Earlier this month, Burning Man's newsletter announced a new lottery system for buying tickets to the 2012 edition of the the seven-day experimental arts and music festival.
It works like this: During a two-week registration period that begins next week, buyers pick a “pricing tier” and enter a credit card number. Lotteries are then held for each tier, choosing names at random. Since tickets aren't sold at walk-up outlets or at the gate, if you aren't picked, you might not be able to go.
Organizers call the new system a solution to last year's ticketing problems. In July, Burning Man tickets sold out for the first time, opening the door for scalpers, who jacked up $360 ticket prices to as much as $5,000.
But the lottery system is already stirring outrage. Commenters on Burning Man forums are worried that they won't be able to get tickets for all the members in their camps, and that scalpers will overwhelm the process. Long-time Burners, meanwhile, worry the new system will exclude those who have contributed and supported the event for years.
“People hear the word 'lottery' and it reminds them of taking chances. It's really just a tool for managing the flow of tickets,” countered Marian Goodell, Burning Man's director of business and communications, to Huffington Post.
Your first shot at registering for tickets goes from November 28th to December 11th. Only 3,000 tickets will be available in this first round, however, and, at $420, they're even more expensive than last go around. During the next lottery — in January — 40,000 will be sold, and finally, another 10,000 tickets will be made available for open sale in March. There will also be more low-income tickets this year, organizers say, but details have not yet been announced.
“[T]here's only a small percentage of people who won't be able to get tickets at all,” insisted Goodell.
And the amount of tickets sold may continue to increase. Organizers are petitioning the Federal Bureau of Land Management to increase the amount of attendees permitted — currently 50,000 — to 70,000 by 2016.
Better to burn out than to fade away? Maybe, but Burning Man seems poised to become something totally unrecognizable.