Further Community Reaction to Burning Man STEP ticket plans

THE STEP TICKET QUEUE OPENS IN 2 HOURS – Will you be re-applying?

Overall, the reaction across the Interwebz to the STEP announcement seems to be a whimper rather than a roar – and that’s just one whimper away from a deafening silence.

Extending the scan a little wider than direct comments on the Burning Man blog, we find a few  interesting tidbits.

On a discussion about scalping at ePlaya, some are arguing that scalpers didn’t get tickets. That the lottery system worked.

kujo kicks it off:

I had originally assumed scalpers were waiting to post tickets until after the March Sale. Now that this sale is no longer occurring, there should have been a huge influx to ticket sale sites like stubhub. Right now panic is at its highest, and in general tickets sell for the highest price when people are panicking and irrational. This hasn’t happened. Ticket prices have spiked massively higher and the number of tickets available has also dropped dramatically. People are not posting more tickets.On the largest ticket resale site stubhub, there are only 58 tickets available and so far only about 110 sold. Compare that to 2000 currently on sale for Coachella with many more already sold. And coachella tickets are still selling for way over face valueThis tells me that scalpers got very few tickets. For those without tickets this is bad news. It would have been better for them if lots of scalpers got tickets causing competition and causing the supply and demand curve to benefit the buyer.

This hasn’t happened. Prices continue to move higher, supply is going down rapidly without being replaced, and sellers are not undercutting each other. There is almost no available supply (Even on the black market) and huge demand. 

You can guess what happens next.

However for burning man in general I think this is great news. It means the vast majority of ticket sales went to attendees. Wasn’t that the plan all along?

This was agreed to by varagaso, who seems to be a Root Society fan; (he did later change his mind back again)

I think I may have to change my mind and agree with the OP that scalpers got very few tickets from the lottery. I agree that last night’s announcement was the equivalent of a sold out event, and tickets should have started showing up with greater frequency on scalping sites. Not all of them, but certainly more than there were yesterday at this time. Smart scalpers will trickle their supply throughout the time period leading up to an event, with the most fertile periods being right after it sold out (last night, for intents and purposes) and then the week or so before the event. It’s true there are no physical tickets in hand, and really, that’s the final variable. We’ll see in June just how many scalpers got them, but as some of stated, other events like Coachella also delay ticket shipments, and those events have many times more tickets for sale online currently.

stephendragonfly shares my own opinion about how this will play out over the course of the year:

The Stubhubbys didn’t just sell all of the $700.00 tickets last night, did they? Or did they just move the prices up? 

I think that a lot of ticket rights are currently in the hands of speculators. After STEP has played out we will likely see another price jump and maybe more tickets available. When the physical tickets are mailed out, we will see another spike. But as the Burn approaches the price will go down. By the week of the Burn, one ought to be able to pick up tickets for cost or less.


Danibel, I’ve looked in on hundreds of people concerning this, literally hundreds, and found only 1 hoarder that had 3 extras. Everyone else who got more than the one they needed immediately got it to a friend who was short, and we’re STILL seeing ticketed rates of about 30% in our camps. I’m going with increased demand due to the relentless viral promotion of the event via social networks. It’s all conjecture now. We’ll see at the burn. At least, the 30% of us who got tickets will see at the burn…

trilobyte, who seems to be a shill for Burning Man

@Mitch – why exactly is it that scalpers are treating Burning Man so differently from the other hot ticket events where they ply their trade? It can’t be because they don’t have physical tickets yet, because nobody has physical tickets for Coachella, Madonna, or Bonnaroo yet and those events are swimming in listings. It can’t be because they’re waiting until it gets closer to the event, since Madonna and other events that are more than 6 months away have tons of scalped ticket listings. It can’t be because they’re waiting for there to be no more open sale, since there’s no more open sale. And even if there were still tickets available for the general public to purchase, evidence shows scalpers don’t mind. Scalpers have tons of listings for concerts and festivals that haven’t yet sold out (including Bonnaroo, which I think still hasn’t sold out). I’d be more than willing to believe that such a larger percentage of the ticket supply was in the hands of scalpers if there was evidence to support it.

