November 19th, 2012  |  Filed under Participate!

How many theme camps can dance on the head of a Burning Man ticket?

November 19th, 2012  |  Filed under Participate!

They all want tickets

Have you come up with a theory about how Burning Man should handle ticket sales yet?

If not, congratulations:  you’re the only one.

My blogging colleague Jon Mitchell wrote about a pre-Halloween brain-eating session to discuss how Burning Man should handle ticket sales to groups – if it does that at all.  I attended that meeting because there was an open bar, and am pleased to report that their signature cocktail was a combination of black vodka, blue Curacao, and Sprite.  It was delicious.  Especially when you really stirred it around so the layers mixed.

The other thing I noticed was that of the 30-some people in attendance, there were 40-some theories about how Burning Man could best handle ticket sales – it was as though “radical incompatibility” were the 11th principle.

My impression is that discussions were equally convoluted at the Burning Man staff retreat.  I wasn’t there (I’m a volunteer), so I can only confirm that while the Org staff were out talking about the future of Burning Man I opened a bottle of 25 year tawny port which had a taste of leather and chocolate on the back palate.

There are no questions in this world as inflammatory and divisive as questions of identity – which is why what should be the bland and technocratic discussion of how to sell tickets gets so many people so worked up so fast.  How we handle ticket demand is widely seen as an indicator of who we are.  Burning Man is the participants – and the participants are the people with tickets.  Aren’t they?

Everyone wants Burning Man to get this right.  Burning Man has to get this right.

But what is right?

There are a million ways to distribute 50,000 tickets to 50,000 people that will leave everybody happy.  But there is no way to distribute 50,000 tickets to 50,0001 people that will leave everybody feeling good.  And if 60,000 people want tickets?  70,000?  And then scalpers try to buy 15,000 more?

If 85,000 people are trying to get 50,000 Burning Man tickets there is no system that will not leave over a third of them feeling gyped.  It’s mathematically impossible.

So what’s the “right” answer?  Lottery?  First-come-first-serve?  Essay contest?  Fashion show?  Trial by Ordeal?

Whatever it is, there is no solution that will keep a significant number of people from feeling cheated … or from trying to game the system.

I don’t pretend to have answers to the purely functional question of how we pick a system to distribute tickets in the future – and I don’t believe anyone who says they do.  Because I honestly have no idea of all the factors that are in play … and neither do you.

How many more tickets can be gained through negotiations with the federal government?  How many more people per year can the Black Rock Desert sustain without damaging the environment?  How much bigger can Black Rock City get before it’s logistically impossible for it to be intimate?  Are there other locations that would adequately support Burning Man?  Would they be available?  How much money would be required?  Can regional events really substitute for That Thing In The Desert?  Is it possible to have more than one a year?

And on, and on, and on …

Everybody has a right to an opinion, but very few of us actually have anything close to the accurate information needed to plan the Burning Man ticket system well.  I don’t know.  You don’t know.  The people making angry Facebook postings have no idea – but dammit, they’re angry and it’s Facebook!  What else are they going to do?

Not being on Facebook, the only intellectually honest thing for me to do is to leave that to the people who actually keep track, and maybe ask “how can I help?”

But as for the philosophical issue – as for the question of who our ticketing system makes us as a community – that I have a suggestion about.  I’d go so far as to say I’m passionate about it,  the way I feel about a good port.

Burning Man is at risk of going through an Inverse Protestant Reformation.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Pretentious.  But, bear with me.  We like to think of Burning Man as a new and unique thing in the history of the world, and I’m mostly there with you, but those who don’t learn from history are destined to listen to people repeat it.

The position of the European Church in the 16th century was that there are two requirements to get to paradise:  one is by faith (wanting to be saved) and the other is by doing good works.  The Church, of course, was the final arbiter on earth of which works are good enough to get someone into heaven.  Human institutions being corruptible, this eventually led to the selling of indulgences:  basically a chance to buy, buy, buy your sins away by investing in an art project.  A rich man might have to go through the eye of a needle to get to heaven, but by 1516 they could commission a really enormous needle.

The Protestant position so forcefully advocated by Martin Luther was that good works are bullshit.  Not only are they subject to ego and corruption and benefit the wealthy, but their whole premise is flawed:  no achievement makes any man more worthy than another.  God alone decides who gets to go to heaven, and so all we can do is have faith.  “Faith alone” is the criteria for salvation under Protestant theology.

Theologically Burning Man, from its very beginning, has been a strictly Protestant affair.  The only real requirement was to want it enough.  At first that was easy, because the San Francisco beach is very accessible by bus.  Then it went out to the desert, and you had to want it more – but even so, all you had to do was get there.  Then it started selling tickets, which added some additional cash to the equation, but it was still just a variation on the same theme:  if you want it enough, you can come.  No one who wanted it enough to buy a ticket and undergo the pilgrimage would be turned away.

Everyone was supposed to be actively participating, that’s a huge part our “theology,” but there were no mechanisms to judge that.  No arbiter you could turn to, to say “I like your theme camp, but you can’t dance to it,” and expect them to offer the final word.  Now sure, as time went on you could be turned down for an art grant or given a terrible spot for a theme camp … but if someone wanted it enough they would not be turned away, and they could still do what they wanted.

Burning Man’s credo was “Faith alone.”  No one’s good works made them special.  We all stink after a week in the desert.

Many of the ticket schemes proposed by Burners risk changing that.

Now that tickets are a scarce commodity, many established Burners are demanding that newer Burners go to the back of the line.  Many theme camps are insisting that they deserve preferential treatment and be made whole, at the ultimate expense of solo burners, art car makers, and other theme camps.  Burners of all stripes are insisting that good works be counted in their favor.  They’re saying faith alone … the desire to go to Burning Man and be a part of this community … now counts for much less.

They demand salvation through works – and they are demanding that there be a hierarchy in order to make it happen.  They don’t call it a “Catholic” hierarchy, but ultimately that’s what they want.  When they are abstract guidelines, the 10 Principles are simply principles;  when they are applied by an organization invested with moral authority, the 10 principles become ecclesiastical objects that determine the fate of members of the community.

Thus we have an Inverse Protestant Reformation:  a popular movement of free spirits insisting that a previously non-judgmental body turn itself into an ecclesiastical hierarchy.

These new “Catholic” Burners may get what they want, but the Org has resisted it.  Indeed, the whole purpose of the lottery system was to prevent it from having to take on that kind of responsibility and make those judgment calls.  That’s another way this is an Inverse Protestant Reformation:  the Church in Rome was desperate to cling to its power; the Burning Man office in San Francisco has tried like hell not to pick it up.

I don’t blame them.  They see the danger in becoming arbiters of who’s “burnier-than-thou” quite clearly, because they’ve spent the last decade trying to avoid it.  But now, at this moment, they don’t know what else to do.  Much of the community is demanding it, and the Org has to put this largely volunteer run event together.  It’s not just art cars and theme camps:  the volunteer infrastructure at Burning Man is enormous.  Want ice?  Most of that work is done by volunteers.  Want Center Camp?  Thousands of volunteers.  Want medical tents, vehicle registration, Playa Info, and so much more?  Mostly volunteers.

My aesthetic tastes may be Catholic, but as a burner I’m a radical fideist (faith only):  I would like to be storming the barricades on Market Street shouting “Don’t do it!  There’s a better way!”

But I’ve got nothing – nothing except faith that we, the people of Burning Man, can be better than this.  That we can actually raise our consciousness just enough to accept that you can participate in Burning Man without necessarily going in any given year.

Hopefully it won’t come to that, because if you have to ask “can we raise our consciousness?” the answer is almost always “No.”  History is immutable on this point.

So hopefully Larry will pull a rabbit out of his Stetson that lets everyone who wants to go, go.  I’m rooting for it.  That’s the best solution.  But in the meantime my advice to the Org … which means no more or less than any of yours … is to not offer tickets to camps.  Do not give established camps, no matter how amazing, precedent over new Burners who could bring something we’ve never seen before.  Good works are their own reward:  do not let them influence your decision.  Gifting with the expectation of special treatment in return is really bartering.

Instead let Burners rise to the challenge.  Let camps who don’t have enough people with tickets recruit from Burners with tickets who don’t have camps;  let new people have an even shot at getting through the gate.  Let new ideas rise, and new structures emerge;  let us connect in new ways.

