I live and work in New York City, so, going to a Broadway Show is as easy as breathing, for me. So, when friends come to visit, they frequently want to see a Broadway show. Since I live here, they're eager to know if I can get them a discount. Truth be told, most discounts to Broadway shows are available to anyone who knows how to find them. So, here's your guide to finding a discount ticket to a Broadway show (but almost certainly not Hamilton).
Full Price Tickets will be your only viable option for lots of shows, and you can certainly find them at Telecharge and Ticketmaster, but if you're anywhere NYC, or know someone who is, buying a full price ticket at the box office will likely knock off a few bucks in service charges.
Advance Discounts Using a Code. The best source for discount codes is broadwaybox.com They compile all of the discount codes that are out there, and have hot links to sites where you can use the code (usually at Telecharge and Ticketmaster). Discounts can range from 30% to 65%, and you'll have the benefit of being able to select your seats on a seating map of the theater.
Today Tix is an app that sells discounted tickets, including on the day of performance, and they also run an on-line ticket lottery for a couple of shows. I think they even deliver the tickets to you.
TKTS Booths are in Duffy Square (the northern part of Times Square, under the red steps), as well as downtown at the South Street Seaport, and in Downtown Brooklyn, right near the Brooklyn Marriott. They sell half-price seats on the day of performance. Some popular shows--like Hamilton, Book of Mormon, Lion King and Wicked, for example--will never show up at the booth. But for popular shows that are at the booth, you're often better off going to the South Street Seaport or Brooklyn locations, because those booths open earlier. Generally, the seats will be better, the earlier in the day that you buy them. You could even get matinee tickets the day before. If it's a nice day, you can walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (one of my favorite free things to do with visitors to NYC), and it will put you very close to the Brooklyn booth--then take the subway back into Manhattan, or explore Brooklyn a little bit.
Theater Development Fund is the non-profit that tries to develop an audience for theater and live performance. They run the TKTS booth, but they also run a discount program for people who join TDF as members. If you are a teacher, a student, a recent graduate under the age of 26, a retiree, a government employee, a union member, a performing arts professional, a member of the armed forces, or someone who works full time at an hourly wage (a non-exempt employee who earns overtime), you may qualify for membership. The fee is somewhere around $30-$40/year, and for joining, you can access steeply discounted (and I mean REALLY steeply discounted) tickets to theater, dance, concerts and other live performance, mostly in and around NYC. The discounts are much better than using a code -- $40-45 per ticket for a Broadway show, less for off-Broadway, music and dance. Off-off-Broadway shows sell for $9/ticket. The things that sell out don't show up on TDF, but many good shows do. Recently, I've seen Fun Home, Phantom of the Opera, and Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder on their site, at deep discounts. You don't get to choose where you sit, but the discounts make it worth it, if you qualify for membership. One pair of tickets make the membership pay for itself. Their website is http://www.tdf.org, and you can join on-line.
Papering Services For shows that aren't selling well, producers often release free tickets to patrons who belong to a papering service. Audience Extras, Play-by-Play, and the TheaterMania club charge a small membership fee, and then a nominal service charge (just a couple of bucks) any time you want to claim freebies from them. It can be very hit-or-miss, however. Still, they occasionally have a Broadway show if it's early in previews, or it's not selling well. For someone who doesn't live in NYC, this is probably not going to be the best option, so I'm not including any links, here, but you can google those names and find out more.
Ticket Lotteries and Student Rush The policies vary from show-to-show, but Playbill.com does a good job of summarizing these policies. For a show like Hamilton, pretty much the only way to get a last-minute ticket at a discount is to win the lottery, and sometimes, the spectacle of the lottery, itself, can be a fun NYC thing to do. If you want to try your hand at one of the lotteries, but come up short, you can always walk over to the Times Square TKTS booth and try to pick up half-price tickets to a different show.
Also, The Metropolitan Opera also has a Rush Ticket policy, where you can buy unsold orchestra tickets for $25. If you're looking for a fancy night out (or not--because people wear just about everything to the Opera, these days, even jeans and a sweater), with phenomenal people-watching, I'd recommend it without any hesitation. The best singers in the world perform there, the sets and costumes are stunning, the orchestra plays beautifully, and they have a translation (like subtitles) on a little LED read-out in the seat back in front of you. If you're looking for a nice date night, you can sometimes get $600 worth of opera tickets for $50, and even with a glass of their best bubbly at intermission, you're still coming out ahead financially.
Resale Sellers might be the only way to get a ticket to the hotter-than-hot shows that are sold out for months. Even working in the industry, I couldn't get a request for house seats to go through for Hamilton for my wedding anniversary, so I wound up having to splurge for pricey resale tix. BroadwayBox has links to resale sellers where you won't get scammed. And StubHub is a good place to look for resale tix, as well. For the most part, resale tix are going to be way more expensive than face-value (theater is the opposite of timeshares--resale is pricier), though the prices will come down a bit the closer you get to the date of performance. Sellers start to get nervous a day or two before when no one's jumped at their seats, so they sometimes lower their prices a bit. And for sporting events, you might actually be able to find tickets that are cheaper--I got "all you can eat" seats to a Brooklyn Nets game on Stub Hub that were less than face value because a season ticket holder was just trying to unload them.
If you're planning a trip to New York City to see theater, let us know! We'd love to help you plan your trip, and we have really great leads on how to have an incredible experience while you're in the Big Apple. But, even if you're planning your trip on your own, here are a couple of other relevant links:
If you want to find the best seats at a particular Broadway theater.
And, here's a really interesting history of Broadway theaters--with a different video for each Broadway house.