Lin-Manuel Miranda: “Stop the Bots from Killing Broadway”

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Lin-Manuel Miranda—director, writer and star of Hamilton—comments (in The New York Times, 7 June 2016) on the widespread use of “ticket bots” and the unfairness this presents to audiences:

Almost a year ago, the curtain rose for “Hamilton” at the Richard Rodgers Theater. Since that day, everyone involved in the production has had many wonderful experiences to cherish — from the performance when we hosted President Obama and the first lady to the heartfelt stories we hear from theatergoers outside the stage door.

But we share one regret: the lack of availability of tickets means that many people who want to see “Hamilton” can’t. Part of this problem, as it is for many Broadway shows, is simple economics: The demand for tickets exceeds the number of seats in the theater on a given night. But there is another significant factor exacerbating this problem that is unfair to customers, and that lawmakers in Albany can help us solve.

Many would-be customers complain that tickets to their favorite shows, concerts and sporting events are sold out within minutes — if not seconds — after they are posted for sale.

So how is it that you can’t get through to Ticketmaster on the phone or online, and yet resale sites like StubHub or Vivid Seats instantly have tickets available at sky-high prices? Are they luckier than you or your neighbor? Can they dial faster? Is StubHub the lucky Sky Masterson to your hapless Nathan Detroit?

No. The issue is the widespread use of special automated software called “ticket bots” by third-party brokers, which Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, discovered earlier this year during an investigation. His findings are detailed in a report called “Obstructed View: What’s Blocking New Yorkers From Getting Tickets.” Brokers use bots to connect at lightning speed and gobble up as many hot tickets as possible, then offer them on legal resale sites like StubHub.

The investigation confirmed that tens of thousands of tickets to New York events are acquired each year using such software. Brokers who buy tickets using bots substantially mark up the prices — sometimes by more than 1,000 percent — yielding enormous profits.

Incredibly, ticket bots are already illegal under New York law and their use is subject to civil penalties (the attorney general recently announced that large fines were leveled against six brokers). But the markup on resale tickets is so lucrative, earning brokers millions of dollars per year, that they happily risk prosecution and treat civil penalties as the cost of business.

[. . .] The problem will persist until we strengthen the existing law and make this recurrent illegal behavior a felony. In late April, Mr. Schneiderman proposed a bill to address rampant illegal use of bots. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/07/opinion/stop-the-bots-from-killing-broadway.html

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