Why Not Implement Identity-Based Ticketing?

In the wake of 2012 ticket sales, a number of people have called for Burning Man to implement an identity-based ticketing system (non-transferable, name-on-ticket). There are valid points on both sides of this question, and it is something we have thought about and discussed at length. Putting aside the many challenges inherent in executing an ID-based ticketing system, the case may certainly be made that not-transferable tickets might better serve the needs of ticket holders if they are simply regarded as individual consumers of a service or a product. But this approach ignores the complex and interdependent social fabric of our community.

As things stand now, participants are free to bestow tickets on their friends, lovers, campmates or family members — on anyone who they believe should come to the event. This form of ticket distribution often occurs spontaneously and is independent of any authorizing agency. It is an extension of the gift giving ethic that informs our culture. Furthermore, the chief argument advanced in support of identity-based ticketing is that such a system prevents profiteering by scalpers. But we have found that little more than 1% of ticket sales can be attributed to scalping in 2012. Even in the face of scarcity, a vast majority of ticket buyers appear to have honored a social compact that values persons over profit. Burning Man is an experiment in community, and in 2013 we will continue to invest our faith in that community.

[Editor’s Note: If you do sell your ticket, we ask that you sell it at face value, and if you’re buying one, to find one to purchase at face value.]

About the author: Larry Harvey

Born in 1948, Larry Harvey grew up on a small farm on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. In the late 1970's he moved to San Francisco, and soon discovered the city's thriving underground art scene. In 1986 he founded Burning Man at a local beach, and has guided its progress ever since. Larry is currently executive director of the Project. He scripts and co-curates Burning Man's annual art theme and collaborates with artists in creating aspects of the art theme and the design of Black Rock City. Larry also writes articles and essays for the Project's website. As spokesperson for Burning Man, he is frequently interviewed by reporters, and has lectured on subjects as diverse as art, religion, civic planning and the rise of cyber-culture in the era of the Internet. Larry is also a political planner, supervising the organization's lobbying efforts and frequently attending meetings with state, county and federal agencies.

60 thoughts on “Why Not Implement Identity-Based Ticketing?

  • so what if scalpers profiteer? I honestly don’t understand what’s so awful about knowing that someone out there might be making some profit from exploiting the difference between supply & demand. let the scalpers take the risk of loss and let them provide the service. if it’s really only about 1% scalped tickets last year, let’s stop devoting so much energy to it. bravo on choosing to serve serve the 99%, and let’s all let the scalpers be. you know that someone is depending on there being a scalped ticket available at the last minute. I’ve been that person (the buyer of a scalped ticket) before and by the way, I paid LESS than face value for it! the person who ends up with the scalped ticket may be a long-time burner with a last-minute situation and may indeed be exactly the one you were supposed to meet.

    let’s not fight or stress about this. oh wait, fighting and stressing is fun, right? hmmm.

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  • > (except for tickets that are exclusively transferable through BMORG)

    I hate to bust your bubble, but a named-STEP can be gamed. You just require a secondary payment outside of named-STEP program prior to authorizing an individual transaction.

    re: Gifting

    I always bought two tickets in the past, and gifted the spare ticket thru my community – to people whose full legal names I did not necessarily know. But I did know them by their email handles, or they were connected enough to be on our regional email list. Surprise, there are a number of burners whose full legal names I don’t know, and whom I’ve known for over a decade.

    This lead to a tighter regional community, as people knew they needed to come to events, and get known to people in the community if they wanted first dibs on spare tickets.

    > ‘BMorg knows everyone who has attended’

    No they don’t. I was never able to go to a walk-in ticket location, and I’ve never owned a credit card. I’ve always found someone who has a credit card who has been willing to either A) buy tickets, or B) let me use their credit card number. I thought about getting a one-use only credit card for the clusterf*ck of 2012 – but realized that I needed two tickets (no gifting the spare last year, as I needed to make sure that I also had a rideshare partner), and that total price was over the limit of a one-use credit card.

    I’m also opposed to putting my name on a list. Lists can be subpoenaed, and in bad times, lists can be taken by force. Union stewards and the like have been liquidated in many countries because they allowed their names to be put on lists in the past, when they thought their countries were safe. If you don’t think that burners are a minority that might be discriminated against, that’s fine you f*cking hippy. But I don’t wish to risk my life on such a gamble.

