What’s Up With Low-Income Tickets This Year? 

A reader just sent me this. I have no answers, but it’s very well written, and I think they raise some puzzling questions. Hence, a guest post from Anonymous Impecunious.  Any ideas, Burners? Just more of the same? Or is there some method behind this madness?

Could this have anything to do with the Anonymous new owners of our tax-exempt Permanent Autonomous Zone?


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I’m writing to you because you seem like the only person on the Internet who’s willing to acknowledge both the positive and the negative about Burning Man—or, rather, mostly about its management.
Do you have any idea what’s up with the low-income ticket program in the last few days? This seems like it could use some of your trademark investigative reporting. The BMorg recently announced that they MUST receive 8,000 applications in order to award the 4,000 tickets earmarked for LI. Why?? Why on earth would they need to reject fully 50% of applicants? And assuming there is some legit reason, why would they not have known (or chosen not to announce) this before late June?
There even seems to be some question as to whether they will award ANY low-income tickets if they don’t receive at least 8,000 applications. That could cause quite a problem for the 2,000+ people who have already been awarded a low-income ticket—or so they were told. I haven’t seen anything from BMorg assuring these people that the LI tickets already awarded will be honored, only that the Org MUST receive 8,000 applications if they are to award the 4,000 tickets. It doesn’t make any sense at all. 
As might be expected, after the announcement, hopefuls who hadn’t considered applying before are now throwing their hats (and their W-2s) into the application pool, yet many seem to be getting rejected, and getting rejected extremely quickly. Granted, I’m basing that mostly on posts to Reddit and Eplaya and replies to the BMorg’s original thread. So not only is that probably skewed towards the disgruntled, but, in the interests of full disclosure, I’m one of the rejects myself. 
I’d previously thought of the low-income program as for people who absolutely CANNOT afford a main sale ticket, in the same way that I absolutely CANNOT afford a DaVinci ticket. But once the Org started begging for applicants and noting that you could apply even while enrolled in STEP (which I am), I figured why not? I’m far from wealthy. Besides, I’ve quickly learned that, when it comes to obtaining Burning Man tickets, playing by the rules is for chumps. (To wit, dozens of people buy pre-sale or DaVinci tickets, then as soon as they obtain main sale tickets, they palm off their more expensive insurance policies. But God help you if you dare to pay $700 for a ticket on Ebay? Talk about situational ethics.)
Anyway, my LI application was rejected within a matter of days. The BMorg made their plea for more applicants on June 21; it’s only June 25 and I’ve already heard back, as have apparently many others. Meanwhile, some of those who applied back in March, April, and May are still waiting for a reply. So maybe I’m just bitter, but something about this whole situation stinks to high heaven! I just can’t put my finger on exactly what. 

Prior to the June 21 announcement, the Org had already received 6,000 applications. If fewer than 4,000 of those were eligible, then why not award fewer LI tickets and dump the rest into STEP, or into the OMG sale, or sell them for $1,200 to their special friends? Why the sudden and urgent NEED for double the number of LI applicants than there are LI tickets? 

For months, I’ve been reading your opinions of the BMorg with a skeptical eye, but this is the first time I’ve had cause to think that they’re as craven and corrupt as you’ve quite often demonstrated. Again, maybe I’m just bitter, but I’m actually bothered more by what seems like Org manipulation than about being turned down for a ticket program I had never planned to apply for in the first place.

I’ve never been to Burning Man before and this is making me wonder if I want to be any part of it. My only hope is that whatever the hell is going on with management does not trickle down to participants on the playa.

14 comments on “What’s Up With Low-Income Tickets This Year? 

  1. My son received his low-income ticket confirmation a few weeks back. Not sure about the 8,000 applicant thing, where was that announced? I don’t see a link here.

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  2. “I’ve never been to Burning Man before and this is making me wonder if I want to be any part of it. My only hope is that whatever the hell is going on with management does not trickle down to participants on the playa.”

    Some burners in denial, like JV, believe that the Borg want to increase the population cap because “Some people can’t abide other disliking them.” If this were true, why are the Borg not more transparent in their low-income ticket calculus?

    A better explanation is they are paranoid about people finding out their process, get tickets, making the Borg look like chumps. Due to their NPD management, the Borg entirely miss that just playing the corporate mystery game with “the public,” they create an “Us vs Them” mentality. While AT&T and Verizon might reasonably do this for shareholder profit to exploit the public, in this case “the public” are the burners that make the event what it is.

    Like me, many of those that made the NV burn “Burning Man” are moving on. My theme camp this year is at a burn where regular tickets cost less than Borg low-income tickets, and are still available. Which burns do you think will have more creativity: those where getting tickets are a byzantine process, or those where you just decide to come and do?

    If the Borg wanted to preserve the original pre-sellout Burning Man culture, they could have either: shopped the venue to find a new location where there would be no cap (and better road access with no local taking-them-for-granted exploitation); or, used legacy ticketing so veterans could come or pass on their ticketing rights to others. But neither of these provide narcissistic supplies to Those That Choose Who Get Tickets, and relish in the manipulation of others.

    So it goes.

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  3. i think this is a non issue – I know of people who have already received low income tickets and from what i know of their situations i think they were awarded correctly, i also know some people who applied for low income tickets just cause they didnt get tickets in the main sail.. and some scammers who tried but already had tickets, these would account for their being a large percentage of applications rejected – – and in relation to the question why don’t they just release them to step, it is my understanding that the expensive $800+ tickets subsidise the low income ones, so the 4000 low income tickets have already been half paid for by generous deep pocketed burners. Low income tickets are an awesome concept – and the fact that they are careful not to give them to those who don’t meet the criteria is also great!

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    • If the higher price tickets were subsidizing the low-income, then there should be many more low income tickets. Perhaps this is even what is happening, since the Da Vinci’s seem to have been sold with little restriction. Given that we’ve heard reports of a single person buying more than 100 tickets through their Burner Profile – let alone camps – it seems likely that more than 1000 were sold.

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      • From what i understood the DaVinci tickets weren’t linked to the low income ones, it was the $800 pre sale tickets that were – but thats from memory so could be wrong.

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        • This year there were 5000 pre-sale, at $990 plus fees and taxes.

          This is a $600 premium over the regular $390 tickets.
          Low-income at $190 is a $200 discount.

          So, leaving the Da Vinci’s aside to fund the Man, fortress, and art grants (approx $1.2 million), and just dealing with the pre-sale…they should have subsidized 3 low income for each ticket sold, i.e. 15,000 tickets.

          Clearly, whatever we were told “should” happen, is different from what really is happening. Which begs the question of are we being lied to, or are BMOrg just good-hearted people who somehow manage to be wrong on an amazingly consistent basis?

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          • Oh, wait, wait… I think I figured it out. It’s OVERHEAD!

            To administer selling 4,000 of the $190 low-income tickets ($760,000), they need $2,240,000 of the $3,000,000 of “low-income” money to run the low-income ticket operation. True, $2,240,000:$760,000 not as efficient as their $20,000,000:$10,000,000 main operation, but nobody’s perfect.

            The question is, will the market bear the overhead cost for any more Borg acts of good will? I think they figure the SV answer is yes!

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          • I hope the low-income ticket people appreciate that their “$190” tickets actually cost ANOTHER $560 a piece to provide. Makes the $390 regular-priced ticket people seem like cheapskates!

            ..Funny, but about 10 years ago they ran the WHOLE operation for less than $1 million in overhead. Well, with twice the people they need twenty times the overhead. Times change. And I don’t go anymore.

            Liked by 1 person

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