Sunday, February 21, 2016

My thoughts on the musical Hamilton

Recently, I had the privilege of seeing Hamilton.  For those not in-the-know, this is THE ticket to get on Broadway right now.  If you try to find tickets, you can no longer find them for less than $300/ticket.  (We got them when the show was still in previews in August for a cheap price, thankfully.)  Some thoughts:

1. After seeing it - I completely agree with NY Times critic Ben Brandtly, who says "Yes, it really is that good".  I can't recommend this show highly enough.  

2. It has many songs that give great illustrations of economic concepts, including Satisfied, The Room Where it Happens, Cabinet Battle #1, and more.  I currently have one song up on, My Shot

3. The business of how this show operates fascinates me.  They have increased the ticket prices recently, so there are a few rows for about $100, but most tickets are $180.  But they hold back some tickets that they call premium tickets which cost several hundred dollars a ticket.

All this said, one could still argue their tickets are dramatically under-priced.  Why?  They sell for much more on the secondary market.

Here the show has a tough decision.  The producers want to make money, but they'd also like the opportunity for some people without high incomes to get to see the show.  But if they don't price the tickets high enough, ticket resalers simply buy all the tickets immediately, then mark up the price on the secondary market  

4. The musical used to have an in-person lottery, which they called Ham4Ham, where people could put their name in as an attempt to win a $10 front-row seat.  The lottery was a major PR coup for the show, as often 1,000 people would line up in front of the building each day to try to win a ticket - creating major buzz for the show.  But the lottery was so successful that it presented problems for those who actually wanted to drive on the street (or walk past the theatre) so the show went to an online lottery.  This will lower the odds of winning, as the decreased cost of submitting an entry means more entries will be submitted daily.

5. I agree with those who say Hamilton should not be removed from the $10 bill, including what you can read here and here.

6. On the trip, we also saw "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime".  That was also fantastic - one of the best plays I have ever seen.

Here's a clip of the show performing their opening number at the Grammy Awards

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My newest paper at Agbioforum

Fifteen Years of Experimental Auctions of GM Foods: What Have We Learned about Policy, Preferences, and Auction Design?

It was a coincidence that GM foods became ubiquitous at the same time that researchers started using experimental auctions to study consumer preferences for food products. We explore the history of experimental auctions used to study GM food products and how the insights gained have been useful to policy makers. We also examine how experimental auctions of GM food products helped researchers gain insight both into consumer behavior and into best practices for experimental auctions.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

When do sports stars have an income tax rate over 100%?

Here are a couple stories highlighting the tax issues faced by athletes:

1. Paying to play in Memphis

That’s where Johnson comes in. “In certain instances,” Klempner says, “it can actually cost a player money to play in Memphis. It’s completely disproportionate.” Johnson didn’t quite pay to play in Memphis, but there will be cases like his going forward as the Grizz front office uses 10-day contracts to experiment with potential roster fits.

2. California taxes will eat up all of Cam Newton's Super Bowl earnings 

Remember when Peyton Manning paid New Jersey nearly $47,000 in taxes two years ago on his Super Bowl earnings of $46,000? Manning has nothing on the state taxes facing Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif.
(Note - I know a business operator who says that NC tax laws mean this isn't quite true - as Newton will get a credit on his NC taxes.  At the very least, however, these articles highlight some strange and sub-optimal tax laws.)