Crowd-Sourced Ticketing Solutions

By Errata

The voice of the Burner group-mind has been heard, and it has cried out in anguish: “OMG, BORG, what the hell were you thinking?”

Long before the 2012 ticket lottery happened, many Burners complained the system could easily be gamed by scalpers. In the true spirit of Burning Man, several loyal citizens have stepped up with potential solutions. Not just the “I didn’t get my ticket, cancel the lottery!” sort of solutions, but real, innovative concepts that could radically improve ticketing for everyone.

As Burner Fatemeh pointed out on the Burning Blog, “Please, please, please – listen to the community now. Not just because we’re venting spleen, but because many of us are in operational and systems planning in our default lives, and we have DEALT with these kinds of issues before.”

Do It Like Glastonbury!

Over and over again, Burners on both ePlaya and the Burning Blog have suggested that Burning Man take a page from one of the world’s longest running large scale music festivals, Glastonbury. “Non transferable tickets!! Glastonbury does it so can Burning Man!!!” a Burner with the nom de plume “No Scalpers” commented.

Glastonbury does not just require names on tickets. Glastonbury’s ticketing, much like Burning Man’s, is done on a lottery system. Potential festival attendees have a long time to register; registration for tickets to the 2013 festival began in June 2011. When prospective attendees register to get a ticket, they must submit not only their credit card numbers and names, but also passport-type photos that are printed on the tickets.

In addition, Glastonbury has a “fallow year” every six or seven, during which the event is not held. Burner Alex (Chimpsky) suggests that, considering the ticketing debacle, perhaps all tickets should be refunded and 2012 should be a “fallow year” for Burning Man.

The argument against names on tickets is that Gate takes long enough already without checking IDs against tickets, especially with the constant problem of volunteer flakiness. Several Burners have suggested a solution: make Gate work a paid position.

How Transferable is Non-Transferable?

Some argue that tickets should be entirely non-transferable (no refunds, no exchanges), while others suggest that people who decide not to go can return their tickets to the BORG, get their money back minus a fee and have the ticket go to the next person on the waiting list. Some Burners are arguing that the later a Burner resells a ticket, the less money should be refunded.

The idea of a fee is controversial. Burner Tony Ziemer says, “We send Burning Man Org our unused tickets as good little burners should and they skim off just a little to resell them. Are you kidding! If I don’t use the 1 Ticket I have I think I’ll sell it for face value plus shipping, that’s fair.” Most agree, however, that any resale of tickets should be done only through Burning Man.

Toss the Tiers

As many Burners have pointed out, the reason tiered ticketing was set up was in order to provide incentive for attendees to purchase the tickets as early as possible and thus give the Bmorg cash to work with. Now that the event seems to be a guaranteed sell-out, tiers are no longer required. Burner Nicholas Hoffman says, “Instead, you should triple or quadruple the number of low-income tickets, and then make everyone else pay $390. Really, why should people who are willing to pay $390 even have the chance to pay less when that shafts those who cannot afford it?”

An even more radical suggestion, as proposed by Sole70 on ePlaya: “I say we FLIP THE TIERS. Sell the highest price tickets first. Those who want to wait and ‘gamble’ for a lower ticket can do so by their own choice.”

Skye2kx developed this idea even further in another post on ePlaya. “Start sales at the high end, whatever that needs to be – $320? Bet you wouldn’t see much of a rush then. But it would allow those lucky few who can pay more to do so without the hassle or wait. THEN, a month later or whatever, include the next lower tier. Keep doing that until you hit whatever number is maximum attendance (say 50K) minus however many tickets you want to offer at the lowest two tiers (say 9K at $240 and 9K at $210).”

Lottery the Theme Camps

Many Burners have argued that theme camps are the heart of Burning Man and should be first priority when it comes to ticketing. Burner Goddess Mother, however, has a different idea. “Lottery the Theme Camps, there have been far too many in the last couple of years… Guarantee a certain number of tickets for the camps/projects that win the lottery…Don’t give them more than they need and make them only valid if used by Tuesday as someone else suggested. I’m so freaking tired of people telling me they are going for the first time and are getting in free because they know someone with a big theme camp and they’re going in on Friday or just for an afternoon to sightsee…. Do the Theme Camp/Art project lottery in December or January so they/we have time to plan. The rest of the tickets can be first come first served and non transferable. Only resold through burning man with a small fee. Yes with a fee, I don’t care if Larry and Marion and anyone else who put this together is rich. You put something this amazing together and you can be rich too.”

Several posters, however, argued against the theme camps. Mojo says, “Please don’t make theme camp members more important than any other participant. Yes, they are important to Burning Man but no more so than anyone else. Take into consideration the many, many volunteers that do not camp with a theme camp.” Fuzzy Fuzzy described the major music camps as “clique-ish and said “I think this is also a wake up call for them that just because you are a DJ or music Camp doesn’t mean that you got the right to attend burning man.”

Some Burners Are More Equal Than Others

More than one poster (unsurprisingly, none claim to be virgins) have suggested that tickets should be allocated based on the number of years one has been to Burning Man. “People who have been to brc leading up to this year get priority,” says Candianderthal. How to find out if they’ve attended? “this can be done by looking at the registrations for the lottery and checking email addresses/credit cards, and names to see where they line up against the last 5 years of attendees for example,” Candieanderthan says. If the secondary ticket market has been as strong as the Bmorg says (this Burner can attest that the only time she’s ever ordered her tickets from the Bmorg was the one year she didn’t attend), this idea may be difficult to implement.

Your Application in Triplicate

Several posters have suggested that Burners should have to fill out an application for tickets, like applying for a job or college. Burner Green Fyre suggests a parallel with college: “You make an application, you get admitted for 4 years at one price tier (you DO have to pay tuition at the start of each year), and you’re able to plan with your mates to do whateveritis you do for four years out. You’re first in line at the gate to get tickets for those four years. You then reapply for “grad school” at a different rate of “tuition”, ideally the lowest rate because you’ve demonstrated your undying devotion to the Burniversity.”

Ideas are still pouring in, check the latest posts on the Burning Blog and on ePlaya’s ticketing section to see them. Meantime, here are some other postings of interest around the Web:

A slapdown of the Bmorg’s spin control

A well-reasoned explanation of the fiasco

Where the Bmorg went wrong

A game-theory assessment

Maid Marian’s POV on NPR

Maid Marian @ a panel discussion

Some responses from a Bmorg rep

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *