The Individual Sale for Burning Man tickets started at 12 noon PST yesterday. Just over an hour later, the allotment of 40,000 tickets and 12,000 Vehicle Passes had been purchased.
Nearly 80,000 people registered for the sale and each person could buy up to 2 tickets (and one Vehicle Pass). In the end, roughly 21,500 people purchased the 40,000 available tickets (the average was 1.87 tickets per purchase).
So it makes sense that a lot of people are disappointed that they couldn’t get a ticket — for every one person who purchased a ticket (or two), there are nearly three more who were registered for the sale but didn’t reach the front of the queue before tickets were sold out.
The tough reality is that demand for Burning Man tickets is just way higher than the supply, and not everybody who wants to attend will be able to in any given year.
So, how does the system work?
We wanted to give you a little insight on how the ticketing system works, because while a number of people are understandably upset about having not gotten tickets, the system actually worked. We hope the technologists out there will forgive us, as we’re going to put this in layman’s terms.
The system had to process roughly 80,000 people hitting the server at almost the same time (12:00pm PST). So imagine 80,000 ball bearings being dumped into a funnel at once, all vying for a spot in line to make it through the hole at the small end. Physics (in this case, load-balancing and sorting technology) sorts them into a line (in this case based on the time they clicked the ticket link), and a queue is formed in a matter of milliseconds. Some are going to be in the front, some in the middle, some at the back — but only the first 20,000 are guaranteed to get through to purchase a ticket (40,000 tickets for sale, maximum two per person).
So even if you clicked the link right at 12:00pm PST, you may not have gotten to the front of the line. Is that fair? Inasmuch as everybody’s in the same boat, it’s about as fair as it can be.
What about the fluctuating wait time indicator?
The wait time is an estimate — it fluctuates based on the time it’s taking people to actually make their purchase, which is determined by how fast people click and type, how fast the servers are processing, and how fast the queue is releasing people into the purchasing stage. A few minutes into the sale the queue was intentionally paused for 5 minutes (to allow the system to catch up to all the people hitting it), which is why your time estimate changed.
So what about the rumors of people sneaking to the front of the line?
Unfortunately there is some truth to this. Approximately 200 people created a technical ‘backdoor’ to the sale and made their way to the front of the line. Absolutely no tickets were sold before the sale opened at 12:00 pm, but they were able to purchase the first batch of tickets when the sale started. The good news (for us, not them) is that we can track them down, and we’re going to cancel their orders. The tickets from those orders will be made available in the OMG Sale in August. Of course, steps are being taken to prevent this from happening again in future sales.
Did the servers crash?
No, they never did and the ticket buying process was never stopped — the queue was intentionally paused (briefly) to allow the servers to catch up to the demand — and nobody lost their place in line as a result.
Why were people held in line for so long only to find out tickets had sold out?
The system lets people into the purchasing stage, and then people purchase their tickets. Until they’ve all successfully purchased their tickets, it’s not sold out. If for some reason somebody doesn’t complete their transaction (bad credit card, they bail out, etc.), then their spot is given to the next person in line. So we don’t remove people from the line until all the tickets have been successfully purchased, because technically you still have a chance to get one.
Why was there still an opportunity to donate to Burning Man Project once tickets had sold out?
Honestly, that was a mistake — we didn’t realize that option would still be available once the sale had ended. We totally understand how that came across as adding insult to injury, and we feel badly about it. All transaction pages including the donation page should have been pulled as soon as tickets sold out.
Were people given any advantage if they made a donation?
No, not at all. It was first-come, first-served for everybody.
What about the other reports of glitches in the system?
There have been some additional claims of technical issues with the sale, including a report of an individual bypassing the line by going through Ticketfly’s homepage and one about someone using multiple codes to buy more than two tickets. So far we haven’t found any proof to substantiate these claims, but we are continuing to look into it and committed to its resolution. When we have more information to share, we will certainly do so.
What about all the overpriced tickets being sold on StubHub, eBay, and other reselling sites?
Our community has historically demonstrated its commitment to buying tickets at face value — a very small percentage of participants in the past have paid inflated prices, and we are certain that “scalpers” are not responsible for the high demand for tickets. While our options for preventing this behavior are limited, we do actively weed out known resellers as part of the registration process (that’s one of the reasons we have you register for the sale). But as long as people are willing to buy tickets at exorbitant prices (we wish they wouldn’t, but some apparently do), there will be a market for predatory resellers. It’s antithetical to our community’s ethos, but it’s also the reality of supply and demand (and technically legal). When we’re able to find out the serial numbers of these tickets (see below for how to report them), we void them. We’ll publish a list of voided ticket numbers on tickets.burningman.org this summer (so you can double check the number if you are buying a ticket on the secondary market).
Here’s how to report marked-up tickets on different sites:
Send an email directly to email@example.com containing the name of the event (2015 Burning Man Festival and 2015 Burning Man Festival Vehicle Pass), the dates of the event, and if you want to get super detailed you can also list exact URLs for each ticket you want to report. IMPORTANT: Include your contact number so they can reach you if they have further questions — they’re far more likely to take the complaint seriously if they can actually reach someone to respond. They want to help, so don’t abuse the StubHub folks, they’re not the ones who listed the tickets.
Offer the buyer face value plus fees. If that doesn’t work, flag the post and it’ll be taken down … do it often enough and maybe the seller will be more willing to listen to reasonable offers.
If you see marked-up tickets being offered anywhere else, contact firstname.lastname@example.org so we can pursue it (and yes we really do). The more information you can provide us, the better, including screenshots since people often pull down posts if they think they are being flagged.