Listening Without Hearing or Counting

In light of yesterday’s post about the new ticket price tears tiers , we thought it would be interesting to compare BMOrg’s new policies with the result of our own poll.

We asked Burners “how should Burning Man Sell Tickets?

The results (as I write this) were:

  1. Link Tickets to IDs – 49%
  2. Sell paper tickets: Web and Gate (2011 system) – 16%
  3. Sell paper tickets: Web, Gate, Retail Outlets (2009 and prior system) – 16%
  4. Memberships: pay annual subscription, guarantees a ticket – 11%
  5. Try something new – 4%
  6. Other –  4%
  7. Keep the lottery system of 2012 – 1%

burning man pbrSo did they really listen? Well, for sure we can rule out 1-4 entirely – that’s 92%. “Try something new” is highly arguable, since although there are changes to the pricing tiers, they seem to have kept a lot of the cumbersome crap from the 2012 system. The new system seems very similar to the 2012 system, with pre-registrations required and BMOrg trying to get handling fees from the secondary market via STEP. There are no longer gate sales, or outlet sales.

What about the “Other” ideas?

People leaving BRC the previous year can buy one ticket. Then 2009 system. 

I liked 2011. Please keep it simple. 

trade for sex 

Allow more peoplemannequin-sex-48-3

Tickets refundable only to the Org with a service fee, with a Step program allow 

I like the single price idea 

Priority by seniority 

have a pre-mail-order like grateful dead and phish do 

Target more tickets to groups who contribute to meeting the 10 principals.

One of them was close – tickets are refundable to the Org with a service fee via STEP. But, some of the tickets are scalper-friendly too. Which leaves us with “keep the 2012 system”, at just under 1% of all votes.

It’s hard for us to tell exactly how many of the community BMOrg consulted in coming up with this system. We know there were game theorists and artists involved. From our poll results, it doesn’t seem like they listened to the community at all. The pre-registration system is a nightmare for overseas Burners, who face significant logistical challenges from the start in planning to attend Burning Man. The reason we are given for this system is to prevent scalpers (by Burning Man curating the pre-registered database and arbitrarily weeding out anyone they deem undesirable), but the Burning Man owners insist that scalping is completely insignificant, less than 1% of tickets. Their Christmas Special tickets, where you pay a premium to get something you can scalp to anyone without STEP, represent 5% of the overall tickets. So, much as we’d love to say “Burning Man has figured out their ticketing issues”, we are still left with a bizarre system based on flawed logic and fuzzy mathematics. If you pin a tail on the donkey, it’s still a donkey.

17 comments on “Listening Without Hearing or Counting

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  5. Our Crew of 5 Desparately want to be there, we even have 2 virgins, and they are willing to work ALL WWEEK at ICE 3 but sadly NONE OF US can afford the ticket price. I truly do not understand WHY the price has gone up so high, REALLY, we are in debt to the compsnies that help put the burn on or are we somehow being taken advantage of, it has come to a place where it seems that the middle class tier and the lower class tier have been pushed out in favor of the Elitist ARTSY community, I hope this isn’t the case but really, the price of tickets has become impossible for us and many like us….

  6. Some of the tickets are scalper friendly? They are ALL scalper friendly (except low income, and scalping Last Chance at will call would be pretty difficult). I’m not too worried about scalpers, but this is typical of the level of attention to detail and facts I’ve come to expect from

    Pre-registration is onerous for foreign burners? How do you figure? If you live in Djibouti and need to walk 4 hours to the nearest internet cafe, then yeah. If you live in a country where home internet is common, getting online twice (once to preregister, once to buy) is no big deal.

    You’re main argument is mostly right. BMorg didn’t listen to the tons of burners who wanted ID linked tickets. But that option isn’t actually mutually exclusive with any of the others in your poll (although the poll design had it mutually exclusive); you could even have a 2012 style lottery for ID linked tickets.

    BMorg basically went with the second most popular poll option; 2011 style sales. Well, there probably won’t be gate sales in 2013, (which didn’t happen in 2011 either), and there is now the horrific hardship of preregistering. On the other hand, tiers are gone, but nobody wanted that.

    The only obvious to complain about with this year ticket sales is the inevitable server crash, and the elitism of directed distribution. Oh, and the prices (never mind that it’s $10 less than the price 25k people paid in 2012). And the insufficient elitism in not giving ticket preference to veterans over the frat bros (who are expected to account for 97.3% of 2013 participants).

    I assume your post about the evils of directed distribution is coming. I’d like to suggest that you make sure to point out that d.d. enables scalpers (i.e., that dude from Pee Funnel camp

    • Now I’ve got esprit de l’escalier after my previous bitchy drunk-ass post; but regarding the Other votes for “priority by seniority” (super shitty elitism) and “people leaving BRC the previous year can buy one ticket” (slightly shitty elitisim but not unreasonable). If a veteran burner really is an awesome participant who isn’t associated with a theme camp, surely they have must have at least made some connections at some point with somebody who could hook them up with a Directed Distribution ticket. The Pee Funnel dude’s scalping pretty much blatantly indicates there are more D.D. tickets potentially available than actually needed. If you deserve to be at Burning Man, exploit the fuck out of your connections for D.D. tickets. If you’re a veteran who doesn’t have the elitist connections to exploit D.D, maybe you don’t really deserve to attend.