    > Low-income

    I’d like to address low-income tickets. The non-transferable-ness of low-income tickets is an issue. Right now a poor person has to *GAMBLE* half of the ticket price on their ability to afford to be able to go, their health, and their responsibilities will all be capable of making an event approximately 200 days in the future.
    That’s fine if you’re a single, young, hippy-nomad.
    If you have a job (hello working poor America: 1/5th of whom have an income of Theme-camps

    I did like that theme-camps got a chance to get tickets. Unfortunately they were priced at highest tier. That led to some issues when people realized that they could get lower priced tickets later. Some of those people bailed on their responsibilities to the camp ‘well, I paid a higher price – I should get to party instead of work’.

    We do need some veterans, ie: we need enough veterans to make things work. One of the camps that I’m a lead— that I was a lead for in 2012, will not have me as a lead this year because of ticket prices. Frankly, I did all the work last year. I’m quite interested to see if there is going to be anyone who is able to step up and do the work for the 10+ year old theme camp. The other leads have burnt out, or have not been coming the last several years, and we’ve lost more to death/injuries/medical conditions.

    So we’re going to come to a time when new people are going to have to pick it up. Those people are going to have to be able to count on being able to continue to come to BM in the future, or the personal investment of learning and working to build stuff is going to be at a disadvantage to the trade-offs of just coming to party one (or two) times – and then going to the next festival to get drugs/get laid. I’m talking about the ‘I’m on vacation, so why should I work hard’ mindset.

    Old-timers will continue to hold on, but the attrition should be greater than it has been in the past, and with less every-year attendees, the involvement level is going to go down. Those people are going to lose the critical mass that they had in being able to make crews, so I’m guessing we’ll have fewer camps. And those people who do continue coming are going to have to start figuring on jumping camps more often (in order to get to min crew size).

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  • Sorry for the re-post, and the prior posting be deleted? I didn’t know the less-than-sign would eat a portion of my message.

    ——-

    ] (except for tickets that are exclusively transferable through BMORG)

    I hate to bust your bubble, but a named-STEP can be gamed. You just require a secondary payment outside of named-STEP program prior to authorizing an individual transaction.

    ] re: Gifting

    I always bought two tickets in the past, and gifted the spare ticket thru my community – to people whose full legal names I did not necessarily know. But I did know them by their email handles, or they were connected enough to be on our regional email list. Surprise, there are a number of burners whose full legal names I don’t know, and whom I’ve known for over a decade.

    This lead to a tighter regional community, as people knew they needed to come to events, and get known to people in the community if they wanted first dibs on spare tickets.

    ] ‘BMorg knows everyone who has attended’

    No they don’t. I was never able to go to a walk-in ticket location, and I’ve never owned a credit card. I’ve always found someone who has a credit card who has been willing to either A) buy tickets, or B) let me use their credit card number. I thought about getting a one-use only credit card for the clusterf*ck of 2012 – but realized that I needed two tickets (no gifting the spare last year, as I needed to make sure that I also had a rideshare partner), and that total price was over the limit of a one-use credit card.

    I’m also opposed to putting my name on a list. Lists can be subpoenaed, and in bad times, lists can be taken by force. Union stewards and the like have been liquidated in many countries because they allowed their names to be put on lists in the past, when they thought their countries were safe. If you don’t think that burners are a minority that might be discriminated against, that’s fine you f*cking hippy. But I don’t wish to risk my life on such a gamble.

    ] Low-income

    I’d like to address low-income tickets. The non-transferable-ness of low-income tickets is an issue. Right now a poor person has to *GAMBLE* half of the ticket price on their ability to afford to be able to go, their health, and their responsibilities will all be capable of making an event approximately 200 days in the future.
    That’s fine if you’re a single, young, hippy-nomad.
    If you have a job (hello working poor America: 1/5th of whom have an income of less-than 19K) you’re not ready to ditch (no vacations); have a family: parents, kids, relatives (esp. if any are young, old, or in ill-health); you’re older or potentially could have health issues (young healthy people just have to cross their fingers that they don’t have any accidents/injuries). Also, you better not plan on going with a spouse or lover, since you only get the chance to score one ticket.

    Awesome. We need more hot young single hippy chix, especially those
    that need rides to BM (ass, grass or cash). /sarcasm /truth?

