My entire house is addicted to Hamilton. The cast album plays on loop everywhere we go. We own every book, read every article, and watch every Lin-Manuel Miranda TV appearance, YouTube clip, and commencement speech we can find. My wife and daughter saw the show in person. We’re still eating Ramen noodles as a result.
And it’s not just my family. I honestly can’t remember a bigger cultural phenomenon in my lifetime, particularly one NOT stemming from Hollywood or sports. America’s obsession with a work of musical theater – based on wonky U.S. history – gives me hope that our Kardashian-gazing society may not be intellectually bankrupt after all.
Or maybe I’m wrong. I’m reminded constantly, despite a diverse group of personal friends, that I live in a cultural bubble. I blame Twitter, mostly, because it drags me into an echo chamber of like-minded, like-interested snobs who all believe we have our fingers on the world’s socio-political pulse. But we don’t. I certainly didn’t see the Trump thing coming. Did you?
So I have to wonder: Has Hamilton really crossed into the mainstream? It’s a hard thing to measure. We don’t have Nielsen ratings to track or nationwide box office figures to tally. Hamilton wasn’t even the highest grossing show on Broadway this year. You’d have to be operating outside of the mainstream to even know that.
Out of curiosity, I launched a poll question over our network to gauge the popularity of Hamilton compared to an array of other ‘events.’ The choices are by no means exhaustive but here you go:
Where to begin? Well, first and foremost, America’s preoccupation with sports is undeniable. As my friend and colleague Bill Conaway pointed out, football is still King, by a mile. In all, 73% of U.S. adults would choose a sporting event first. Over half would choose the Super Bowl or Summer Olympics.
But it’s also worth noting how well Hamilton fared among the non-sports options, finishing just above the Academy Awards and slightly behind the Grammy’s – basically a statistical dead heat.
Think about that. As many people would prefer a 1,319-seat theater watching a musical about Alexander Hamilton over sitting elbow-to-elbow in a Hollywood auditorium with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio or watching a live performance from Beyonce.
Hamilton’s appeal is even more interesting when we look at the underlying profile of respondents. Yes, women were twice as likely as men to choose Hamilton. But the numbers were remarkably consistent by age- Baby Boomers were slightly more likely to prefer Miranda’s opus but only by a small margin. Hamilton over-indexed among people living in America’s growing urban population, people making less than $25,000 in annual income, people who watch a lot of TV every day, and single people without kids. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to choose Hamilton but not by much. In other words, this is not a small niche of wealthy, theater-loving intellectual elites. It crosses lines.
9% of U.S. adults is a huge number. I wish we could go back in time and ask about some of the bigger Broadway shows in history – Wicked, Rent, A Chorus Line, or others – but I’d bet the cost of an orchestra seat at the Richard Rodgers that they wouldn’t even come close.