Image: Thomas Tomaso, Facebook
The shenanigans have ended. As we predicted, once the dust has settled from all the propaganda histrionics, BMOrg have raised ticket prices yet again. The 9% Live Entertainment Tax will be passed on to Burners – unless a miracle happens and Nevada rules that the “Burning Man tax” was never meant to apply to Burning Man.
We haven’t yet received a response from the Nevada Department of Taxation to our inquiry. We had hoped to resolve this matter before selling tickets so that participants would not have to pay the tax, but the state is taking longer than we expected to issue an opinion. Unfortunately, this means we will have to collect the tax at the time of purchase, as per the law. At 9% a pop, this amounts to an additional $34 for each $390 ticket (if the tax is found not to apply after ticket sales commence, we will issue a refund for the 9% collected)
BMOrg have created a new “class” of tickets for 1000 Super-Elite VIP patrons. These VIP tickets are a staggering $1200 each – which is actually $1299 including vehicle pass and handling fees. The 42% of Burners who live in California may have to pay double tax on their tickets – 7.5% sales tax plus the 9% Live Entertainment Tax. This will add almost $200 to the ticket price, for a total of $1497 per ticket.
Vehicle passes have increased in price too: now $80. BMOrg claim the vehicle pass program as a huge success, because it used to be 12.8% of participants arriving in a car by themselves, and now it’s down to 10%. Interesting that they are using this statistic, instead of vehicle numbers. Is the goal to get vehicles off the road, or to stop people arriving by themselves?
They have also hiked the price of 5,000 pre-sale tickets to $1000 each – well, $990, but you get the picture.
Regular tickets remain at $390 (plus taxes, $12 mailing charge and $7 handling fee). Half of the regular tickets (25,000, and 13,000 vehicle passes) go to those selected by BMOrg to be in the World’s Biggest Guest List – the Directed Group Sale
There will be 6000 tickets at $190, for the Low Income program and staff.
[Update 3/13/16 6:46pm]
Now that the sale has happened, we know a $7 “handling fee” is applied to each individual ticket and vehicle pass. Really, each ticket costs $7 more than the listed price. Rather misleading and deceptive conduct, if you ask me. Here is an update revenue calculation, including the Nevada Live Entertainment Tax also.
Burning Man’s event revenue in 2014 was $30,679,219.
This statement from the Tickets page is a little confusing:
A 9% Nevada Live Entertainment Tax will be added to the price of all tickets and $3 of the $7 per ticket service fee. Will Call delivery is the only method subject to this tax, but the $12 fee will be inclusive so additional tax will not be charged to you for this option.
So if you get the ticket mailed to you, you don’t pay the tax? Or you have to pay an extra $3 if you go to Will Call, which is in Nevada? Are BMOrg saying they are going to cover the $3 extra tax component of a Will Call sale?
Registration for the Pre-Sale opens February 10, and the first sale takes place at noon on Wednesday, February 17.
[Update 2/4/16 7:55am]
I’ve been trying to confirm if the California sales tax applies, and if so is it just the $1200 or the whole transaction (including the Vehicle Pass, $19 processing charges, and Live Entertainment Tax), without any real success either way. Perhaps someone with expertise in this area can confirm whether or not CA sales tax applies to event tickets sold over the Internet via a CA web site to CA customers by CA corp Ticketfly on behalf of NV corporation Black Rock City LLC that licenses the Burning Man name from CA private corporation Decommodification LLC and distributes 100% of its profits to tax-exempt CA parent company The Burning Man Project.
I note that back in 2012, when this ticket lottery system began, the VIP price tier was $390 (and there were no vehicle passes). In 4 short years this has gone to $1200, and the cheapest ticket has gone from $229 (2011, ticket plus handling) to $489 (2016, ticket plus handling plus vehicle pass) – an increase of 113%.
Does this mean that by 2020, VIP tickets will be $10,000 and regular tickets will be $1,000?
In the same time frame the population of the city has grown 25%. BMOrg have added another $7-8 million per year in revenues, as well as being able to save millions on taxes; the city is still the same, portapotties, roads, signs, The Man, Gate, Exodus, Center Camp, First Camp, Media Mecca. Maybe there’s a couple hundred more portapotties, but otherwise it’s hard to see where this extra money has all gone to make the Burning Man event better for the Burners who have to create it.
[Update 2/4/16 12:06pm]
Here’s some data from tracking the secondary market prices on Stubhub in 2015.
[Update 2/4/16 3:18pm][
Thanks to A Balanced Perspective for picking up on this point.
The revenue from these ticket sales will let us keep prices the same for everyone else. The 1,000 tickets sold at $1,200 each will raise $1.2 million. So what does Burning Man do with $1.2 million? Last year we issued $1.2 million in grants directly to artists through Black Rock City Honoraria. Add to that an additional $1.8 million in support services, and the 2015 BRC art budget topped $3 million. Again, you can learn all about Burning Man’s budget and expenses in our Form 990 and Annual Report.
They have managed to link “$1.2 million in grants directly to artists” to “$1.2 million of Medici patronage tickets being sold”.
It is hard to say if this statement is true or not, since we only just got the 2014 numbers. In 2014 total art grants were $911.955. Did they increase from this to $3 million? We probably won’t know for another year, but I call bullshit.