10 Things We Learned Buying HAMILTON Chicago Tickets

10 Things We Learned Buying HAMILTON Chicago Tickets

Photo: Seats left available for the December 14th HAMILTON matinee at the PrivateBank Theatre, as of 11pm, 6/21/16.

We, like many others, stood by our computers at 10am today, prepared for the rush to buy tickets for HAMILTON in its Chicago incarnation. Lessons were learned.

1. Ticketmaster LIES.

Right when tickets went on sale, many complained (and it happened to us multiple times this morning) that the Ticketmaster website would say you are in line for a wait of, perhaps, 15 minutes, that would gradually increase. Some were up to 45 minutes before it started actually counting down, and then when the countdown ended, you would get kicked out and have to start over. I had a different experience. My wait was three minutes for an hour, and then I got bumped. Once I tried again, I got this for another half-hour:


Finally, after hearing many were having success on the Ticketmaster mobile app, I downloaded it and was able to make a purchase of some not so good seats. The select-your-seat function was shut down early on, and you were forced to let the website pick for you, making it really difficult to figure out which seats were priced what.

2. Ticketmaster is not equipped for the biggest of on-sale events.

Hamilton is a big deal. Absolutely. But so are the Olympic Games, the Superbowl, Beyoncé concerts, and the like. You’d think they’d have the capacity to handle a big on-sale date like this, but it was disastrous for many who worked for hours to come up with tickets, only to give up empty handed. Why is there no function to search for the best available on any date? Why, when you click on a pair of seats, aren’t they held for you instantly? Other, much smaller ticketing services have this functionality. Why when there is a problem, doesn’t it tell you right away and start you over, instead of waiting in an endless loop with a screen that says “do not refresh or you will lose your place in line?” They can do better than this. And I’d suggest in the future, events like this use a lottery system, where you sign up for your time to purchase, instead of the whole world clamoring for a piece of the pie at once.

3. Lin-Manuel Miranda is not Ticketmaster’s IT guy.

4. The advertised ticket range is a joke.

Broadway in Chicago and the HAMILTON producers advertised that “most tickets to most performances will be priced from $65 to $180.” While we certainly saw those prices, nearly every seat available that was not “limited view” on the main floor was premium priced, starting at just under $500. Some mezzanine and balcony seats, too. While I expected to see some premium seats (that go to the uber-rich who don’t care what’s charged to their black card), I’d venture to say that 30% of the available seats are premium priced. Couple that with the fact that the PrivateBank Theatre seats about 500 more than the Richard Rodgers (where HAMILTON plays on Broadway), producers stand to pull in a huge weekly gross, perhaps, for the first time, larger than a Broadway production.

5. Many people think it will air for free on PBS this fall. It will not.

Many social media posts today mentioned giving up on trying for tickets and just watching it on TV. The news media got this very wrong, particularly an erroneous piece in the Boston Globe. PBS will air a 90 minute documentary on October 17th. “This [film] is sort of where HAMILTON intersects with history…Alex Horwitz, who is directing the doc, is one of my best friends from college in addition to being a very talented filmmaker. He just started filming me when I was writing it very early [on]. He’s got footage of me writing ‘My Shot’ in the Morris-Jumel Mansion, working out Burr’s ‘Gentleman, lower your voices…’ He’s got this insane footage because he was like, ‘Can I throw a camera on you since you’re writing this thing?’ And, he’s gone on to get interviews with—my God—George W. Bush, the Obamas, Jimmy Fallon, Questlove” Miranda said at a New York press conference.

6. The PrivateBank Theatre is something like 40% “limited view.”

Most of the seats in that $65 – $180 range are listed as “limited” or “obstructed” view. That means that a portion of the stage can’t be seen. It’s a common problem in this house. It’s so tall, that much of the upper half of your view in most of the balcony and mezzanine are cut off. It’s not a big deal. I saw Jersey Boys from the first row of the balcony—a show that has a similar scenic layout. I couldn’t see ANY of the catwalk portion of the set. But directors know that, and they adapt. I suspect it will be the same for Hamilton.

7. Ticketing fees have reached the level of insane.

For the pair of tickets we finally purchased ($212 each), we paid a total of $50.25 in ticketing service and facility fees, plus $2.40 in taxes. Enough said.

8. The sensationalism of StubHub will never end.

I’ve lost count of the number of articles that have been written about the top secondary market prices for HAMILTON, both in Chicago and New York. Hell, I wrote one way back in March. But the thing is, anyone can post tickets for $10K on StubHub. I can do it right now. It doesn’t mean people are paying that, and they certainly aren’t in Chicago…yet.

9. Lyric Opera has a sense of humor.


10. There are still good seats available for select dates

We’re giving Ticketmaster a hard time, but we estimate that over 200,000 tickets were sold today for HAMILTON. Now that the insanity has calmed down a bit, their site is working properly, and you can actually see what seats are left available. Most of them are limited view, or $500 premium seats, but again, most of those limited view seats really aren’t bad. There is pretty much nothing left for October, but there are plenty available past then, especially in the spring. We’ve noticed that for some reason, the Ticketmaster phone app is saying there are no tickets available on many dates, while they are available on the website.

About author

Jason Epperson

Jason is a producer, manager, and designer with 17 years of experience in Chicago, New York, and in the touring market. In 2015, he founded Lotus Theatricals - the publisher of Performink, and an independent commercial producing company - with Abigail Trabue.