      Disclaimer:I got a D.D. ticket through a theme camp in 2012; my camp specializeds in bike repairs. I know fuck-all about bike repairs, but I’m confident I contributed more than my share in setup, teardown and ongoing camp function. Veterans who contribute should have no problem exploiting D.D. tickets.

    • our position has always been that there’s nothing wrong with scalping – if it’s good enough for the Superbowl, it’s good enough for Burning Man. Having said that, it’s clear that the community feels differently – the poll shows about half want tickets linked to IDs. In terms of listening, I concede your point that they did listen to our opinion “just have one ticket price tier”, which was not an option in our poll.
      Pre-registration is difficult for people overseas, because the whole world does not run on Pacific Coast Time with Silicon Valley network connectivity. I saw this first hand last year, sharing Wi-Fi in a villa with about 30 performers from the excellent Envision Festival in Costa Rica. Only people who got into the pre-registration in the first 12 minutes got the STEP ticket allocation. By the end, BMOrg got so far as maybe 19 minutes into the list – before it didn’t matter any more because you couldn’t give away tickets. Several of us tried to get in, after 15 minutes with not one successful connection to the registration server, we gave up. Note that you have to waste your time filling all the information in, before you play the “new lottery” and see whether the web site lets you in.

      • But it’s not pre-registration that’s first-come first-served, it the actual ticket sales. Pre-registration is open for 4 days with no preference for registering earlier (insofar as I can tell; I’ve certainly been wrong about vaguely worded statements from BMorg before).

        First-come first-served sales are definitely problematic for people in vastly different time zones (and for people who can’t get on the internet at work or who live in a rural area with shitty internet). The whole point and justification for the lottery was to eliminate the unfairness in first-come first-served sales (said unfairness usually being compounded by server crashes). Do you want it both ways? The lottery was “fair”, but a huge cluster-fuck. I can’t think of any other way to run ticket sales that doesn’t involve some element of unfairness (again, ID-linked tickets are only a tool to combat scalping, not a sales method. ID-linked tickets could be sold f-c-f-s, via lottery, or via Larry handpicking his 50k closest friends).

        Sucks that you had to contend with shitty internet during STEP registration, but an American vacationing somewhere with bad internet is not a foreign burner. Pretty much all of the foreign burners are coming from relatively wealthy countries with decent internet. I’d bet there are more American burners stuck with bad internet (i.e. living in rural areas where dial-up is the only option) than there are foreign burners (not American expats) from countries where bad internet is the norm.

  7. Getting people in quicker is actually very simple. At the first checkpoint – security, have the gatekeeper ask if there are any “virgins” (or first-timers) in the vehicle and send them to one set of lanes where they can take as much time as they like to ring the bell and roll in the dust. The rest of us then can simply cruise on through.


    • Were you even at Burning Man last year? The lines were easy, Exodus was quiet nearly every day. Exodus was terrible in 2011 but I think the newbs actually did read everything as opposed to veterans showing up and leaving the same day they did for decades. It really was streamlined with MORE virgins. How do you account for that?

  8. I’m curious about the reasoning behind the hike in prices,.. Have permit costs gone up possibly? Does anyone know?

  9. I guess, when compared to other “similar” events (is anything similar to BM), $380 is reasonable… but from $240 to $380 is >35% increase in one year! Even $320 to $380 is >15% increase.

    My suggestion was:
    • “Early bird” cheaper tier, first come-first served, but instead of a limited number and 15,000 people hitting the “buy now” button at the same moment, have early bird price available in unlimited number for a set time period —as do so many concerts, conferences, other events. Could be as short as 24 hours or even 12 hours, anything to relieve the pressure on the servers…
    • Then a single price for the rest of the tickets, as is this year’s plan…

    Yes, they’d lose $$$ by selling unlimited number at the lower price, but they’re smart, they can figure out the budget… Maybe (basing this on this year’s $380 price) the “early bird” could have been $340 and the rest at $400…

    I also like the idea of buying one (or two) on exodus from BM.

  10. $380 is reasonable. one price, limited number per person.
    i’m surprised it took so many years to get this process in place.
    hats off to bmorg for de-bullshitting the ticket buying ordeal.

    the bigger problem is at the gate….getting people in quicker & efficiently.
    i know this is easier said than done.
    we’ve all heard it before….
    entry: like filling a bathtub with a straw. exodus: like emptying a bathtub with a straw.
    …patience and a smile, in & out.

    • Totally makes sense. It’s going to sell out every year now, so they can’t do the tiers anymore. They don’t make sense if almost everyone is buying them at the same time, as opposed to rewarding people who bought early, in the past.

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