Harvesting Brains Around Group Ticketing

On the night before Halloween, Burning Man ate our brains.

Ticket maven Nimbus and tech wizard CameraGirl gathered a group of Burners into a room in San Francisco and asked us to brainstorm about that bugbear, that boogeyman of challenges we face as a culture: Group Ticketing. The meeting of the minds included game theorists, theme camp leaders, artists, volunteers, families, senior staff, and ticket industry experts.

Braaains!!! Photo by Leori Gill

This wasn’t a meeting for hashing out the details of a ticket distribution process. It was a way for the people who run the ticket process to harness some of the energy and ideas of a diverse bunch of Burners (as described in the “WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF BURNING MAN LOOK LIKE” section of “Rebuilding BRC 2012″).

By the time we were done, our brains were literally gone, eaten from our heads by zombies. In case you didn’t realize it, Burning Man ticketing is HARD.

Now that Burning Man tickets can be expected to sell out each year, we need new, creative solutions to address the challenges of ticketing. Burners are smart people, by and large, so the organization figures we’re the right people to ask.

This wasn’t the first such salon. They even held one on playa this year with a bunch of techies. The conversation started in January, right after IT happened. The lottery had unintended social consequences — the fear-driven ticket orgy at the beginning of the process left organizers of key groups without tickets. Even if some group members did get tickets, the groups couldn’t pull off their projects without every key member present. Since they didn’t all have tickets, planning became really difficult.

Even though it all worked out pretty much okay, thanks to Burning Man’s decision to carefully delegate 10,000 tickets to camps and other groups, this uncertainty and the shift from how things had always been caused fear and anxiety in our community.

In the good old days, we could just sell individual tickets and be fine. But now that everyone and their stepcousin wants to go to Burning Man, we have to plan for the inevitability that tickets will be scarce. We have to find a way to make sure that the groups who make Black Rock City what it is — theme camps, art teams, mutant vehicles, families, what-have-you — get their people to the playa, or else they may not be able to make their contribution at all.

We considered many thorny dilemmas. How do we preserve groups that form the city’s institutions, like the Temple crew or your favorite art car, while still allowing for the evolution of new groups and the entropy of dying ones? How do we quantify the merit of a group? Do we ask its neighbors? Track it on the MOOP Map?

How do we make sure groups are taken care of as well as individuals without groups? Do we even need to protect groups, or can we just go back to individual tickets and trust that new groups will naturally organize and take care of themselves?

When you dig into it, and we did, you quickly come to realize that there ARE no easy answers. Like I said, this stuff is hard. But it’s good to see the hard work being done, and it’s reassuring that Burning Man’s picking our brains as part of the process.

About the author: Jon Mitchell

I'm the managing editor at Burning Man. I wrote this book and this record. I co-wrote a big story about spending 24 hours at the Temple of Juno in 2012, which lives at templestories.com. I've been a Burner since 2008.

159 thoughts on “Harvesting Brains Around Group Ticketing

  • I would like the BMORG (and others) to seriously think about the 2 ticket limit. This limit last year required my family to consider not going. We needed three tickets and only got two (because we only have one debit card to make purchases), luckily we got the third on Craigslist and were able to all go. This next year we will need four total. We don’t have multiple credit cards to make multiple 2 ticket purchases. I am sure this is true for a lot of families/groups that need more than two tickets.

    How about group sales, where you can purchase more that two tickets. Camps/groups/families could purchase tickets in bulk. This would be separate from the individual sales with special rules, like a name assigned to the ticket, etc.

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  • also if you have applied for Placement as a Theme Camp, you should be able to request Pre-Sale Tickets for your Group. Maybe a Lot of 10,000 set aside for that.
    or maybe a top tier price that IS transferrable, and a lower tier price that is non-transferrable.

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  • Please just go back to individual ticket sales. Y’all didn’t even sell out in 2011 till July. If you can’t get your shit together by July then you obviously aren’t a key leader for a camp or art project (most likely). Last year was a total shit show and I really hope you don’t do that awful lottery again. I trust and love y’all so I have faith that you will resolve this so no deserving burner is left in the dark.. )'( see ya in 2013

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  • After many a burn I find the reading here lacking in only one thing. Who shall commit. We all are ready for the go and the first come first serve is #1. There are those that do not carry an ID for they are off the grid and yet still go, and maybe they need a little help with gifting. Gifting is how I take my tribe as I pay the way for them through the love we share on the playa. We are all smart in our own way and I’m sure that 2013 shall be less nerve racking as we didn’t get our tickets 2012 till three weeks out and had to make such changes in the last minute that makes for an undue stressfullness I never care to feel again.

    It was with great elation to get the tickets, but a sad way to feel for months knowing I wasn’t going, till those last weeks.

    I am a burner all year long but need my community for that window of time to rebirth. Please make it simple.

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  • As soon as we make them non-transferable, there has to be some sort of system to track it and check ID – cumbersome PIA for our staff, complexity and loss of flexibility for participants, and a loss of anonymity in a world where there is less and less of that comfort. Many of my volunteers insist on it, I prefer it.

    … and canceling of suspected scalped tickets = huge effort to be punitive on our community. Someone always gets hurt. The Bandit Class has always existed, always will. Resist it in positive ways, encourage it to participate rightfully. The rest …. our gift to the dregs of society, a nod to chaos that always nips at our heels. Stop chasing it with bad energy.

    Thanks for all of your efforts, but sometimes less is more.

    Low income and regular price, first come first serve. Resist scalpers using positive social pressure, ultimately a better use of our energy.

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  • Group Ticketing. . . I admit to not reading this entire paid as I simply do not have all that much time left on the planet but I may or may not have come upon a solution to handling your group purchases with a website/financial group called WePay.com

    Good luck

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  • The following is kind of a gripe but has good advice… The excess was from scalper heaven caused by BMORG. They were smiling… Then the stupidity of BMORG to cancle tickets. Talk about showing everyone you only cared about the $$$$ side and not the Burners. You already had your money and wanted more. Old school burners knew this was coming when it went corporate.
    Enough Bitching

    Never heard a peep out of camps before the lotto. That was a major RUSH will I get a ticket will I not get a ticket, sitting at the computer waiting to push the submit button AAHHHHHHH it was uforic………. Now just dump it in the mail and wait
    WOOPIE TY COW PATTY…. Just not working an atr car of anything till we are confirmed to get tickets. Sounds like the military — Hurry Up And Wait

    Lets do it right this time, Better servers (BMORG can afford it) First come first served

    Kioty Out

    INVEST IN BETTER SERVERS !!!! PROBLEM SOLVED that way you can keep your 10
    thousand tickets to give away to the grounds crew.

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