If in response more people focus on the Regionals, or new events entirely, God bless ‘em.  That’s all part of the plan.

What isn’t part of the plan is forcing Burning Man to decide who is a “good” Burner and who is a “bad” one.  What isn’t part of the plan is a checklist that pits sound camps vs. art installations vs. mutant vehicles vs. clowns distributing snow-cones.

Change has come to Burning Man … again … and we can’t prevent it.  (And would we if we could?)  But we can use it as an opportunity to be better than we are.

I don’t believe in much in this world, but I believe the ideal of Burning Man is worth working for.  I believe we can use that ideal to organize in new ways without closing ourselves off to new people.

What else have we been rehearsing for all these years?

Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man.  His opinions are in no way statements of the Burning Man organization.  Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com


75 Responses to “How many theme camps can dance on the head of a Burning Man ticket?”

  1. G Says:

    “The only real requirement was to want it enough. ”

    This needs to be leveraged in ways that best preserve the open nature of the event for those who clear the hurdles. Limited ticket supply opens up the possibility of just such shaping.
    I for one think that closing the gates Wednesday or Thursday night would encourage community participation and shut out the last minute partiers, something I was told many years ago that the ORG wanted to encourage.

    Anyway, this topic generates practically encyclopedia volumes of commentaries.
    Good luck BMORG with this one.

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  2. Jon Mitchell Says:

    As was the case after the brain-eating session, I’m sure this post will generate another hundred or so ideas about how to do ticketing. The vast majority of my comments (I read ‘em all) suggested first-come, first-served, nobody’s-special ticketing, and I have to say, especially reading Caveat’s post, that’s what I’m leaning towards as well. It’s not based in a desire for fairness so much as a radical libertarianism about the art. I don’t want to see institutions propped up that can’t survive on their own. If the event has to have a shitty year in order to reform itself, it has to happen.

    It is worth noting, however, that it still hasn’t happened yet.

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  3. Eric Says:

    Ask and ye shall receive. The only REAL restriction is the number that the BLM allows to be out there. So far, they have allowed whatever the LLC has asked for. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) When Larry first saw the playa, he envisioned a million people out there. While that may never be realistic for many reasons, it seems the LLC could request and receive a much larger permit. They just choose not to ask, perhaps out of fear of growing too fast. Maybe it is time to put fear behind.

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  4. Andrew Says:

    The only real requirement I think needs to be implemented is non-transferable tickets..

    Scalpers won’t touch it, and people who try to cheat in the lottery by getting more than one ticket, are allowed to resell them back to the community (via bmorg). You buy one or two tickets, and enter the names of those to enter when buying (I would need to buy two tickets, one for me, and one for my wife (I don’t want to be in a situation where one of us gets a ticket and the other doesn’t).

    Since I’m local, camp ticketing does nothing for me. I am far too local to join a theme camp. I do understand the need for theme camps to be alive, and what bmorg did with tickets to theme camps last year.

    Maybe when people first sign up for their ticket in the first round, they claim a theme camp. If they do not get tickets in the first round, they can try to get one in another round of tickets alloted to theme camps. (Registering camp names avoids scalping by theme camps, and tickets would still be non-transferable)

    With this method, I think a lottery would work fine, instead of people trying their luck on blown up servers, but if servers could handle all the people, first-come first-served works better as it shows the individuals show enough initiative to be buying them at the right time.

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  5. Rio Says:

    First of all “gyped” is pejorative term. Not cool.

    Anyway, I was a virgin in 2012 who got 4 tix in the first round lottery. Everything worked out just fine for me and my wife.

    The “extra” two tix went to long time burner friends who weren’t going to go but changed their minds. They paid face value of course. That was their idea. If they hadn’t reimbursed us we would have gifted them elsewhere.

    That is exactly what we planned to do with them as we completely bought into the principles as part of our experience and particpiation.

    Other than my wife being accused of “carpet bagging” by some a hole when she mentioned she was a virgin, we found the magic we were hoping for. Our more experienced campmates thought this was the best burn yet so I’ll defer to them. New blood brings new life. Who wants to step into the same river twice even if that is possible?

    So, now that I can speak with some kind of knowledge, it seems to me that this crisis is only a crisis if things sell out.

    If not, there is no crisis and no protestant reformation or catholic counter reformation. Raising the capacity above the demand, as happened this year, ends the crisis. Also it kills the scalpers at the same time. I thought BMORG was brilliant for doing all that. Simple, elegant, done.

    Keep up the good work.

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  6. Zach Says:

    Ban RV’s above a certain size. People who want/need the extra shelter can still have it; people who want to stay in a palace can evaluate their priorities.

    Oh, and also apply this rule to Center Camp.

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  7. Peter Madden Says:

    I completely understand that the ticketing is an issue and that there might not be a perfect answer, and I don’t want to downplay the problems associated with increased demand for tickets in the future, but this is something that could potentially solve itself within a few years. Just keep in mind that this is only my opinion based on observations.

    Over the past two years there seems to have been a great influx of the “urban hipster”. Mostly the ones from San Fran and they are there by the thousands. I recognized dozens of them and others were easy to pick out of the crowd. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for “radical inclusion”. If they want to be there then I welcome them with no reservations but Black Rock City is a harsh environment for this type of people. Dusty clothes, an inability to spend all day attached to their phones due to a lack of service coverage and being outnumbered by Burners who showed no interest in enabling their self-deluding pretension was a nightmare for them. Upon returning home it seemed like wherever I went in the city there was always a group of hipsters complaining that they would never go back. This seemed to go on for several weeks.

    Don’t be terribly surprised if within a few years there will be more tickets than demand once this sub-culture abandons BM for whatever is their “next best thing”.

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  8. Lake Tahoe DJ Says:

    Burning man is a for profit business, so they can choose how they want to do their ticketing process. Obviously whatever they are doing is working, because the event has grown every year.

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  9. Fiver Says:

    The names on ticket thing is a great idea, but would be a logistical nightmare for the org.
    Just go back to selling tickets. If I learned anything from the lottery, it’s if you want to go, you can go.
    Veterans will get tickets during the initial sale, and if a burgin really really wants to go, they will plan, they will take the time off, and they will find a ticket. That level of dedication (to going) here in the default world means they probably will only bring good things to the playa.
    If you are just looking to party and spectate for a week, and tickets are hard to find, you won’t be out there, and I won’t miss you.

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  11. Sushi Says:

    I agree with a lot of what Caveat is saying, however, how about just BURNING IT DOWN! Is not one of the main themes during Burn night and the Temple burn to “Burn the ships!” as Cortez did (which he actually didn’t, he scuttled them). This signifies a new beginning, a way to be brave and go boldly into the face of change (as the BM and Cortez myth goes). But Mythology, and Beliefs are integral to BM, these provide the FEELING at the event (of community love, place, purpose, adventure, etc…) which is why people go! In order to continue the FEELING of BM, I suggest CUTTING the amount of tickets sold (to 20, 30, maybe 40K), and redistributing those resources to designated regional events (all the old timers always talk about how much better it was when there was less people anyways) . Also reserve 10 – 20% of tickets to virgins (doesn’t matter that much how to determine virginess, people will cheat and get away with it but in general, overall, there will be a particular amount of “new blood”). Radical changes for radical people with radical ideas and desires! Make tickets first come, first serve like pretty much every other random system, not fair to everyone all the time but fair to most everyone most of the time. Let the camps and people who don’t have all their members beg, bargan and share, for people and resources. This BUILDS community and encourages innovation and experimentation which is part of the excitement!
    I don’t like my own proposals, it might suck to not be able to get a ticket, when I want, on the years I wish to attend but it will preserve what I love and that is a mature idea for a community that is still developing and wishes to grow while maintaining it’s heart. There are already regional events in many locations already growing every year, what real duty does BMorg have to maintain the “main event” at all? What if there isn’t a center camp, or free booze camps, or someone tries to burn the man Tues (RIP Mr. Addis) Might it even be time to take a year (or two!) off? Who is to say the art/projects might be that much better after stewing for 730.5 days!