A ton of people signed up for the main sale, that’s why only 1/3 of the people got tickets. Your claim that they’re all in the hands of scalpers sounds like an easy explanation, but so far there hasn’t been any evidence of that (see above). The reason there aren’t many listings may very well be because the vast majority of people holding tickets right now are interested in going to the event.

An argument immediately refuted with simple logic by our boy Mitch, who was kind enough to update us  in the comments over here on some of the calcs:

Unless the numbers we’re getting from Burning Man are totally off base, only 40% of the tickets went to newbies, so there should be many, many more than 30% of the theme camp members with tickets. There’s no way around that. We’re not hearing any of the them camps saying “we only got 30% of what we asked for but we asked for twice what we really needed.” We ARE hearing them say “we’re probably not coming because we got so few tickets.” 

One key difference with the other festivals, and this is the root of the problem, is that at any other event, higher-priced tickets have some benefit. At Burning Man, you get exactly the same thing if you paid $240 or $420, though I hear if you go up to $5,000 you get free parking.

I think the scalpers absolutely do read these boards, and they’re taking the intelligent route of restricting supply and seeing what the demand will be before setting prices for the bulk of their tix. Unlike any other event, they have guaranteed winner tickets, there’s no way they won’t sell the $240s and $320s for at least $390. It’s like playing poker in a stud game where you can see that you’ve already beaten the board. You don’t bet wildly, especially early in the game because you hope that the bidding will rise among the other players.

If you think newbies won 16,000 tickets, and you don’t believe in scalpers, then you must think veterans won 24,000 tickets (and, most likely 3,000 in the presale). If you accept the premise that the theme camp experience mirrors that of all veterans, then you would have to believe that veterans bid for about 80,000 tickets. Since the population of BRC last year was only 54,000, you’re postulating growth of nearly 50 percent among the veteran population alone. That’s very hard for me to believe. Total population growth last year was 5%; in the past 5 the most it’s been is 21 percent. I don’t believe a video brought in tens of thousands of birgins, I don’t believe that theme camps ordered twice the tickets they actually needed, and I don’t believe that scalpers ignored the golden opportunity presented by the $240 and $320 tickets. 

My guesstimate is that natural demand grew 25% to 30% this year, accounting for over-ordering and newbies, so, let’s say about 70,000 tickets. That means 50,000 bids came from scalpers and if they won a third of those, then it’s 16,666 tickets.

Mitch’s numbers here are more credible than anyone else’s in the discussion. And his questions remain unanswered by BMorg, or any of their defenders.

The most unusual response came from the official @Burningman Twitter feed:

@BrandyAniston I’m afraid not, no. Watch for tickets becoming available on the open market, though. They’ll be out there.

WTF does this mean? Tickets will be available on the Open Market – and yet BMOrg forbids you to purchase from scalpers, and the so-called “Open Market Release” has turned into the World’s Biggest Guest List instead? So what “Open Market” are they talking about? Does BMOrg expect a whole ‘nother release of tickets coming up between now and the end of August?

3 comments on “Further Community Reaction to Burning Man STEP ticket plans

  1. Was considering a mecca to Burning man 2012…. then I read all that was going on with the tickets and the cost, and well…., if you are the public and want to go….and I guess experience the art and sustainability , then you find out no tickets and if there are you will be hammered. This takes the fun out of going. I believe scalpers will be waiting for the 11th hour and when it gets closer and closer to the opening day BAM thats when you’ll see tickets come out of the woodwork.

    • it is very likely that ticket prices will drop closer to the event. Especially after June, when people actually have tickets in their hands. As we get closer to the date, people will realize a lot of their friends can’t make it, and change their minds

  2. Re; the response from the twitter feed.

    I would imagine that BMOrg is thinking that there are a lot of burners who have excess tickets but haven’t given/sold their tickets to friends and aren’t planning to profit from them and will be selling tickets at face value.

    Yeah, I don’t believe it either.

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