They’ve finally announced 2014’s theme: “Caravansary”
For countless centuries, travelers along the Silk Route crossed paths in caravansaries, a network of oases and sanctuaries that dotted the 4,000-mile road from Europe to East Asia. These bustling caravan stops offered more than just shelter from the desert wilderness; they were vital centers of cultural exchange, bringing together traders, pilgrims, monks, nomads, traveling entertainers, and wild-eyed adventurers from all points of the compass to share their stories around a common fire. Though fueled by mercantilism, their legacy to us is a grand commerce of ideas — a swirling exchange of languages, legends, technologies, philosophies and art that helped shape nearly every aspect of our modern world.
This year we will create a caravansary that occupies the crossroads of a dreamland: a bazaar of the bizarre wherein treasures of every sort, from every land and age, flow in and out to be flaunted, lost, exploited and discovered. This is not a tourist destination, but a home for travelers who come here bearing gifts….Anyone may pose as ‘merchant’ here, and anyone may play a ‘customer’, but nothing in this strange emporium shall have a purchase price — no quid, no pro, no quo — no trade at all will be allowed in this ambiguous arcade
…et cetera, et cetera. You can read more about it on the official site.
So the theme is “commerce and trade”, with an Arabian Nights twist. At the same time, they are revamping their marketplace – related? We’re assuming that trade will continue as always with coffee and beverage sales in Center Camp, ice and so on.
Personally, I liked Cargo Cult a lot better. What is this throw-back to the ancient Silk Road going to mean? A lot of people dressed up as sheikhs? Camel art cars? Hookahs?
Here’s what the Man is going to look like, seems like it’ll be bigger and burnier than ever
(Design by Larry Harvey and Don Clarke, illustration by Andrew Johnstone and Jim Pire)
Now, on to tickets. The $400,000-odd ticketing contract has been taken away from Inticketing, and given to Ticketfly. They are charged with implementing what looks like essentially the same ticket price tiers as last year – 3,000 early bird tickets for $650, 15,000 invitation-only VIP tickets at $380, 38,000 regular tickets at $380, 1,000 last minute tickets at $380, 4000 low-income tickets at $190. This adds up to 61,000 – same as last year, where the population was capped at 68,000. Are there an additional 7,000 free tickets handed out? I doubt it. These are probably gate or insider sales. Yes, yes, I know “there’s no gate sales”, but I also know that the official line from BMOrg is not always the same thing as the truth – and I know more than a few people who purchased tickets at the gate in 2013.
Unless you’re on the World’s Biggest Guest List, you’ll still need to create a Burner profile, log on to register, then log on at a later date to purchase. The point of this system is not clear, I remember it being a real pain in the ass trying to get in at exactly noon PST from Envision in Costa Rica. It is certainly not an easy system for the global travelling caravansary of Burners that they’re trying to promote.
The most significant change is that if you’re bringing a vehicle, you’ll need a vehicle pass, which costs $40 plus “applicable fees” – since they don’t just say “taxes”, presumably there are going to be other expenses added on top of these ticket and pass prices. Vehicle passes have been capped at 35,000; each person can buy up to two, but if you buy one of the 3,000 early bird tickets, you can buy 4.
Leaving the unknown additional costs to one side, BMOrg just made themselves another $1.4 million. Thankfully they managed to keep the ticket prices the same.
It is not clear whether you can only purchase 1 vehicle pass per ticket, they’ve said nothing so far to indicate that, but some online have speculated it.
Tickets go on sale on Wednesday, January 22 for the first tranche of tickets at $650 each. If you’re so keen to go, or so afraid to miss out, that you want to pay almost double for your tickets, you will need to register between January 16 (noon) and January 20 (noon). Once registered, you will be able to log on after January 22 to purchase.
After that there will be a “Directed Group sale” of 15,000 tickets at $380. If you’re on the World’s Biggest Guest List, you will be invited to log on from February 16. Yes, it’s invitation-only for these tickets, and they don’t have to muck around with the “register then log in on a different day to purchase” shenanigans that the rest of us must endure.
Regular punters, who just want to get a ticket to Burning Man, can register to get tickets between February 20-23, and then log on after noon PST on February 26.
Low income ticket purchasers will just have to wait their turn, there’s no information about when they’ll be allowed to purchase tickets. The STEP system will be implemented, so that if you buy tickets and don’t need them, you can lose money on them by recycling them through BMOrg (encouraged) rather than making money by selling them on the secondary market (you’re bad if you do this).
Here’s the official justification of the Vehicle Pass from the Jacked Rabbit:
Traffic is the greatest impediment to the growth and sustainability of Black Rock City. Burning Man is under pressure from the Bureau of Land Management and Nevada Department of Transportation to reduce the number of cars entering the event. Highways 447 and 34 are at max capacity during the event and we’re being asked to pay for road damage caused by participant vehicles. Road travel represents 60% of the carbon emissions related to the event.
And the #1 challenge experienced by participants last year? Entry and Exodus.
Clearly, it’s critical we address the traffic issue — and we can only solve this problem by working together as a community.
We conducted a poll on the biggest issues to Burners last year. The Top 10 issues were:
Cops – too many and too much (24%)
Rape Kits on the Playa (14%)
People in plug-n-play camps (11%)
Too many people (7%)
Bicycle theft (7%)
Too much dubstep (6%)
BMOrg not helping artists raise money (5%)
Not enough gifting (5%)
Too many rules (4%)
Too many virgins (4%)
Exodus/entry problems/waiting times came in as part of “other”, with a total of 27 votes – not enough to make the top 10.