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  12. Clarity Says:

    I have faith every year since ’92 that when its a good year to go, I find my way to tickets and friends or I don’t go and send my love and blessings to those in the community that attended. (I have camped and participated with many amazing people / groups this way) Not everyone can or should attend Burning Man every year. If all you look forward to is BM every year and its what defines you or your creative self, then clearly there is room for your personal growth outside the community. Leave, come back… its a great experience that allows for a deeper appreciation of community on and off the playa. If you don’t like the ticket experience and it doesn’t work out, then do something else amazingly creative and wonderful with your weekend. Spend the money on a different trip/plan/artproject/class/drug-binge….

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  13. Mike Says:

    a) First come first serve. It’s the most fair way. There should be reward involved with those most willing to make the effort in this respect. You’re there on time, you’ll probably get one, else it wasn’t meant to happen. Wait for the next round and try again. Those that really want tickets will damn well be on that ticketing system when it’s up. Maybe throttle traffic randomly during ticket sales via a load balancing server or firewall to keep web server loads manageable? There are ways to keep servers up. Not sure why an SF-based company with seemingly ample resources has not been able to accomplish this yet. I don’t mind spending 4-5 stressful hours in front of my computer at 10am on a Monday to get my golden ticket, and I should be rewarded for that effort with higher odds if I do. This is what I think is wrong with the lottery system, it removes this incentive/reward. People understand first come first serve.

    b) Scarcity is one thing, but scalpers exacerbate the problem. Castrate them, or at least kill their revenue model. In addition to limiting purchases per person and credit card, tickets are non-transferable and everyone 18+ is ID’d at the gate. Kids with parents obviously wouldn’t need ID. One person in the vehicle doesn’t have an ID that matches the name on the ticket, then the whole vehicle gets sent packing and has to return after having dropped off said individual in Reno. Or halfway to Reno, or the desert somewhere. I don’t care. They’re adults and can fend for themselves. The word is spread through every means including bull horns and carrier pigeon if need be so that everyone understands this. Every vehicle is searched already anyway, though that seemed more lax this year than in past years. How hard can it be to check ID’s in addition? Nothing is 100% foolproof to prevent some level of scalping and profiteering, but this seems the most obvious and plausible way. In my opinion if you’re not doing this then you’re not serious about addressing scalpers, and scalpers are a big problem affecting demand.

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  14. J*Labs Says:

    I don’t see what was wrong with the old system! Other than maybe making the tickets non-transferable.

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  15. reidflys Says:

    I think the most ludicrous way would be to
    break up the tickets into small pieces and have people
    collect bits to put to together into a ticket, to see if they get to go, like McDonald’s monopoly game.

    Can anyone else think of a ludicrous ticketing system, that there’s just no way
    they’ll do?

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  16. Captain Vic Says:

    I hear a lot of endorsements for the first-come-first-served system, but it seems to me that this system favors those who are computer savy and happen to have a day they can dedicate to trying to get a ticket. I happen to be in that group, but I have many friends, including members of my camp, who are not. A lottery system provides equal opportunity to a larger proportion of our community.

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  17. Loki Says:

    Buy Fly’s Ranch already and let’s be done with this.

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  18. Motz. Says:

    I believe the main problem to solve with tickets is how to eliminate false demand.

    Names on all tickets eliminates over purchasing by participants and eliminates scalpers. I believe names on tickets alone will go a tremendous way to curing all ticket ills. I think names on tickets will decrease demand to such an extent that selling out will happen over a months time(like it used to in the good o’l days)

    Other things that I think are good..

    Transferable only through STEP works and funnels tickets directly to participants.

    First come first served is understood by the community and it lets ticket purchasers know where they are at in relatively real time. Predictability and knowing where you are at is better for a community than uncertainty over time(lottery).

    I think group ticketing is a non issue. It is completely unnecessary. Theme camps above all others in the ticket purchasing community have the planning, networking and coordinating structures in place to make sure their members are able to secure tickets when they come available.

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  19. simon of the playa Says:

    when Larry™ comes down from the Sky riding his Shiny White Unicorn he will Choose the 144,000 who shall burn forever based on who are the Builders and Dreamers, their Burny-ness, Artistic Contribution, Fellatio Skills, Authentic Mad-Genius but seriously fucking crazy, and Those with an Eternally Positive Attitude so infectious you can’t even bitch slap it off of Them, The Walk the Walkers, The Impressarios and Ingenues, The Freaks, the Geeks, and the Beautifully extreme.

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  20. Andy Fuckin Moore Says:

    Everyone panic. Mass anxiety will solve this issue.

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  21. Dr Bungee Says:

    First come , first served.
    One ticket per person.
    One price level.
    Non transferable.

    No public announcement of ticket sales. Bury the opening of ticket sales somewhere in one of these blogs. The committed burners, who spend time reading this and commenting, will be the first in line. Then they can calmly spread the word to their friends, and we’ll have our community together again. No stories in Town & Country. No BM bucket lists. No scalpers. No plug and play camps. No Krug champagne parties. Just you and me, and the next 49,998 who are paying attention.

    Now that that’s settled, can I get to work on what I’m bringing to share with all my friends at BRC?

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  22. Bony rubbins Says:

    Close the gates on thursday night. Iproblem solved.

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  23. Squachek Says:

    I think this is a really simple problem to solve. Charge LESS for the tickets as the event draws nearer. Reserve 10,000 will-call tickets and release them a month before the event. Easy peasy.

    - Charge more for the first round of tickets, not less. That will decrease demand. It’s already pretty obvious that the event doesn’t need to encourage more people to come right off the bat. There won’t be a rush to buy tickets and the scalpers won’t be trying to get their grimy hands on the cheapest tickets possible. Anyone who’s serious about going is going to pay $420 no matter what. Would I rather pay $240? Sure. But I’m already forking out so much in supplies that the additional $180 is not going to keep me from going. If you can’t afford $420, just wait and see whether there are any cheap tickets right before the event.

    - Drop 10,000 $240 tickets into the market right 4 weeks before the Burn. This provides little incentive for the scalpers to charge exorbitant fees, because they already know there will be 10,000 more tickets being made available. The cost to the Borg is nominal, because they don’t have to print or ship the tickets.

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  24. Kheddarz Says:

    Thank you Caveat, insightful musings.

    “I don’t pretend to have answers to the purely functional question of how we pick a system to distribute tickets in the future – and I don’t believe anyone who says they do. Because I honestly have no idea of all the factors that are in play … and neither do you.”

    No truer words have been written about this issue. There are so many variables in play that the solution to this issue is Art, not science.

    I know one thing, the solution must keep all burners equal (even the virgins) or as near as equal as possible.

    Carry on BMorg!

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  25. William Brinsmead Says:

    Hi All,
    I have been coming to BRC since ’99, with my art car , a 10 foot long aluminum atomic bomb with a Dr. Strangelove saddle on it. I have only two suggestions to improve the ticket situation.
    One is to have the buyers picture printed on the tickets ( uploaded at time of purchase ) this is done at some other large scale events and completely removes the scalper/hoarder problem. Plus it will streamline gate entry and provide a cool souvenir as well.

    Two: work with the BLM to increase the cap and extend the event to two weeks! with big burns on both weekends. Most of the early entry problems will go away and by being a full two weeks both entry and exodus will smooth out as few people could/would go for two weeks.

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  26. Jason Says:

    I think the Org is just tackling this problem (Which for the most part, is made up in their minds) the wrong way. First, there are no problems with first come, first serve ticket selling. Any failure to sell tickets properly is because BMOrg can’t scrape together a half-way talented IT Department to assemble a ticket selling web cluster. It’s not hard with Amazon.com EC2 renting servers for 8 cents an hour to get 50 web servers up and running along with a good database and caching server(s). Fire that ticket handler you have and get a real one or move it all in-house.

    Any ticket selling solution, like non-transferable tickets, should be demonstrated by the BMOrg, that it is capable of implementing it before it implements it. If BMOrg can’t sell setup a cluster of web servers to sell ticket, what makes you think they can set up a proper infrastructure at the gates to handle incoming non-transferable tickets?

    What ever your ticket selling scheme you come up with for next year, you really need to think it through. I am no Einstein of Ticket Selling, but when the lottery was announced last year, in 10 minutes, I could think of 10 ways it was a stupid idea. 8 of them came true.

