It’s incredibly disheartening to see listings for Burning Man tickets at exorbitant prices proliferate moments after the Main Sale has concluded. We hate it, you hate it, everyone except ticket scalpers hates it. But we in Ticketing have good news about that, and we want to make the truth absolutely clear: the majority of these inflated listings are bogus. They aren’t real. These listings are essentially phishing scams, looking to lure eager Burners so desperate to get to the playa that they’re willing to pay a premium to an unknown source to make their playa dreams come true.
Unfortunately, some companies, such as Stubhub, Viagogo, and Vividseats, allow sellers to post these speculative listings, which means the seller often does not actually own the items they’ve listed for sale. They see an opportunity for a tidy profit, and they post the listing on the chance they’ll be able to prey on the eagerness of some hopeful Burner. Once they’ve made the sale, these ticket speculators attempt to find a face-value ticket to pass off and then pocket the considerable markup. All this at the expense of a Burner who just wants to make it out to the playa.
Adding insult to injury, these companies have terms that heavily favor the seller, such as allowing the seller to cancel the transaction a week or two before the event date if they can’t deliver the goods they’ve sold, leaving the buyer out in the cold with no recourse and no tickets just before the event.
Even if the listing is backed by actual tickets, the original Burning Man terms of sale forbid them from being resold above face value, and if they are sold above face value, they are subject to cancellation without notice. So those really expensive tickets that were purchased in a moment of desperation might not even actually be good for entry into the event. There is nothing more heartbreaking than someone buying a ticket in good faith and trekking all the way out to the desert, only to learn that the ticket they hold in their hands isn’t valid.
We want this practice to stop, and we’re not alone. Some big-name artists, national governments, and the the majority of the primary ticketing industry have been rallying against the secondary market, and recently they have made some promising strides.
How Ticket Speculators Affect Burning Man
While Burning Man has been in the spotlight for a while now, we’re fortunate that ticket reselling actually isn’t a large issue for us. Other events of similar scale and draw frequently see 30-40% (and higher!) of their tickets on the secondary market, sometimes because they themselves have arrangements with various distributors and resellers. It’s not uncommon for more than half of big concert tickets to never even get offered to the public — they go straight to brokers through back-room deals.
Not only does Burning Man not offer any of our tickets through any secondary channels, we see only approximately 2% of our tickets circulating in the secondary market at inflated prices. In the ticketing industry, that is unheard of. That said, we are constantly monitoring and tracking listings for our tickets, and cancelling orders being resold at a markup as they are identified. (As we cancel orders we put them on our cancelled order/voided ticket list.)
You can help, too. Friends don’t let friends buy marked-up tickets. If nobody buys the tickets at inflated prices, the market for them disappears. Educate your friends and family about the importance of only buying tickets from known sources, and only for face value. Flag and report any listings you find; as a potential buyer, you have more power in this situation than Burning Man the company does. Some sites are more responsive than others — Craigslist is great about pulling posts, eBay is okay. The other sites are a lot less helpful, but we encourage you to do everything you can to make your voice heard.
And if you see a listing for a scalped ticket, please let us know so we can track it. If there is identifying information about the seller, their order, or the items they’re selling, take screenshots of everything and send it to us. It takes a community to bring this behavior to a halt.
Why Does It Feel Like No One I know Got A Ticket in the Main Sale?
Lots of people who want tickets in the Main Sale don’t get them. When those disappointed people see listings for scalped tickets, it’s easy to assume that real Burners got cheated out of tickets by scalpers who gobbled them all up. But as we’ve said, only 2% of Burning Man tickets appear on the scalper market. So what actually happened in the Main Sale? The math is straightforward: approximately 80,000 people registered, which could mean demand for as many as 160,000 tickets, and there were only 30,000 available. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand: The odds are against getting a ticket in the Main Sale.
Fortunately, the ticket sales are not the only option. If you still seek a ticket, get yourself into STEP (the Secure Ticket Exhange Program) as soon as it opens, keep your eyes on ePlaya, sign up for the OMG Sale, and most importantly, reach out to the community around you. Don’t know a lot of Burners in your area? Here’s an opportunity to get to know them and get involved. Find the contact for your area on our Regionals list.
For that matter, there are also a whole bunch of other amazing Burns all around the world. You’ll find them all on the Regional Network website.
It’s also possible to experience Burning Man without going to an event. Look for Burning Man in the small moments and in the people you meet, the spontaneous soulful interaction with a stranger, the bond forged by making something with a group, the energy that comes from giving of yourself and being a part of something bigger. Burning Man is not limited by geographic place or the calendar, or whether or not you have a ticket to Black Rock City.
See you there.
Top photo by Scott London