A large part of the cost of the ticket is the fact that it is being performed live. On the economies of scale, Robert Downey Jr. can be in an Iron Man/Avengers/Captain America movie which will be seen by millions, but Hamilton can only be presented to several hundred people at a time.

    Musical performances are even more directly comparable. For $50 bucks or so you can buy all of Adele’s albums but to see her perform the music live it’s going to cost about an order of magnitude more. The value-add is to be in the same room as a person performing the material.

    And this phenomenon is not exclusive to entertainment. Education and health care are two other industries were the in-person labor costs drive those sectors to have prices rise at rates higher than inflation. Most of the information conveyed in an Ivy League university freshman course is essentially free either through Wikipedia or used textbooks or other sources. The value associated with the tuition is to have it presented in person with the eventual credentialing that you have been exposed to it in that manner.

    Obviously there are lots of other factors which make education and health care very, very expensive and not all that money is trickling down to the individuals providing the service, but any skill which requires an in-person presence is going to be more highly valued than any which can be digitally reproduced infinitely.


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