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  27. Nathan Says:

    If BMOrg could figure out how to implement a ticket sales system that didn’t fucking crash, first-come first-served would work just fine.

    And if you want to cut out the scalpers: ONE TICKET PRICE. Seriously. There is no ticket shortage; you could buy tickets below face value two weeks before the burn. The only reason to buy them early is the cheaper price, so eliminate it; nobody’s fucking burn is going to be stopped by paying $240 a ticket instead of $210.

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  28. Steve Says:

    Some well though out opinions out there, and some… not so thoughtful.

    Sell tickets on a straight up first come first served basis. It’s the simplest, fairest way. You don’t have to be too ‘on the ball’ to get in that queue, you really don’t. If you’re at work, you must surely have a trustable friend who can get in line to buy an extra ticket…no? And most anyone born within the past 50 years ought to be sufficiently computer savvy to get on the internet and purchase something with a credit card…no? I do realize that the lowest rungs of society do not have the same access to such things, but those folks can’t really get to BurningMan anyway; that’s just reality. A sea change of national policy towards the poor is the only thing that can even dent that problem. The bar of: a computer with internet access and some kind of credit card with a few hundred bucks of spending power is really pretty low, at least here in the developed world. (and even in much of the less developed world)

    The tickets could be made non transferable, but I don’t think that’s necessary; likewise printing names on tickets. Until the big BMorg created ticket stink last year, things managed to sort themselves out pretty well. The year before, tickets hadn’t sold out until after they’d been on sale for months. Except for the readily avoidable server crashes, first come first served worked pretty well, and community communication managed to get tickets to/from folks who couldn’t go or wanted to go pretty efficiently. Even this past year, my situation was in flux – I sold my ticket at face value on Craigslist, then realized I could go and bought a ticket at face value on CL. Everything worked out. As for the idea of checking ID’s and matching them to specific tickets and turning cars away if one person’s ID is out of line… WTF? Way too Orwellian! BMOrg is Big Brother-esque enough already. Creating a jobs program for former Stasi officers who can’t find work in Berlin won’t help anything. This community should try to have a default attitude of trust, of innocent until proven guilty, even if a few bad apples manage to game the system.

    As for closing the gates early, I think that’s punitive and unfair. I, for one, have worked as a lecturer at a local institution teaching art. They insist on starting their semester the week of BM, and I insist on being responsible and showing up to hand out the syllabus and see who need to add/drop the class. I’m an actual working SF artist and I’d like not to have yet another layer of difficulty added to my BM experience. There are lots of people who have real world responsibilities that aren’t amenable to taking a week off. The ticket I sold earlier this year went to a really cool doctor who always wanted to go but simply couldn’t manage a whole week off. Inventing a new rule to keep out folks who are deemed insufficiently serious about BM will also block many people who are busy and pretty invested in life generally.

    And again, reality: less than .001% of the world’s population can go to BurningMan. Nothing much will change that besides having several burning men on each continent. Messing around with the ticketing process like it’s the federal tax code or something won’t actually help, rather it will cause a plethora of unintended consequences. Keep it simple and straightforward and stay away from authoritarian schemes that try to mandate ‘fairness’. Only some people who really put in the effort can go, and not even all of them. C’est la vie.

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  29. RockStar Says:

    Thank you Caveat, that was a pleasure to read – as always!

    Tickets, eplaya, placement, rangers, dmv, EA passes/entrapment, favoritism, kickbacks, arrogant, corruption, secretiveness, abuse of discretion; sometimes it’s the Org that reminds me most of the catholic church. An organization that inspires so much loyalty but can’t seem to abide by its own principals?

    Someday I hope to ready an article about what you have so much faith in. What happens when faith isn’t enough?

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  30. Cold Kris From The Trash Fence Says:

    Bringing a family, I imagine the big theme camp issue around lotteries to mirror by own big worry: getting tickets, but not enough. Coming with an under-12-year-old and a teenager, my family needs 3 tickets, but last year’s lottery only allowed entries for up to two at a time. Fortunately things worked out for us in the end, but if we were to have only 2 tickets, having only one parent around for the under-12-year-old is too much drain on that parent, and leaving the teenager behind is a pretty lousy outcome too.

    Now allowing people to request as many tickets as they want is susceptible to massive abuse, but if there were a way to allow multiple entrants to a lottery to link their entries together in a “if we don’t all get tickets, then we can’t really pull this off” way and have the lottery somehow honour that, then it would likely solve the problem of partially-ticketed camps, both for big theme camps, and for smaller camps (like families). Not only that, it would pull it off without requiring the org to function as any sort of cultural arbiter/gatekeeper.

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  31. Steve Says:

    I like the ideas of:

    Getting the servers to work properly!

    One Price tickets, or inverting the discounting scheme (though that would be a little difficult to implement, methinks)
    However, I suspect that the inverted discounting scheme would create new ways to game the system.

    Two weeks back to back! The infrastructure is already there, so why not? It may also provide an incentive for better, or better executed, art.
    ————–
    Pictures or names on tickets… I think not. That would complicate things for BMorg, who have never demonstrated mastery over the ticketing process anyway, and it would complicate things for a lot of folks like me who: change plans, get an extra ticket in hopes of convincing my girlfriend to go and then have to sell it, have a camp member who can’t go until all of a sudden they can, etc… And in general, I think that any kind of ‘your papers, please’ bureaucratic solution isn’t in the proper spirit.

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  32. Matt Says:

    This was a fantastic opinion on what to do with ticket sales. I really appreciate how well written and thought out it is. While I disagree with the premise that the BORG shouldn’t make decisions about who gets tickets I’m impressed how much this article made me think. Thank you.

    I do think you need to consider that fundamentally Burners can be broken down into multiple categories: Hard core burners who have thousands of dollars invested in gear and would shank a member of the Gate crew to get in, Casual burners who like to go but it isn’t the end of the world if they don’t and virgins who have the same right to be there as anyone else. It’s the hard core people who are the most likely to use 8 computers with multiple IP addresses or register for a lottery with 12 different addresses so I think the BORG really needs to address this group specifically to make ticketing work.

    For my part, here’s my 2 cents on how ticketing can work for the community:

    TO MAKTE TICKEITNG WORK BORG MUST MAXIMIZE SUPPLY, Direct ticket sales and TRUST the community.

    Ticketing Plan.
    Phase 1: staff and Volunteers. (7,000 tickets, or as needed)
    Starting in January, Confirm Staff and volunteer positions who will be receiving paid or gift tickets so the infrastructure of the city will operate. This should be obvious but affects the ticket count so it needs to be mentioned.

    Phase 2: Directed ticket sales. (35,000 tickets)
    Cover the Theme camps, art cars and artists first. Move the theme camp, Art grant, and art car application deadlines up to January and award tickets to Camps and groups by the middle of March. Price all tickets the same, just above expected operating cost. Award blocks of tickets to Camps & Groups based on camp/project need. Distribute tickets by emailing a set of ticket reservation codes to camp leaders and allow them to distribute them within their camps/projects. The recipients of the codes would then be able to buy the tickets at their convenience, Make the ticket codes valid for a specific period of time to ensure that people do in fact remember to buy them. Offer Shipping or will call tickets as in the past.

    This process alone will cover the vast majority of hardcore burners who would game the system to get tickets and leave people with plenty of time to plan their camps/projects and fundraise to cover material costs. If the BORG is able, they could even do an early application deadline in Dec.

    Phase 3: Open and low income sales. (22,000 Tickets)
    At the beginning or middle of April, hold an open sale for the remaining tickets and accept low income/scholarship tickets as before. Though there will be fewer tickets than previous open sales, this will be much easier to manage and will probably not crash the ticketing servers as the needs of the vast majority of hard core burners have already been met.
    If tickets are to be sold at different price tiers, then do it here, but I’m not convinced that’s necessary anymore, or feasible, as there is no way to reliably direct these tickets to people who really need them. A universal ticket price is something the community will understand if it’s explained properly.

