Not throwing away my shot to see Hamilton


Pioneer Press

Isha Sanghvi, Staff Writer

For fans of the revolutionary Broadway musical “Hamilton,” Christmas came early this year. With a bootleg of the play uploaded onto YouTube early in December, fans across the world rejoiced in their ability to finally watch the scenes accompanying the soundtrack that they had listened to for months. But as all good things come to an end, the filmed version was taken down in a matter of days. Entertainment enthusiasts often find themselves in the same situation. It’s commonplace for music, television shows, plays, and movies to be taken down from YouTube to abide by copyright infringement laws. While these laws are understandable for music and television shows, copyright laws are illogical and infuriating for Broadway plays. The mass public is prevented from their one shot at seeing the expensive play, while the multibillion dollar Broadway industry is barely touched by online piracy.

Due to stringent copyright laws, plays and musicals stay as a stagnant form of the rich man’s form of entertainment. Broadway League reported that the average Broadway ticket costs $103.88. In comparison, the New York Times reported that the cheapest tickets for “Hamilton” start at $179, while the more widely available premium tickets can reach as high as $849. In comparison. But even those ticket prices are lucky as external vendors buy tickets in large volumes, selling them for as high as $2000 to rake in profits, according to The Guardian. The exorbitant cost doesn’t even account for housing and travel to New York or Chicago. As a result, middle- and low-income individuals cannot afford to watch performances.

Broadway continues to sit on a throne of wealth at the expense of less fortunate fans. In response to a fan’s request for a bootleg of the musical, writer Lin-Manuel Miranda argued through Tumblr, “I spent 6 years writing this and when you hear it, I want you to hear what I intended. I’m sorry theater only exists in one place at a time but that is also its magic. A bootleg cannot capture it. I’m grateful and glad you want to hear it, and I want you to hear it RIGHT.”

In June, Miranda tweeted, “We’re filming the original cast before I go. WE GOT YOU.”   But no plans of a release have reached the general public yet, except for the crystal-clear bootlegged version.

Additionally, claims that online piracy will hurt the show’s sales are untrue. While piracy is understood to have detrimental effects for developing artists and filmmakers, the nature of Broadway is vastly different from that of a movie or song. An average individual can afford to see a movie or buy a song on iTunes. However, it’s nearly impossible to acquire tickets for hit blockbuster theater performances — let alone affordable tickets. Furthermore, individuals who watch the bootleg are those who would not have witnessed the event live in the first place. Those who buy Broadway tickets buy it for the experience and will still watch it simply because they can afford it.

Bootlegging may not be ethically accepted, but when the average person is denied the opportunity to partake in an experience reserved for the rich and lucky, bootlegging for Broadway musicals and plays should be an acceptable way of witnessing true art. After all, Hamilton is a gift to humanity. So let it be shared by all of humanity.