So the Burning Man Organization decided that they would sell tickets this year via a lottery system. So far 43,000 of the 53,000 tickets that could be sold have been issued [virtually via email confirmations]. Shockingly for most repeat burners is the fact that only around an average 30% of the people in the theme camps and friend groups that are reporting got tickets. There are only 10,000 more tickets to redistribute and that’s not planned until the end of March. That’s a problem on 2 levels:
- Burning Man is organized by the many mini-communities that bring essential services, gifts and art to the playa. These groups need their core members to deliver their contributions and in many cases they need a lot of time to fund raise and plan their bigger projets. With only 1 in 3 people from these communities getting tickets and so few trickets left to come in the spring many groups are doubting their willingness and/or ability to come to the event with their normal level of contribution.
- If 60% of the repeat burners aren’t able to attend the playa population may be skewed heavily in favour of inexperienced people. Having a high ratio of experienced folks to newbies normally ensures that safety and social savvy on the playa is naturally exchanged and allows for a safe and fun event. If the experienced people are out numbered by newbies who aren’t prepared for the hostile environment [I am a seasoned desert camper and BMan kicked my ass the first time – hard!] and don’t understand the fine balance between freedom and responsibility on the playa the community may spend a lot of time dealing with problems.
So who has the tickets?
It’s impossible to know exactly what the breakdown of ticket distribution is. However, based on the reports so far we have a good handle on the regular burners/theme camps [since they chat in forums related to the event] having received 30% of the tickets. The rest of the tickets are in the hands of 2 groups: newbies and scalpers. It was easy for scalpers to game the lottery system and the high value of a BMan ticket ~$400 and the high demand means scalped tickets are already selling in the $600+ range.
Initially a lot of people thought that lots of regular burners entered the lottery multiple times and were sitting on piles of tickets that would get redistributed to other burners. This simply isn’t happening in any appreciable volume. Given the panic and anger in most burning man communities anyone with extra tickets they didn’t need would have helped out their friends already. So I think we can scratch that possibility from the list.
What’s worse newbies or scalpers? At first blush you’d think it would be worse for scalpers to have most of the 70% of unaccounted for tickets, but at least these tickets are still available for purchase. If we assume there are very few scalped tickets out there then there is virtually no chance for a group or theme camp to get enough tickets to be viable. A playa with 70% new people is going to be a perfect storm of low contribution, poor survival skills and lack of cultural understanding.
My wild ass guess is the tickets are distributed as follows:
- regular burners ~30%
- newbies or infrequent burners ~45%
- scalpers ~20%
What we can’t do to fix the problem?
There is lots of unrealistic chatter going on around the net about what should be done. Let’s start by eliminating the the options that are not practical to implement:
- cancel the lottery and start again: not possible. You sold tickets to people for the event and that’s over. Just because we don’t like who got them isn’t justification for terminating that sales contract. This would cost over $1 million in credit card fees not to mention the lawsuits that will follow. Plus the burning man community already been damaged by this lottery in a way that is unprecedented. What do you think will happen when you take back tickets from a burner who won them and then the same person loses out in the new system?
- make the lottery tickets non-transferable with names & ID #s: not possible. We sold people transferable tickets. That’s a totally different animal then a non-transferable ticket. It would not be legal or fair to change the game after the fact because we didn’t like the outcome.
- don’t buy from scalpers: frankly given the situation the scalpers may be the only reasonably accessible source of tickets for this year’s burn. If you really want to go in 2012 and/or you want your theme camp to survive this may be one of your only viable options. I won’t hate you if you bought a scalped ticket. The problem wasn’t your fault you are just doing what’s in your power to sort the mess out.
- get your tickets from other burners via the STEP program: the Burning Man organization is setting up a market place for tickets to be sold from burners to burners – supposedly risk free. This sounds great, but there won’t be many tickets sold through this mechanism since there are simply so few free tickets in the burner community to begin with and the handling fee makes this a more expensive option than simply selling a spare ticket to a friend or local burner where you live.
- increase the population of BRC: not possible. The event numbers are capped for reasons both logistical and legal. Any major change to the number of peeps at BRC would take a lot of time – more time than we have until the 2012 event. BMorg is working on this for future burns, but I wouldn’t expect to see a change of any magnitude soon.
What we can do as a community?
There is a lot of time left before the event and 10,000 tickets yet to be distributed so we have some options:
- unfair allocation of the remaining 10,000 tickets: we can throw out our principle of everyone being equal and we can decide some burners are more important than others. I mean Opulent Temple brings Infected Mushroom to the playa they gotta be more important than 20 middle age burners from Iowa who always camp together at 6 and H and host a free bar with inflatable pink flamingos – right? Personally I don’t think it’s worth destroying a core value of the community to hear Paul Oakenfold play some records. Having said that this is an option even though I won’t support it.
