Tickets, Fiasco, and the Burning Man

Oh the places you’ll go at Burning Man… Unless you don’t, because some years you won’t…Our world of Burning Man has been turned topsy-turvy this year. Articles in The Sacramento Bee, The San Francisco Bay Guardian and others are tapping into a frustration within the Burning Man culture over ticket sales and the possibility that many large-scale art projects, theme camps, large sound camps and even key infrastructure volunteers who have not yet secured tickets may be unable to do so before this years event. The web is rife with speculation, rumor and even conspiracy theories about “The end of Burning Man as we know it”. There are countless threads on eplaya, the official open community forum hosted on the Burning Man website, about the issue. Speculation there ranges from the sincerely concerned to the absurdly outraged.I predicted these concerns, as I’m sure others may have at the time…”Well, here’s your misunderstanding. To make your analogy more um… analogous, it’s like this: There are no free tickets to the concert, there is a radio station contest and if you call in and are the 9th caller each hour you ‘win’ the opportunity to buy tickets. And further, the guys in the band, the sound crew, the roadies, the event staff and the venue staff all have to enter and win the contest to get tickets also.” … “with any luck, there MIGHT be a concert…Otherwise there’s just a random assortment of “winners” and probably a party, but not the thing that people came for…Oh it will take place, no doubt. But for how long? How many people would bother to call in to the station to win their chance to buy tickets if they knew that the musicians and crew may or may not be there? Pretty lame concert…” …. “Well, back to our earlier analogy, if you were a sound guy who runs the board at the concert, knowing you aren’t paid to do the job and further you had to buy tickets to even get in, what incentive would there be for you to make the effort to attend if you not only were looking at voluntarily donating your skills to the concert, and buying tickets, but might not even get to go?…And further, if you were a potential attendee, and you knew that not only you were subject to a random chance lottery to buy tickets, but so are the band and everyone else involved, what incentive would there be for you to make the effort to attend if you knew that potentially the band and crew wouldn’t even be there?”

So that’s my full disclosure (and my “I told you so”).

Well… I am pleased to say that I am still concerned, and yet much more positive (or is it resigned?) about the possibilities and the What Comes Next.

In a recent blog post, veteran burner, eplaya moderator and LLC volunteer Trilobyte explains in great detail why this broken system may be the best effort that could have been implemented, given what we know. Says Trilo, “…once I wrapped my head around the changes to the ticketing system I agreed with the need for change and think it’s a pretty good system.” 


Marian Goodell has been front and center speaking to media and taking a lot of heat from the Burning Man community on these issues. Though the LLC has refused to release solid numbers as to the actual amount of ticket requests received, Goodell confirms in this radio interview that there were “upwards of 80,000” ticket requests during the main lottery sale in January. That represents either a huge influx of scalping due to last years first-ever sell out event, or a near doubling of interest in attending the mega arts festival in the desert. Speculation about which one of these situations is responsible, or a combination of both, is being hotly debated on eplaya and elsewhere. With interest in Burning Man at an undeniable all time high, along with the huge increase in social media, last years sell out of tickets in July, and at least one video that went insanely viral in the days leading up to this years ticket sales; it’s hard to say which argument is right. That video I mentioned, “Oh The Places You’ll Go at Burning Man”, garnered over 1.1 million views in 3 weeks leading up to the lottery sale.

Only time will tell, with the Burning Man LLC announcing in a recent blog post entitled “Radical Inclusion, Meet the Other Nine” the organization says they intend to post details of their plans to deal with this debacle going forward on February 15th.

I’ll keep updating…

1 thought on “Tickets, Fiasco, and the Burning Man”

  1. Very nice. You are showing multiple sources of information and tying it together coherently.
    I approve of this.

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