The idea of limiting carbon emissions is a noble one. I believe the motivation is more likely to be a deal cut with the authorities, along the lines of “if you cap the number of vehicles on our roads, that reduces the concerns in our community about traffic, litter, and accidents; so we’ll let you have more people total”. Meaning they can sell more tickets. If you’ve ever played Monopoly, you’ve probably been assessed for street repairs before. The more houses and hotels you have, the bigger the bill. Capping the number of vehicle passes seems like a way to cap the street repairs bill for BMOrg.
Note that the wording says “all vehicles driving into Black Rock City will now be required to have a Vehicle Pass”. This means it’s not just for Burner cars. Trailers bringing art cars, art installations, camp equipment and supplies will all have to have passes. In previous years there have been 15,000+ early access passes. Before Burning Man starts, there are literally thousands of trucks coming in and out with deliveries. The passes that go to these service vehicles, are passes that won’t go to Burners. It seems that they’ve taken their Gate count of an average of 1.9 people per car, and calculated from last year’s population of 68,000 that 35,000 should pretty much cover it. 68,000/1.9 = 35,789, so only 789 extra people have to carpool, right? Well what about the delivery vehicles? And what about people who buy 2 car passes but only need 1?
Here’s our prediction: this new system is going to lead to 2012 lottery-style chaos. The 3000 people rich and stupid enough to pay $650 for $380 tickets, are able to buy 4 vehicle passes each. Which, it seems likely, they will all do, thinking to help out friends who are going to need them. I mean, if you’ve got an extra $270 each to pay for the same tickets, you probably have a spare $160 on top of that too. So that’s 12,000 vehicle passes gone, or more than a third of the total allotment.
Then, the VIP, invitation-only ticket sale will start . Since almost all of these people are part of a theme camp, they will all buy the maximum number of vehicle passes (2 each), knowing that everyone in their camp is going to need them, particularly build crews and delivery vehicles. If you’re on this VIP guest list, there’s a good chance that you’re a regular Burner and will have an RV. There’ll only be 23,000 passes left at this point, so 3,500 of the 15,000 won’t be able to get vehicle passes. Theme camps won’t know if they’ll be able to get their delivery vehicles in, trucks pulling art cars and large art works, and so on.
By the time regular customers come to buy tickets, on February 26, there will be much concern in the community about getting vehicle passes. If my previous assumptions were wrong, and the vehicle passes didn’t already sell out, they will now be gone in minutes. Seconds, even. Most of the 38,000 people trying to secure tickets at this point, won’t be able to get vehicle passes. If the system says “you can get a ticket, but not a vehicle pass”, they might pause to consider the logistical implications of this. The chaos and confusion will lead to a lot of half-completed database transactions, which in turn will melt down the system.
Planning your trip to Burning Man is going to be much harder, if you can’t take a vehicle. It’s one thing to say “everyone should just ride share”, it’s another to say “you can buy a ticket, but you can’t get your RV in”.
And what about the heavy-handed police presence? What happens if you offer someone to share a ride in your vehicle, and they have drugs? Are you supposed to search all their bags before you let them in? The cops are usually focused on the driver in these situations. If it’s someone else’s bag, then probably that person AND the driver are going to get in trouble. The driver is an accessory to the trafficking.
It’s not easy to get to Burning Man without a motorized vehicle. Even if you can get to Reno, there’s still hours of driving on empty desert roads ahead of you. If you’re coming from San Francisco, Burning Man is 342 miles away (550 kilometers). You want to ride share, everyone’s going to need to be ready on time, and want to go at the same time as you. One thing I’ve learned from millions of miles of road trips in dozens of countries and states, is that the more people you add to a vehicle, the more time your journey takes. Bathroom breaks, photo stops, and general dicking around. That’s why I prefer to travel with a smaller group.
A quarter of the Burners are from a different country, for these punters planning ride share is much harder than for people who live in the Bay Area or Reno. Sure, they can get one of the many buses, but it’s not easy to travel around the world with tent, coolers, camping gear, etc. They need to rent a car at the very least and buy that stuff on the way; or, more likely, they want to rent an RV and sleep in that.
There are also a lot of Burners coming from other States, many of whom are used to driving with their bikes, costumes, and the rest of their gear. They probably plan on meeting up with their friends once they get to the Burn, not rendezvouing beforehand. A giant parking lot of cars is going to accumulate somewhere, probably Reno, as these people meet up with their friends to rideshare in – this will be rich picking grounds for criminals.
Last year, Lightning in a Bottle moved to a new location in Temecula, near San Diego. They brought in a system of selling RV passes. The RV passes sold out in about 3 minutes. Because of this, I wasn’t going to go, until pressure from friends at the last minute convinced me to look on Craigslist. I was able to buy an RV pass on the secondary market, for more than double the original price.
I predict the same thing will happen here: these vehicle passes will go for a lot of money on Craigslist, Stubhub, eBay, and everywhere else black market sales occur. BMOrg insiders will all secure all the vehicle passes they can get their grubby little hands on, in order to make money for themselves re-selling them at a premium. Everyone who knows a BMOrg insider, will be hitting them up for tickets and vehicle passes, so they’re assured of a nice cashflow stream.
The rest of the community, finding that vehicle passes have “sold out”, will realize planning a trip to Burning Man has become an order of magnitude harder. And will probably lose interesting in going, or decide to skip a year. By the time the event comes round, what has been billed all year as a “sold out event” will turn out to be down in population from the year before.
That’s my prediction, I’d be happy if I’m proven wrong and everything goes smoothly. What do you think about the new vehicle pass system, Burners?