Burning Man followers feeling burned by new ticket system

When Burning Man sold out for the first time ever this year, organizers said they knew it was time for a new ticketing system. However, Burners have had mixed reactions to the changes.

Black Rock LLC, the San Francisco-based organizer of the weeklong festival held in the Nevada desert, announced earlier this month that it was changing to a lottery system for ticket sales, including a number of pricing tiers.“We knew the day was coming eventually and saw early in the year [a sellout was] likely to happen,” said Andie Grace, spokeswoman for Burning Man. “We’re faced with the same number of tickets this year. We thought we’d solve it by not having the single-day rush, but have tickets available for purchase over a broader time period.”

Black Rock is limited to 55,000 tickets for the event because of permit negotiations with the federal Bureau of Land Management. To eliminate the possibility of a server crash, Burners must preregister for a price range they are willing to pay to obtain tickets. Once tickets go on sale, a computer will randomly award them to Burners.

Burners who don’t preregister can also try their luck at the remaining tickets, which go on sale to the public in March.

But not all Burners are warming to the new system, which some say is confusing and biased.

“Random selection? How can any of [us] ensure ‘random,’” user ericthomasdavis wrote on a message board on the Burning Man website. “I bet a million dollars that if I say I would be willing to go up to the $390 on the main sale I will end up with the $390 tickets.”

Chicken John Rinaldi, a local firebrand activist, said it’s a shame the visionary architects of Burning Man will have to comply with the lottery, which was devised by a few individuals and not a consensus of longtime Burners.

“We are the people who create culture,” Rinaldi said. “The fact that one or two people make this decision that we all have to endure, it’s criminal.”

Rinaldi suggested that Burning Man instead create a membership system that would guarantee tickets and be governed by a constitution that defines the rights of members.

The changes have not been entirely blasted by the festival community.

Ian Berzon, a Berkeley resident who’s been to Burning Man three times in the past decade, said he supports the change to the ticket-sales system because of the way the festival has grown in the past few years.

“My first festival was in 2006 when there were only 33,000 people,” he said. “The last one I went to was in 2010 with nearly 50,000. You can definitely feel the change.”

Berzon said he’s not ready to commit to the 2012 festival and plans to try his luck with the open ticket sales as the festival draws closer.

Registration for the presale begins Monday Nov. 28 and lasts through Dec. 11. Presale selection is Dec. 19. Burning Man runs from Aug. 27 to Sept. 3.


Examiner staff writer Dan Schreiber contributed to this story.

Entry to 2012 event

$420 Presale price, starting Dec. 19

3,000 Presale tickets available; two-per-person limit

$390, $320, $240
Main sale prices, starting in January

40,000 Main sale tickets available; two-per-person limit

10,000 Open sales plus all remaining tickets, on sale in March

55,000 Total tickets

Note: There is a special application for low-income Burners.

Source: Burning Man, Black Rock LLC


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