    Phase 4: Robust after market.
    Key to reducing demand is to make sure every ticket sold has the maximum possible chance of being used.
    Burners are almost entirely normal adults off the playa with jobs, families and responsibilities that sometimes cause them to not be able to attend after they have bought tickets, sometimes at the last minute. That’s no reason their tickets should be left unused.
    The BORG should foster the seamless transfer of tickets in need of home by issuing as many hard tickets as possible and finding a way to allow the transfer of will-call tickets up to and beyond the opening of the gate.
    I think people have forgotten that the after market on tickets has been a part of the BM experience for years. How many people got their first ticket at the last minute from a friend who couldn’t go or found one online. We need to foster the free flow of tickets because from now on, there will always be a person who needs one. This means NO NAMES ON TICKETS. Printing names on tickets will certainly lead to unused tickets and thus higher demand and fewer people in attendance, and probably fraud as people try to find ways around it. Also, many virgins decide to go or are invited at the last minute so this process will directly benefit them.

    Phase 5. Early August Special sale. (1,000 tickets)
    Anyone who has been watching BM ticket listing on Craigslist or ebay for several years knows that ticket prices peak in July, then begin to fall, eventually to below face value as the event nears. It does this because people need time to plan and prepare. The single best way to kill scalping is to have more tickets come available AFTER the traditional price peak is reached and advertise that fact far, wide and often. If it’s widely known a sizable block of tickets will come available the first week of August, No one will pay above face value during the lead up. Then afterwards, needs met, tickets will have a very hard time selling at face value, not to mention above it.

    As for scalping, we as a community need to worry about that less. Frankly I think it’s the hard core burners who will pay the inflated price to ensure there is no question about their attendance. Issuing tickets to the hardcore burners first will satisfy their need and these are the burners who are least likely to scalp tickets anyway. This is the group that will definitely sell their tickets at face value to a human who needs one (not an agency) when they can’t go. So we should trust burners to do the right thing with their tickets and if we do, those tickets will be used as everyone hopes they would be and that will make the ticketing experience fair and easier for everyone.

    These are my 2 cents.
    I’ve been attending since 2005 and I’m a participant in a large theme camp.

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  33. Camp Conduit Says:

    Make tickets:

    1.) Non-transferable–either print a name on them, or a name and a photo (uploaded at time of purchase, as per an earlier comment).

    2.) At time of purchase, a different name and email address must be provided for each and every separate ticket. Max of four tickets able to be purchased per transaction.

    3.) First-come, first-served, but ONLY in conjunction with being non-transferable!

    4.) Re-sellable back to the BMORG (and thus other Burners), through the STEP program, up through a specific cutoff date. Say, end of July.

    5.) Print and mail tickets the day after the cutoff date, with the names on them.

    6.) Make a small number of tickets available for first-come-first-served, non-transferable purchase (say, 3000), the first two weeks of August, for pickup at Will Call.

    7.) Did I mention non-transferable?

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  34. Ghost Says:

    Wow, what a concept and concepts and all ignoring the obvious;
    1. The event is comprised of people, but also of people who are in a few hundred camps that serve as a basis for the entertainment, excitment and wonder that is the burn;
    2. The event is comprised of art, fixed and moving, that is financed sometimes within the event and many times privately by people; everything from a fiery mutuant vehicle, ‘sound camps’ and so forth.
    The difference between Glastanbury and Black Rock City is that Glastanbury provides all of the event and entertainment whereas Black Rock City provides only a portion of the event and entertainment. If the BORG were to provide everything as to entertainment then what camps would it support or supplant with its own, would it really need to have streets like now or zones like Glastanbury.
    The issue of tickets to camps is not just a reward it is a choice, if it is Glastanbury then why care and the camp can dissappear and more space for new burners to park/camp.
    Lets be clear, while last year was a good year, it was not as good as 2010 or 2011; the crowds were down, a lot of good camps folded before and many more afterwards, the reputation of the event was negatively impacted. As was suggested if a camp fails it should join another, I saw that a lot, and I missed the camps that are now dust, never to return.
    If the camps are not supported by the BORG, why spend the time making streets, laying out camp areas when it would be quicker to simply lay out a zone for RV parking, tents, etc. with no regard for camp events. If it wants certain ‘entertainments’ it can pay a camp to provide, like it has in the past.
    Besides being harsh that is abandoning that which built the event. Last year the BORG created a problem in reacting to change, the issue is whether they will lose the event, not make it better. If we take the post to its logical conclusion will we need lamplighters, rangers, or even many of the volunteers; what will be the daily/nightly draw to cause people to think, feel and explore – remember what made the burn for you so important.
    I apologize up front for the rant, but if the event is to move on as suggested by the original post, it should move on to elsewhere, it is ‘not the last coca cola in the desert’.
    Ghost

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  35. Mark Says:

    My understanding was 62,500 tickets were issues in total and only 52-55,000 were in attendance. If 75k were issued do we all think 75k will show? Maybe.
    Giving preference to camps ect… Would go against the very concept of the event making it for the “elite” few thousand who “make it what it is”. Where the freedom of the event in every aspect physically mentally spiritually and cosmically make Burningman the amazing experience it has become

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  36. Dana MacDermott Says:

    Making tickets non-transferable means that if there is an illness, some sort of emergency, or a change of exactly who is coming, the purchaser is screwed. This is incompatible with the comments that the theme camps or other networks will take care of those who do not get tickets. Please also remember that not everyone who comes to Burning Man has lots of disposable income and can afford to ignore several hundred dollars of expenditures.

    I would also prefer that we burners be allowed to take care of our own ticket re-assortment and let the BM staff concentrate on the event.

    Over the 11 years we have participated, I have experienced all kinds of ticket buying problems, from getting somehow shuffled into an on line queue that did not advance, to the actual loss of record of my ticket purchase. These are the ones that the IT techs can eliminate. The scalper problem and the possibility of a greater demand than availability of tickets have at best trade off answers, where no solution is perfect.

    My own thoughts are that the tickets should be a single price, except for those offered as scholarship, discounted by application and need. This at least would remove the terrible pressure on the system as everyone tries for the least expensive tickets. Purchasing more than 2 tickets should be also be allowed, if any more than two are for children (pick your cut off age).

    Oh, and by the way, my husband and I are over 60, and please do not make our funky RV inadmissible.

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  37. Droidle Says:

    Ghost, you didn’t apologize for your rant up front, you did it at the end. So there. <3

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  38. Ali Baba Says:

    As a previous commenter said: “gypped” is pejorative–it’s a slur on gypsies.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

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  39. rekall Says:

    given that there’s always a shortage of volunteers, and people seeking tickets, and a reserve of tickets in the final tier, why not offer them preferentially to those with a confirmed volunteer shift, or multiple shifts? it’s “good works” favoritism but at least it answers both the need for volunteer-participants, and tickets for those who really want to go.

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  40. Elizabeth Says:

    To note: what did we learn from 2012?
    1) That STEP worked – that surprised me, and I kicked myself for ignoring that option.
    2) Scalper tix were in jeopardy by late July – I tracked it from May through August, and once the BORG issued suspect ticket series numbers, prices plummeted like stocks in 2008. Granted, the 10,000 ticket release dampened scalper sales also – so that becomes:
    3) Release another round of tickets later – Just not to select camps! (fuck that noise!! As a long-time burner who participates mightily, but in a solo way, I felt like a jilted naive lover when that played out – and btw, not everyone thinks that giant camps are what makes a successful Burn)
    4) The amount of tickets sold did not equal the amount of people who showed.
    5) Everyone who wanted to go – in the end – went. Yes, it sucks to start planning July 15th (me) – it is harder financially to not be able to spread it out, and Australians can’t plan – but a lot of people got there who did not think they would. Aug 8th there were tickets on sale for $200.

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  41. GrimNexus Says:

    I’m sorry i havn’t read all the comments, but has anyone suggested that it be a combination of signup & first-come-first-served?

    Just as with the signup for the lottery(and perhaps we can also think of some hurdle that will be a good filter), and the bman org can also check the list for duplicates, frauds, etc.
    then, all those people will be eligable for the first-come-first-served sale.

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  42. GrimNexus Says:

    and, putting a limit of buying 4 tickets each, while making it so only registered theme camps can buy blocks of tickets.

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  43. GrimNexus Says:

    ok read everything.
    i think there’s some pretty good ideas, maybe combine the best and most compatable aspects of all of them.

    Ticket Gauntlet.

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  44. free radical Says:

    A “first come first served” is not a viable option.

