Last night a friend sent me a link to this article on Burning Man, and the fact that tickets sold out this year –

As she only knows the stories I have told her, she wondered what was my opinion on it. Since it’s much longer than a facebook comment allows, here we go 😛

“Burning Man is just for rich people now.”

No – No more than it has ever been. The fact that tickets sold out does NOT mean that only people who can afford $1,500 for a single ticket will be there. It means that about 50,000 people will be there who got their shit together and bought a ticket more than 6 weeks in advance of the event!

I certainly don’t consider myself rich, and that’s why every time tickets go on sale, I’m waiting in the virtual line to buy them the first day. Sometimes for hours. This year, we got Tier 2 tickets because that’s what was available when we got to the front of the line. $210 each on January 19.

Of course, I get that some people don’t have the money especially right after Christmas and have to save up. But prices range from (going from memory, the ticket page doesn’t show this anymore) $190 each to $360 each, the rate they were available at right before they sold out. If you aren’t rich, then you know this, and you know you should get your shit together ASAP.

Or you can apply for a low income or scholarship ticket, like many have. Or you can pay in time and sweat. They pounded the golden stake in this weekend – that means that official work on building Black Rock City just began – and the people who live and work there for a month before the event, and several weeks after, certainly earn their place and usually aren’t rich in any way.

But I’ll admit, that in many ways, Burning Man is certainly not for anyone who is dirt poor. In that way, yes, it is for “rich” people.

Unless you live in Reno or Gerlach, if the price of the ticket (pre-sell out) is too much, you probably shouldn’t be going. If you do, and you aren’t out there now pounding stakes, you are probably doing it wrong. The costs of going to Burning Man and ensuring your survival (not to mention comfort and entertainment) are much more than just the ticket. Airline tickets, gas, water, shelter, food, booze, etc. This is doing it “right”.

If you somehow got a ticket but have no other money and show up, you immediately put anyone surrounding you in the awkward position of trying to keep you ALIVE. Yes, people do this. They show up with nothing and expect people to donate water and food to keep their dumbasses from dying in the desert.

So from that point of view, you don’t have to be rich, but unless you are paying the price with hours of work, you have to have enough disposable income to keep yourself alive.

By no means should a few outrageous ticket prices indicate that the entire population has paid that much – but many have put in 10x that amount into the artwork you’ll see. It’s not a cheap vacation, but to me it’s worth every penny.

And I will say the one group that I really feel for are those who applied to be in the official fire conclave (performance before the man burns) and were denied. When you apply, you either state you will buy your own ticket, or you wait for a reduced price ticket when your group is accepted. The news of who didn’t make the cut came out the same day or a day after the tickets sold out, so a few people who expected to pay under $200 are really out of luck now. I hope that they find kind souls to buy tickets at cost/reduced cost.

By the way – the Burning Man Org does not condone paying more than face value for tickets! They legally can’t enforce it, but they ask the community to self-police. Also, because of the prices we’re talking, lots of tickets up for sale are fake ones. If you ARE buying a second hand ticket, confirm with Burning Man that it’s a real ticket.

“”You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say we’re radically inclusive and then say we will only have 52,000 tickets,” he said.” (quote from link at top)

This is pretty ridiculous. Pretty much every event on this planet will hit a capacity limit if it becomes popular enough. Radical inclusion means ANYONE can come, anyone is welcome., not EVERYONE.

The organization has contracts with the land owners, the federal Bureau for Land Management. There has ALWAYS been a ticket cap as part of this contract, it’s just never been reached before.

For months, the org has predicted that the event will sell out and has distributed that message. But when it happens, even when they started PREDICTING it will happen, it’s already too late to renegotiate the contract for this year. Duh.

This year there is a one-year contract, with the cap of 52,000. It was consistent with the past two years (two years ago, it was close to selling out and may have been “unofficially” over capacity, last year attendance was down). A new 5-year contract is in the works for 2012 and beyond, and takes population growth into account, it’s not staying at 52,000 forever.

The last bit of the article seems to think it has a unique solution, that the rest of us have known for a while – regional events. Though I’ll laugh at that as a solution! Our regional, Playa Del Fuego, has sold out within hours for the past few years and tickets are even harder to come by.

So yes, gather your friends, do whatever you would do out in the desert, and burn something down. If you don’t have a ticket this year, try to bring Burning Man to your friends that would never make the big trek – bring it out into our everyday communities. Many of us are trying to do this more and more!

Whether it’s an official regional, a unofficial small gathering, or what — I only ask one thing. Don’t just have a party and burn shit. Read, learn, and incorporate the 10 Burning Man Principles into it. This is what makes it more than just a party, this is what holds the magic for most of us. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of freaks having a rave in the desert. Believe me, that would not be enough to have me keep going back time after time.

And for those stuck behind, talk to your friends, get on your regional discussion lists – there are lots of local celebrations on Labor Day weekend! If you are near New Jersey, our awesome Philly friends are doing their own festival (not a regional, but in line with the spirit and 10 principles of Burning Man) in southern NJ – Bangarang and ROC present Bangaroc 2011! 


Ten Principles

Radical Inclusion

Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.


Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.


In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Radical Self-reliance

Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

Radical Self-expression

Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

Communal Effort

Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

Civic Responsibility

We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace

Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.


Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.


Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.