Have you heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need? It’s a psychological theory on human motivation that includes things like safety, self-actualization, and love/belonging. I think my hierarchy would include a segment for theatre tickets. I’m not saying a big piece… but still a piece. In the past few years regular concerts have lost the power that they once had for me, but Broadway has inched its way into their place because they offer a more immersive experience, since it’s hard to find at a concert unless I invest the effort to be front row, which I do for the right artist.
Theatre tickets are expensive, though, so what I’m willing/able to pay varies pretty heavily by my interest in the particular show…. It’s a whole other Hierarchy of Need. For example, I LOVE Hamilton, but I can’t bring myself to pay $250 for the last row of the balcony with the current cast. However I would have done it a year ago, if I could have, with the original cast. I did willing spend $150 to see Brenden Urie in Kinky Boots from the second row of the mezzanine…. Even though I was just in New York three weeks ago and swore I wasn’t going back for a while so that I could go somewhere new. Listen to “Soul of a Man” and imagine him singing it and you’ll understand.
This isn’t new for me. I’ve done trips to New York just to see Broadway shows before; twice each for American Idiot and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I’ve also tacked a show on anywhere I could on other visits. When I travel I’m usually trying to find the cheapest way to get through the day, including 99 cent slices of pizza, and that extends to theatre tickets, too. Below is the result of years or experience and research on how to get myself in to the shows I love, even when I’m broke.
- Buying them direct from Ticketmaster or Telecharge. This is the most obvious, and I’ve done both. I will say I recently had a positive customer service experience with Ticket Master which I didn’t think was possible. I bought Kinky Boots tickets for an off night for Brendan and because I caught it so quickly afterwards they gave me a refund. AND I was able to use one of those $2.50 vouchers they gave out last year towards my $400+ in theatre tickets. It’s the little things.
- TKTS – These are the booths in Time Square, and a few other places around town, where you can buy tickets day of show. This is great if you’re flexible on what you see and aren’t trying to see an IT show like Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen. Last fall I paid $80 for 8th row of the orchestra for Waitress. It certainly helped that I only needed a single ticket. I was also game to seejust about anything.
- Today Tix – This was a newer discovery for me while prepping for my most recent trip to New York. They are similar to TKTS except that it all is done in an app, plus you have the advantage of buying for up to seven days in the future and entering ticket lotteries (more on that in a minute). You don’t know the exact seat location until you arrive and pick up the tickets. I initially used the app just to scope out what going rates were for about a month leading up to the trip just to help budget. While I was in town I took my mom to see Beautiful (on her first trip to New York) and used Today Tix to get the tickets. It turned out that I had gotten two 15th row seats for about $100 each. Mom balked at that, but I was quite pleased. They also offer tickets in other markets besides New York. USE MY PROMO CODE TO GET $10 OFF YOUR FIRST PURCHASE – KWOUZ
- Ticket Lotteries – Some shows let you enter lotteries to purchase a small quantity of low priced tickets. Rent is generally credited with starting this as a way for students to get affordable tickets to shows they otherwise wouldn’t see. Some are in person some are online. Some are the day of the show and some are the day before. Every show is different. I’ve lost count of the number of online lotteries I’ve entered. This trip was the first time that I entered one in person, for a matinee of Wicked. In this case there is a 30 minute window a few hours before the show to enter and you have to be physically present to win. I didn’t win, but there were only about five of us that weren’t called, so I’d call that pretty good odds. I did win a Today Tix lottery, though. The famous Public Theatre’s Mobile Unite was presenting Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and I won a free ticket to that. (If you haven’t heard of the Mobile Unite check it out.)
- Limited View – Some shows offer limited view seats for a reduced price. It varies by show if you can buy them in advance or have to get them day of show. This is a gamble since you don’t know how much of the stage is going to be obscured. I saw American Idiot twice with obstructed view. Once was great because I was only missing a small piece of the stage. Another time I still missed a relatively small piece of the stage but it was Whatsername’s window so I couldn’t see the action up there. Alternatively, I saw Jerusalem and sat in a box seat and didn’t feel like I missed anything.
- Rush – Some shows offer a small quantity of reduced price tickets on the day of the show. In some cases, like if they’re SRO tickets, they require that the performance be completely sold out. This is how I got Jerusalem tickets 6 years ago. On this trip I was about a week out of my first and only year of grad school and had come to town for a conference hoping to find direction and maybe a job. I needed a distraction and a cheap ticket. If I remember correctly I got in line about 9 am and paid less than $40 for this ticket. It was exactly what I needed that day.
- Cancellation Lines – This is a huge investment in time and money (if you’re successful) and it’s not a guarantee. For shows like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen people spend all night in line and pay people to sit in line for them. You are completely at the mercy of what seats are available. They’re usually seats that were held for guests of the actors/production that weren’t claimed. In the case of Hamilton they can cost $200 or up to $500. You won’t know until sometimes moments before curtain if you’re getting in. On a whim I tried Dear Evan Hansen on this last trip, despite all that I had read about it. I got to the theatre just one hour before the Saturday matiness and there were only 6 people ahead of me. 5 got tickets. If I had been willing to purchase from a rando on the street I could have gotten a seat for the performance, but I refused to hand $200 cash to some guy for a print at home ticket. He had bought it from StubHub for more than double the face price and was skipping the show now because his wife couldn’t make it. Aside from the gamble of buying from a scalper, I’m emphatically anti-scalper just as a concept, and not just because I work in the ticketing industry.
You may have noticed that I didn’t mention Seat Geek or StubHub. As I mentioned, I’m anti-scalper. This offer the insurance of having the intermediary to get you the money back if they’re bad, but I have a problem supporting resale sites. I’ve never purchased from them, though I have come close and ultimately backed out.