    It is the inspiration and hard work of a dedicated core group of experienced burners that make the event what it is, make it worth attending in the first place. First-time burners are welcome and necessary to the community, but veteran burners bring the knowledge and equipment that the harsh playa demands. This is not elitism, or intending to elevate the most creative and productive above all others. It is merely acknowledging reality, that all attendees, new or returning, want there to be enough interactivity, enough shade, comfort and fun on the playa. In my nine consecutive years attending the event, I’ve noticed drops in the numbers of burn barrels, public benches, and camps gifting food. I understand that the event will evolve, but all these comforts and pleasures require someone to bring them, someone that knows how to build them to hold up in the windstorms. As a new attendee, I could not have been called upon to deliver such things.

    I help produce a theme camp, which has been recognized as a green camp for several years. Adhering to the ten principles, *particularly “Leave No Trace”*, makes any camp or burner more attractive to the organization, and this helps all of our experience, as there will be less visible garbage on the streets, etc. It is not elitist to want less damage to the desert, and a cleaner experience for all.

    Thanks for the article and open forum.

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  45. Economist Says:

    It’s really a supply and demand issue. Increase the price of tickets and demand will go down but with a twist, we are burners after all.

    First since we did sell out last year we can increase the price of tickets 5-10% for the cheap tickets and 15-25% for the expensive tickets. This will also increase the price range between cheap and expensive which takes me to my next step.

    Sell them in reverse order. First the expensive tickets and don’t sell the cheaper tickets until either all the top tier tickets are gone or at a certain random intervals as the event draws closer. The release has to be random and unannounced this will make it very obvious what buyers are scalpers, if 1 second after release 10,000 people instantly buy them up I smell bots.

    People who really really really want to go and can afford to go at the maximum price can guarantee their spot early on. This will discourage but to not stop scalping since cheaper tickets will always be available from the org at least until they sell out.

    I know its not perfect. It does favor people with more disposable income. But there is a solution for that and its already in place, the scholarship program. With the extra money from the higher prices the org will be able to fund many many more scholarships for low income burners and grants to artist so they can build even more awesome installations.

    If this doesn’t work we can go a bit more harsh the following year and……i don’t know someone kicked the idea around of closing the gate Thursday or Friday, no entry after so and so time to discourage tourists.

    None of the ideas presented here are mine and I don’t want to take credit for them. Wish they were mine but they are not, good ideas are so hard to come by these days. I just wrote them down….again.

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  46. Ezra Erb Says:

    I firmly believe Burning Man tickets need to be made non-transferrable, with some refund capability.
    “First come, first served” with transferrable tickets won’t work. Major concert tours have done this since the beginning of time. The result: scalpers scoop up most of the tickets. The lottery system last year showed that transferrable tickets won’t work with that opion either.

    Most of the agnst I’ve seen with non-transferrable tickets is around people who find they can’t go and get screwed. The obvious solution is to have a waiting list. If someone can’t use their ticket, they tell the BMorg, who finds someone off the waitlist to buy it. BMorg handles the transaction and the name change, so they can enforce the price limit (SIDENOTE: Why not allow the ticket holder to choose their own recipient off the waitlist? Some scalper will conveniently choose the person who pays them the most before calling BMorg to do the resale, of course).

    Firefly (the New England Regional) did a lottery based system this year which is worth looking at. Instead of drawing tickets in groups of 1 or 2, they did it in blocks of 10. Theme camps submitted one lottery entry for all the tickets they needed (with names specified) and were assigned to blocks. The blocks were filled out to full size with individual/pair ticket buyers. The tickets went to those whose blocks were picked. The nice thing about this is that theme camps could get enough tickets to run the camp without specifically directing tickets to camps.

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  47. JP Says:

    One thing BMORG has shown is that they don’t care what the citizens of Black Rock City want, and that they believe they know better. And every year, the ticket situation gets worse. It’s optimistic, to say the least, to assume this year will be an improvement. But as always, we’ve got our fingers crossed! We’re a good group that way. Must be nice to be incompetent and uncaring, but receive unlimited hugs every time you screw up even worse than the time before.

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  48. Kristy Says:

    Caveat – wonderful post. I very much enjoyed reading it. Well said and made me think.

    I am continually surprised (though I shouldn’t be) by the number of people who state their version of the solution and end with something like “problem solved”. It is incredibly ignorant to think that this issue (like so many in life) has one right answer that will “solve” the problem. As the author notes, “there is no solution that will keep a significant number of people from feeling cheated”.

    While Org policies are rarely perfect (if there is such a thing), these folks seriously consider the 10 principles that are the foundation for this culture. They are grappling with how to maintain the ethics of the culture with default world logistical dilemmas that don’t always agree. Just because the Org doesn’t do it the way you think they should, does not mean they are “incompetent and uncaring”. There is vast disagreement about this topic, and ultimately someone has to make the decision.

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  49. Bleurose/Jon Says:

    Great article, Caveat. And I think the “true” answer was the one that Squachek suggested (surprised I didn’t think of it myself LOL!) Tiered ticking over the period of time tickets are available but with an inverse pricing strategy (this was actually tried out in a limited form last year with the “early purchase” plan which sold a fair number of tikcets at over $400 each). i would add to that an inverse # of tickets per sale policy to encourage groups to sign up first at higher prices.

    So let’s say:

    10,000 tickets for sale at $450 in January, 4 tickets per sale
    10,000 tickets for sale at $400 in February, 4 tickets per sale
    10,000 tickets for sale at $350 in March, 2 tickets per sale
    10,000 tickets for sale at $300 in April, 2 tickets per sale
    10,000 tickets for sale at $250 in June, 2 tickets per sale
    10,000 tickets for sale at $200 in July, solo ticket sales only

    As noted by Squachek, people who are

    This indeed does inflict a HUGE degree of uncertainty on scalpers. By releasing tickets in waves AND reducing the price little by little, it makes the early price of acquiring tickets by scalpers way too high especially since they will have no clear way of knowing WHEN they might actually be able to sell the ticket for a profit. If you buy a ticket for $450 in January and post it on Stub Hub, what price to you charge? $500? WTF? Why would I pay $500 today when I can wait until June and maybe only pay $250!

    With the limitations on who can purchase with what credit cards and addresses coupled with the higher prices, a scalper would have to be truly crazy to jump in and try to corner a large part of the $450 or $400 market WELL BEFORE most of the tickets have gone on sale. Camps that REALLY want to make sure all their people make it will just encourage them to get the tickets as early as they can afford. We might even find out that the higher price tiers don’t sell out immediately, which means anyone who doesn’t go has always had the opportunity to go.

    I would NOT make the tickets non-transferable (this is something I am reversing myself on I think) because if you pay a high price for a ticket and CAN’T go, you should be able to sell it to a friend for a lower price (semi-gift) and if the tickets are non-transferable, you can’t decide to do that. Sure, you could be a douche and sell it for more, but people in the community won’t and scalpers are already going to be hard-pressed to deal with this strange upside-down pricing scheme.

    Great idea, Squachek. I hope they consider it.

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  50. mouse Says:

    my first time was 1996,,,it was inexpensive, simple, fun…and most of all easy. nothing has changed…i have not missed a year of this unexpinable inner release…so i think people like myself will pay the higher price for the early tickets and then put the next sale about midway at a lower price and then say on july 1st put 15,000 tickets at the lowest price ..i am certain those who want to go will get tickets and those on the fence that wait can live with the idea of not goping when they do not get tickets…limit four to a sale…. see you regulars out there.

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  51. I stop for moop Says:

    Thanks for the article. I like the funky little details;) I really dig the idea of stopping entrance on wed. Keeping those clean, shiney haired, buzz killing, beaming headlight busters true to burning man by showing up and participating the whole week. It drives me BONKERS when people are driving in the streets looking for camping spots on FRIDAY! Seriously! With HEADLIGHTS?!? Psh! We are family. We come together as family and build a city for an entire week. It is a collective art piece that we should all be there for. You shouldn’t be allowed to come in after all the works done and still put your name on the project. Ya dig? Thank you!

