The eight day Burning Man festival has been making headlines throughout the year for the various issues that have plagued the popular meeting of individuals. However, the latest news from the festival is perhaps the most troubling- as the yearly gathering begins on August 26, 2012, scores of tickets are still available for sale through secondary ticketing sites, selling for below face value.
Burning Man is perhaps the most unique of the many festivals that occur in the United States each year. Rather than center itself on a series of performances by musical artists, Burning Man creates a town-like atmosphere in the middle of the Nevada desert, installing art and encouraging the building of a unique but temporary community. There is no set schedule of events attendees must go to, but rather, each attendee is encouraged to simply experience the event for themselves.
The 2011 Burning Man made history when, for the first time in the event’s history, the event ran out of tickets. As a result, secondary ticketing sites were hit with tickets being resold at prices far above face value. In an attempt to prevent the same thing from happening with this year’s festival, organizers implemented a new ticketing system that sold tickets through a lottery.
This controversial selling mechanism created an outcry among “burners,” the event’s loyal fan base. And when the results of the lottery were announced in February of this year, many were left without tickets. However, tickets were quickly available on secondary sites, priced above face value. While burners were encouraged not to purchase tickets that were sold above face value, and additional tickets have been sold by festival organizers, tickets still remain on the secondary market. But unlike in years past, where tickets would have been scooped up at whatever price for a chance to participate, as the festival begins tickets are still available for purchase online — and priced below face value.
There are several theories floating as to why tickets have gone from being nearly impossible to get in years past to being available throughout the web with few takers. The most popular theory is that Burning Man requires a great deal of planning to attend, as attendees must arrive prepared to live in the desert for a week. Those who have put in the time and effort to plan for the event have likely already secured tickets. Unlike other festivals, this is not one that can simply be enjoyed on a whim.
Another popular theory is that the conditions at the Black Rock Desert, where Burning Man will take place, are particularly harsh this year. Due to a mild winter, dust storms and white outs have been occurring with regularity while organizers set up art installations and prepare the area. Extreme heat has also been reported, which may detour some first time participants.
As of Sunday, August 26, 2012, tickets were still available for purchase through sites including craigslist, ebay, and eplaya. With the festival officially beginning Monday, August 27, 2012 and the gates to the area opening Sunday evening, it certainly appears as if tickets will remain available through the opening of Burning Man.
Does this mean the popularity of Burning Man, which enjoyed its best year of the festival’s history in 2011, is on the wane? The continued availability of tickets as the festival begins is worrisome, but until the final attendance numbers are announced one cannot know for sure. As Burning Man has several additional issues to contend with in the coming months, namely its continued fight with the state of Nevada over future fees for the festival, a potentially dwindling attendance base may not be the issue at the top of its list.