    ] Theme-camps / veterans

    I did like that theme-camps got a chance to get tickets. Unfortunately they were priced at highest tier. That led to some issues when people realized that they could get lower priced tickets later. Some of those people bailed on their responsibilities to the camp ‘well, I paid a higher price – I should get to party instead of work’.

    We do need some veterans, ie: we need enough veterans to make things work. One of the camps that I’m a lead— that I was a lead for in 2012, will not have me as a lead this year because of ticket prices. Frankly, I did all the work last year. I’m quite interested to see if there is going to be anyone who is able to step up and do the work for the 10+ year old theme camp. The other leads have burnt out, or have not been coming the last several years, and we’ve lost more to death/injuries/medical conditions.

    So we’re going to come to a time when new people are going to have to pick it up. Those people are going to have to be able to count on being able to continue to come to BM in the future, or the personal investment of learning and working to build stuff is going to be at a disadvantage to the trade-offs of just coming to party one (or two) times – and then going to the next festival to get drugs/get laid. I’m talking about the ‘I’m on vacation, so why should I work hard’ mindset.

    Old-timers will continue to hold on, but the attrition should be greater than it has been in the past, and with less every-year attendees, the involvement level is going to go down. Those people are going to lose the critical mass that they had in being able to make crews, so I’m guessing we’ll have fewer camps. And those people who do continue coming are going to have to start figuring on jumping camps more often (in order to get to min crew size).

    That said, I’m on the boat with groups knowing who is able to come early enough to raise funds, to do work, and get projects together.

    I’ll be in the market for one of those $50-$99 late availability tickets. Obviously, I will be unable to commit to any work. So I guess I’ve finally moved into the party-class :) I’ll come and help out – but no leadership, and no building for me.

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  • perhaps there could be 13,323 tickets with names and 26,877 without? you could conveniently use the same ratio in the low-income.

    and maybe those low-income tickets could be graded–not everyone’s need is exactly $190. some people could be paid to come (suppose they have an unusual number of arms and/or legs?) and others given discounts. some should pay more (THE 1%) and others could be paid not to come (you know who i’m talkin’ ’bout).

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  • also, perhaps you should decide the names for the tickets in advance. if a ticket can only be sold to, may i humbly suggest, jerzy cohen, what scalper will take a risk on it? so take the most common 13,232 names in the world and sell tickets with these names. (#1 being of course muhammad chang.)

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  • Your research on scalping seems convenient to support your own theory. 1% is obviously low and probably incorrect. Stub Hub and craigslist had lots of high price tix with some sellers hawking huge lots. There were also certainly greedy and/or paranoid burners who wanted to be sure they got their share and hopefully had extras for their friends who logged on with multiple computers and accounts. Some of those were sold for much more than face value.
    NO TRANSFERABLE TICKETS – CHECK TICKET NOW ALSO ID – NO PROBLEM
    Is the same think tank that’s given us the yearly cluster-fuck that is your ticket sales the same ‘decider’ once again rationalizing against a roar of disagreement and bullheadedly going ahead with selling transferable tickets? You already check tickets at the gate. ID is no more work.

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  • All of these demands for names on tickets with no discussion of simple ways for a scalper to subvert the process. Sooo Republican. I can think of several and I’m just smart, not criminally inclined.

    One hinges on the large number of foreigners (aliens) that visit BM. Who knows what a Moldovian drivers license looks like. Let’s get a grip.

    The best move was a single price for all of the main tickets. Pissed me off when I paid more just through the luck of the draw. The second is an unannounced number of last minute tickets. 1000+… that + is a big deal because it could be 5000 under the BM permit.

    Scalpers might try, but they were generally burnt last year, and will be again this year. I predict this year will NOT be an immediate sell out. Too many tickets changed hands below cost last year. I met someone who was given a ticket because the person couldn’t find a buyer… very telling. People who made a profit were the lucky ones who had tier 1 tickets and sold at tier 3 prices. Not possible this year.

    So my plan is to just be there… it will happen for me this year just like last year, as it did for everyone I know who could go… even with the angst.

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  • Esto, por supuesto no quita que pueda tener algunos yerros y cierres inesperados al tratarse de una
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    por lo que nunca está de más echar una ojeada para ver que app juego interesante se puede hallar.

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