- make the last 10,000 tickets non-transferable: since the last batch of tickets haven’t been sold we can change the terms and keep scalpers out. Print names on tickets and ID #’s. I can live with this and at least it means the last batch of tickets will only go to people who are planning on attending the event.
- redistribute within our communities: if you want certain theme camps or art projects to go ahead give them your tickets. Yes it will suck for you, but sometimes doing the right thing isn’t fun. Within groups meet to discuss your community’s future in 2012 and consider either asking other groups/people for tickets or consider gifting your tickets and taking a break for 2012.
- plan for change: 2012 is going to be a very different burn than any other in recent memory. You will have less art and services available to you on the playa and fewer old timers to keep stuff in control. Maybe you need to plan to help more and to educate far more newbies far faster than has ever been done before? Maybe you need to consider your personal safety in different terms this year – especially if you are in a vulnerable sub-group in our population?
- make the best of it: there will be a playa, there will be dust and there will be other people – of that I am sure. If you do go to the 2012 event be ready to have fun without expecting too much from outside your own group.
- learn and improve: let’s face it the Burning Man Organization shit the bed and failed us despite being told this outcome was not just possible, but likely. They had the people and tools available to avoid these problems, but chose not to use them. They were grossly incompetent at their important jobs. The responsible people should hang their heads in shame, apologize and resign. Don’t blame the scalpers for the 2012 ticket mess, don’t blame other burners or newbies – blame BMorg. Don’t blame them to get revenge. Blame them and hold them accountable so that 2013 is better. You can’t have a healthy organization if there is not accountability that follows responsibility. 2013 can be better, but only if BMorg choose to make it better. Out of 53,000 burners at the 2012 event less than 100 are responsible for the mess we are in – think about that.
What if you and your friends didn’t get a ticket?
If you are like me and most burner groups you and/or most of your friends didn’t get tickets. First off let me say I’m sorry. I know how much that sucks…*hugs* Here are some ideas on what to do:
- do something else in 2012: the world is a big and wonderful place. Maybe take the $$ and vacation time you would have used at the burn and go on a group holiday with your close burner friends. Being radically self-reliant is a core burner value. If BMorg let you down with the lottery than choose to do something fun that doesn’t rely on them. You can always come back in 2013 with even more enthusiasm and hopefully actually get a ticket!
- buy scalped tickets now: if you really want to go to the 2012 burn the cost of scalped tickets is being temporarily kept low by the fact there are 10,000 more tickets to come at ~$400. Once those are out and no more are available the scalped prices are going to grow fast. If you need to go consider buying a scalped ticket. You aren’t hurting anyone by doing that despite what BMorg may say. They are deflecting anger at the scalpers when it’s their fault the scalpers have the tickets in the first place. The scalpers aren’t going to give their tickets back so if you don’t buy one someone else will. Sad, but true!
- game the 10,000 ticket sale in March: if you think a lot of people played the system in the first lottery wait for the 10,000 ticket sale. If you really want tickets get every human being you know with a credit card to try and buy tickets. Buy as many as you can. Hopefully you will get some and in the unlikely event you get too many you can sell them in 2 seconds.
- complain bitterly: if you did what you were told [entered the lottery only once for only the # of tickets you needed] and got burned by BMorg’s idiotic lottery system as well as those burners who gamed the system by having multiple entries it’s natural for you to be mad. Complain, bitch and moan – get that bad energy out and then move on with the rest of your year.
What am I going to do?
I wanted to go to the 2012 burn. I would have contributed to a theme camp/art installation my friends
are were spearheading [not sure what will happen now]. As I think about what to do I must acknowledge why I want to go to Burning Man: to spend time with my friends in BRC and be part of/experience the big art installations. There are other factors of course, but those two are the ones that really get me stoked. As it stands it’s unlikely that I will get to see a huge portion of my friends on the playa and with so many core burners missing it’s unlikely that the art projects will be of the same caliber. I can’t afford the time and $$ to go to every burn so I need to spend my resources wisely.
So I’m keeping my eyes on the ticket situation as it develops. Who knows maybe BMorg will find out they had a computer glitch and 15,000 ticket confirmation emails didn’t go out? Unlikely, but possible! I’m starting to make other plans for that time of the year. I missed out on a MTB trip to Moab in the fall of 2011 so I would be very happy to end up there instead. Especially since Sharon would have the holiday time to come along. Last time I checked I didn’t have to fight anyone for room on the trails at Moab in the fall…=-)