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  52. Nick freed Says:

    Perhaps tickets valid for certain durations? Such as if you intend to stay the entire week you get one type ticket, if you intend to arrive Friday night and leave Sunday morning you don’t get or get a different type ticket. Maybe the tickets expire after a certain time and date if entry is not made by the registered time? I dunno but my plans for returning in full force with an art car and contributing more are hampered by my fears of not being able to get a ticket :-/

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  53. John Says:

    I liked the 2011 year scheme. Just a well supported queue. Wait in line, and keep selling until each tier is sold out. Limit the number each person can buy at a time. Simple. It may not be elegant or modern but it makes sense.

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  54. Franko Says:

    i agree with this post 100%. no burnier-than-thou anointing by the BMORG. i say this as someone who’s attended every burn since 1996, and who has a camp i dearly love and want every one to be able to attend. the only fair way is to make sure everyone has an equal chance, from the top down to the freshest virgin burner on the playa.

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  55. badawg Says:

    well said sir!!
    The Mayan calendar ends…..not for the end of the world, but for the end of this consciousness. WE are ALL meatbags of energy that eventually goes back home. Our time here is to reflect that we have learned that we are ALL the same, even with our respective differences. Quit whining about fair….work to make it fair!!! Because we all want it FAIR!! Yet once we realize we all are after the same thing….we can work to the same goal, whatever it may be!!! And if you dont like my goal…..work with the person who has similar goals…..but somehow…..I think we will all see each other in the end!!!

    Burning man is …. to me…..the celebration of our similarities despite our differences (which, typically, are ego driven….)

    Peace to ALL
    Namaste’

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  56. Monsignor Manny Says:

    Can we stop pretending that the event sells out every year? Every August, there are plenty of tickets around to be had. So obviously, there is more supply than demand. Just make it first come first served and be done with it. All this hype about how to get tickets to the right people makes it sound like there are not enough tickets to go around. There are plenty. Every year. Let’s not believe all the hype. Geez.

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  57. JCigar Says:

    Non Tranferrable is not a good idea. I met dozen’s of people in 2012 that were there with a significant other. What if a person by a ticket for there partner then is no longer with them on August 26th. Shouldn’t they be allowed to bring someone else. I hope My girlfriend is still with me for 2013, it wouldn’t be the same without her but if she can’t go for some reason, I’d like to bring a good bud. I understand not wanting scalpers to make money off of burning man, but just “GOING” to the event is what it is all about. I don’t care if i have to spend a few extra buck. I don’t want to and it goes against everything i believe about burning man. But I NEED TO GO HOME TO THE PLAYA – Bottom line!

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  58. cargo camps dumping? deny them. Says:

    I have an easy solution but it will take a year to impliment. I took a different route home this year going via Reno. What I saw sickened and disgusted me…. Miles of trash dumped from Gerlach all the way to Reno. So my suggestion is this. Burners always have cell phone cameras available and the lines are long, so when you see these cars dumping trash take a picture and send it to the Borg. The borg can scan tickets AND plates at the door and in 2014 NONE of these burners virgin or othewise are allowed to buy tickets. Judging by the bags of trash i saw heading out that should reduce qualified demand by about 10,000 tickets.

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  59. :) Says:

    Heres a thought. This is combining my idea and that of another comment from this board in a way that is interesting to think about…

    Selling tickets in waves is a good idea.

    10,000 tickets for sale at $450 in January, 4 tickets per sale
    10,000 tickets for sale at $400 in February, 4 tickets per sale
    10,000 tickets for sale at $350 in March, 2 tickets per sale
    10,000 tickets for sale at $300 in April, 2 tickets per sale
    10,000 tickets for sale at $250 in June, 2 tickets per sale
    10,000 tickets for sale at $200 in July, solo ticket sales only

    But in addition, what if it was required to electronically submit an essay about what burning man means to you? maybe also a photo? almost like screening process… no one who belongs there would mind. I feel like this would create an extra obstacle for scalpers and villians, and who knows, you could put together something really cool about what burning man means to its people :)

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  60. Pat McGehee Says:

    First come-first served with 2 ticket limit -one price ticket. Establish a wait list for those who did not get their order in but still want a chance at a ticket. Buyers will receive receipt with barcode which is linked with their name at BM hq. Actual tickets will be issued 3-4 weeks before events begin. If buyer desires to not use tickets may sell the barcoded receipt back to BM only. who will then offer it to next person on wait list. No refunds on barcoded receipts or actual tickets after tickets distributed. Actual tickets will only be in the buyers hands for less than three weeks which should severly limit scalpers but still give buyers time to sell or gift tickets to friends.

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  61. Aaron Says:

    Put names on tickets. First come first served.

    If you can’t go – put you ticket back in the pool. Get your money back minus a fee, and the next person in line can have it.

    Done.

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  62. sitting on couch in reno Says:

    single person ticket-$xxx
    family ticket–$xxxx
    theme camp ticket-$xxxxx

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  63. Natasha in Moscow... Says:

    I don’t envy the organisers the decisions they will have to make regarding the tickets,Burning Man is a completely different entity in 2012-2013 than it was in my first year,there were 8 thousand people and the Man was standing on bails of straw….there was an opera with what seemed like hundreds of people at 3 in the morning……there were camels….no money,no commercialism,no inhibitions,pure unadulterated fun…I didn’t want to leave,the last year I was there it had grown to 30 thousand and now it’s 50 thousand, it must be a logistical nightmare.

    The fact remains there is a permit for 50 thousand and that’s the bottom line,the semantics of how to distribute that 50 thousand between theme camps and Burners is for others to decide,but surely the fairest and easiest solution for us the Burners is first come first served.

    Please decide soon,I’m aching to come back to Cali,to see my friends, to sit and watch the sun come up over the Black Rock Desert with something delicious from Humboldt County in my hand,and there are many people round the world like me who have their own logistical problems,I’m Irish, live in Moscow and I need to make plans,take the emphasis and energy away from scalpers and the like and focus on Burning Man.

    Peace and Love to all and see you on the playa…. BURN baby BURN )’(

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  64. TDoyle Says:

    Non-transferrable tickets sound good at first blush, but…. In 2011 a friend and I, coming from different parts of the country, were going to meet at BRC. Enroute, I had vehicle issues and he had medical problems. We both had to return to our respective homes. Using Craigs list we were able to get our tickets to others who could attend. If our tickets had been non-transferrable, these new ticket holders would have lost out on the Burning Man experience.

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  65. digrok Says:

    It sounds like all the first come first serve people are not involved with the task of creating and building a theme camp, providing services for a large amount of people, nor envisioning the labor of a specialized volunteer.

    BMORG must allot tickets to their infrastructure…this should not be negotiable. And those ticket prices should be lower tiered pricing. Camps who spend $$$$$ to make BMAN the place it has become, SHOULD be Rewarded. If BMORG invites a theme camp, volunteer, performer, mutant art person, artist…to return…then they should supply them with tickets to accomplish their design, plan, work load, or art.

    Why should a virgin burner or party mode burner get priority on low cost tickets, when certain Burners create major scenes, labor for months, present shows and music, provide major art exhibits…and do so with a major financial cost…gifting to BMORG…to make their event incredible. Every other festival PAYS for such services or gives out FREE volunteer tickets!! A profit making business that does not give the best perks to those who create and build their vision…would not make any sense.
    Burning Man needs to either GIVE the infrastructure free or very low cost tickets. Then no matter what happens in the scheme of ticket servicing…at least…there will be a quality BRC!!!

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  66. Mandy curnow Says:

    well for my thoughts – and it doesn’t really cover camps or groups but as someone who paid $1100 per ticket in 2012 on Stubhub – yes thats right, $1,100 (because we had to book our air tickets and work leave in February and didn’t get any tickets in the lottery) I would like to leave the scalpers/fortune takers out of the system and go with names printed on tickets and if you need to sell them then they have to go back into the system where they are re-sold for face value with the new name printed on them (like camp conduit and others have suggested).

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  67. Ezra Erb Says:

    Reading through these comments, I see something missing: how to handle theme camps. One of the biggest complaints about last year is that only a fraction of theme camp particpants got tickets in the initial lottery, really screwing up the camp planning process. I see the following options for handling this:
    1. Theme camp tickets. Camps apply for placement very early and those that get picked get guarenteed tickets. I really hate this idea because it forces the organizers to choose who is worthy enough for tickets. It will also drive new partipants toward existing camps.
    2. Theme camp lottery. Camps apply for a special round of lottery tickets, and only a certain fraction get them. People will probably scream that certain favorite camps may not be at any given Burn, but I like this idea. It allows new camps to get in, bringing new ideas and new blood.
    3. First come, first served. If tickets are non-transferrable except to other camp members (and others can’t transfer at all) this will probably work. Open transfer will become a scalper feeding frenzy.
    4. General lottery with tickets picked in big blocks. The big blocks allow theme camps to enter as a unit and get all their tickets at once. This system was used at Firefly (the New England Regional) this year and worked well.

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  68. Dragon Pilot Says:

    Did you ever wonder what BRC would be like without preferentially-treated theme camps and mutant vehicles? *GASP…WRINGS HANDS…SOBS*

    Making special ticketing concessions for theme camps seems to be one of the big sticking points here…minimizing theme camp participation might just result in something amazing. Same could be said for the mutant vehicles. They haven’t always been there…I wonder what would fill the vacuum?

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  69. digrok Says:

    DRAGON PiLOT AND OTHERS…take away all the 1500 theme camps…and mutant vehicles…and keeping with the ideal of scrapping all preferential treatment…which would mean eliminating the art projects too. Then you will see plenty of available tickets for sale during those scarcely attended years…thousands upon thousands of them. At least until they reinstate what took Bman from a couple of thousand people to the great event it has now become.

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  70. Mercedese Witty Says:

    Sell your tickets the old way, half through the websites and half through the real world distributors. No one is allowed to buy more than one ticket per person and you have your name assigned to the ticket…. If for some reason you can’t go to Burning Man, you turn your ticket in to the Burning Man company and they resell it to a new person, and assign them your name and then they refund you the money… This would eliminate the scalping issues. Theme Camps, registered ones and proving what they bring to the playa would put in a list of essential camp personnel to be assigned tickets outside the first come first served deal… You can’t have Burning Man without the camps and they can’t run their show without their people. However, each camp should be alloted X amount of people, this is not a scam for everyone to go on the Theme Camp ride… reasonable numbers people. All tickets should be to assigned names and you provide your identification at the Gate. The low income ticket people have to do that and there is no way to scalp a low income ticket other than if you are the identical twin of the person who holds the ticket. The event is going to have to expand and that is just the way it is, more people are going to have to allowed to go up to 100,000 which should be the absolute cap on the population. Scalpers must be eliminated. Name assigned tickets only available through transfer through the Burning Man Company. I have been going for the last five years, you can’t have Burning Man without the Theme Camps and the big art projects.

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  71. Craig Kind Says:

    *Speaking from the perspective of someone that runs a small-medium sized camp (40+ people).

    Another great article on a very complicated subject. I’ll highlight this to be the crux of the argument/ point of view

    “They’re saying faith alone … the desire to go to Burning Man and be a part of this community … now counts for much less.”

    Faith will always be the driving force behind Burning Man. Not faith in Gods. Faith in yourself. If you want to go, you’ll find a way. That will never change. The statistics drop from X Amount of People who want to go, Vs. X amount of People that will do whatever it takes to get there. The struggle to get out there, to get organized, has always been there. The climb is a little higher now, that’s all. As long as the tickets are distributed, we will find a way to find a way.

    While the Protestant Reformation is an interesting framework for the article, we’re obviously not taking into account that this isn’t heaven. It’s a city in the desert. Unlike heaven, you actually have to build it. Theme camps and Art installations are the power tools. That doesn’t entitle entry alone, faith does. It got 20+ people out there who didn’t get tickets in the lottery, and it’ll get more out next year.

    I think you’ve come up with the solution. Have faith. Distribute the tickets, and simply understand that the people who want to be there, will be there.

    God exists, I just don’t believe in him. I do however, believe in you.

    Frog, Platypus & The Band

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  72. kay Says:

    Do it the OLD way, if people STILL haven’t gotten their tickets by fricking JULY, to hell with them… Please, don’t screw it up again this year…

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  73. Shade Says:

    Lot’s of interesting comments and it’s all worth reading. Last year I thought about elaborate ticket sales plans but have realized none would work. Non-transferable tickets.. too easy to get around. Just use a fake Romainian name and dummy up a fake Romainian drivers license. How would the volunteers at the gate know.

    In the good old days, if you suddenly could not go, you were lucky to sell your ticket, you typically had to give it away. Any one with a plan already had a ticket.

    What I like:
    A single price for all tickets. I resent paying more just because I didn’t win. I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t simply gloat over scoring a cheaper ticket.
    Release a ticket block late. Maybe 4000 tickets in July and then more in August. That will truly mess with scalpers to the point where they are not a factor. Make it clear that if you are just thinking about BM, this is the time to buy, not early when you may be stuck with a ticket you cannot sell.
    Charge a late comer fee at the gate for arrivals after Thursday midnight. Maybe $400 per vehicle. This will cut demand for tickets. This is not implemented if the main block of tickets doesn’t sell out. So control ticket sales by use restrictions that can be removed if demand is dampened too much. Another way could be to sell early round tickets based on the day you want to enter. People who plan, like theme camps, know.

    Last year I believe that it was the sense that you couldn’t loose if you got in the lottery. If you went, great, if not, you could sell your ticket at a profit. We burners were thinking like scalpers. It didn’t work out that way, but I saw a lot of tickets change hands, most at face value. I’m pretty sure that won’t happen again this year and that a lottery like last year will be a success.

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  74. Electric Jed Says:

    There is no circumstance where a lottery will work. So much bad will was created that it still lingers. It was a catastrophic idea last year and would be so in any year. Burning Man is hard to do. Sorry, but that’s the way it is and has been. There is a reason Radical self-reliance is a principle. The ticket price is almost irrelevant. It is one of the smallest of all the costs to attend the event. The tickets are priced in tiers for one reason only: To drive up demand and sell out as soon as possible. It makes perfect sense. The Org needs money to put the thing on and they need it as early as possible to pay for everything. The lottery was designed to drive an hysterical demand to get all the money in January, and guess what? It worked!

    Don’t be fooled by all the excuses of fairness, equal access and such. These are the same subterfuge and lipstick on a pig found in your garden variety political campaigns. It’s about MONEY. Oh come on, don’t look so shocked.

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  75. Michelle Says:

    I may have a different perspective. I have been a leader of theme camps since 2004 and a participant since 2000. Over the years we have built community. This did not happen over night, it took time. We have invested in infrastructure, and developed art and interaction. Community has a foundation of experience-without that you are starting over every time. We start planning our camp as soon as we leave the playa. Last year we were uncertain whether our crew (or the other campers who help fund our camp and perform) would be ticketed. This made it difficult to plan and start working. We have always included new people. However with many camps only having 20-25% ticketed, it may be difficult to find that many new, dependable, available or experienced burners to pull off a camp. At the very least, it would make it difficult to plan ahead which can make the difference between good art and great art! I know of several major art projects that would not have been on the playa if it were not for those 10,000 tickets. These pieces take time to plan, and people are less willing to commit time and money if they are unticketed. Less than 17% of the tickets went to artists, theme camps and art cars. Most camps and artists had 20-25% of their crew ticketed. Many of these people have spent years of time, money and effort to build BRC, with no thought of reward. Instead of thinking of people wanting special treatment, perhaps it could be thought of as honoring the artists, community builders and elders. BM used criteria to decide who wold get tickets. Consider those 10,000 tickets are an investment in our community. It is worth committing those tickets you know are going to produce good fruit. They go directly into making BRC happen. Oregon Country Fair has an elder program for people who have served 20 years to honor their elders for their service. Last year almost half the tickets went to new burners, which is good and inclusive and brings new ideas and energy. New camps were placed. I know that some groups may have “gamed” the system. We were lucky and only asked for one ticket. A totally random lottery would certainly change the event. This is a social experiment. What kind of community do we want to build? Is 17% of the tickets available worth ensuring that art and established communities have time and a crew to continue to grow and build on the foundation we have all contributed to? I hope it is. Volunteers such as greeters who work a certain number of shifts for the burningman organization are garanteed tickets for next year. Fire conclave gets reduced ticket prices and some free tickets. What are theme camps, art installations and art cars worth?

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