Finding a ticket can be one of the hardest parts about going to Burning Man. The event distributes approximately 70,000 tickets each year, and many times that number of people want to attend. Below, we discuss all the ways we’re aware of to get a Burning Man ticket.
Getting Ready to Buy Tickets
It helps to do some prep work before you start buying tickets. We recommend the following:
- Sign up for Burning Man’s Jackrabbit Speaks Newsletter – this email publication will help keep you abreast of key upcoming deadlines.
- Create a Burner Profile for yourself. These profiles are required to buy tickets from Burning Man and to participate in the Secure Ticket Exchange Program described below.
- Check Burning Man’s Ticket Information page often. Lots of things have changed this year, and not everything has been announced yet.
Burning Man hosts several open ticket sales during the months leading up to Burning Man. These include:
- The Main Sale (April) – 23,000 tickets and 10,000 vehicle passes
- The OMG Sale (July) – 3,000 tickets and 1,500 vehicle passes
The face value of the Main Sale tickets is $425 each. Adding in fees, taxes, and shipping gets you to approximately $487 per ticket. Vehicle passes have a face value of $100 each, or approximately $108 after fees, taxes, and shipping.
To participate in these sales, you’ll need to have registered for them a week beforehand through your Burner Profile. Demand in these sales is often several times the number of tickets on offer, and the people getting tickets is randomized. So, these sales function somewhat like lotteries.
It can sometimes be confusing what do during the sale. So, one of our local theme camps, Houpla, conducts a live conference call during both sales where new burners can ask questions in real time. Get more information on this call by visiting the Main Sale Conference Call Facebook event page.
Secure Ticket Exchange Program
To combat scalping, Burning Man offers the Secure Ticket Exchange Program (STEP) for ticket holders who can no longer attend the event and want to sell their tickets and/or vehicle passes. These sales happen securely and at face-value through Burning Man. Only tickets and vehicle passes that have not been already mailed out are eligible to participate in the program.
STEP has opened for buyers and sellers in years past in April, and buyers should look to register for STEP as soon as possible when registrations open up as buyers are offered tickets and vehicle passes on a first-come, first served basis in order of the timestamp of their registrations. STEP is accessed through the Burner Profile portal.
Peer-to-peer transfers involve ticket and vehicle pass holders transferring tickets among themselves, either online through the ticket processor for Burning Man or in-person. Burning Man allows the free transfer of tickets and vehicle passes. So, whoever shows up with a paper ticket or vehicle pass at Burning Man’s gate or is the final name associated with a will-call ticket or vehicle pass gets admitted.
Buyers and sellers find each other organically, often by word-of-mouth or over Facebook or other social media platforms. To find sellers, we recommend buyers network extensively by joining various burner Facebook groups, introducing themselves to various theme camps, and by attending local burner events. Sellers generally start looking for buyers in earnest after tickets are mailed out in June.
We recommend transfers of tickets happen in person with the tickets and vehicle passes and the cash for these exchanged simultaneously. Prior to completing this exchange, the buyer should pull out his or her phone and double check the tickets being purchased aren’t listed on Burning Man’s Voided Orders and Tickets List. If tickets or vehicle passes are being transferred online, we recommend this happen while the buyer and seller are still together as the online transactions are instantaneous.
Culturally, the Burning Man community frowns on buying or selling tickets for anything above face value (including taxes, fees, and shipping), and tickets found to be transferred with a premium included are subject to cancellation by Burning Man without warning. We recommend Burning Man tickets exchange hands at $486.58 per ticket and vehicle passes at $108.39 per pass. See below for more on this topic and the math behind these numbers.
FOMO Sale Tickets
For aspiring burners with extra cash to spend, Burning Man offers around 4,000 tickets at a much higher price of $1,400 per ticket. Note that in years past these tickets haven’t been eligible for resale through STEP.
These tickets don’t have any special privileges. All tickets to Burning Man offer the same access. In years past, the extra money paid for the tickets like these goes to support Burning Man art.
While we understand the temptation to purchase one of these higher-priced tickets to ensure you have a ticket in hand, unless you are passionate about supporting art, we recommend you find a ticket through other means. In our experience, people who really want to go to Burning Man and work at it a bit can always find a ticket.
Burning Man offers approximately 4,500 tickets at a discounted price of $210 through its Low Income Ticket Program for people who can’t afford the regularly-priced tickets. Proof of income is required.
Registration for this program opens in February. Will-call is the only delivery option, and exchange is prohibited. Check our Budget section of this guide for more information on other costs associated with attending Burning Man.
Theme Camps, Mutant Vehicles, and Art Projects
To say thank you to theme camps, mutant vehicle crew, and art installation teams for what they bring to the event, Burning Man allocates a significant amount of guaranteed tickets and vehicle passes to these efforts (32,000 tickets and 15,000 vehicle passes) through two Directed Group Sales.
Many of these efforts reward their hardest-working volunteers with the opportunity to purchase tickets and vehicle passes from their allocations from Burning Man. So, network with these local camps, vehicle projects, and art efforts. Volunteering for these efforts is its own reward, but it also might result in access to tickets.
Burner Express Bus Plus Ticket Combo
In recent years, Burning Man has been offering a combo package to encourage more people to use the Burner Express Bus. (See our Transportation article for more information on the bus.) Approximately 1,000 $425 face value tickets are set aside to be sold in combination with Burner Express Bus Tickets. This special sale typically happens in June.
Note – in years past there has been a restriction on the the Burning Man ticket that entry only occur during the Monday through Thursday portion of the week. Thus, this ticket purchase method is not a good avenue for people that want or need to arrive earlier in the week.
Besides volunteering for local projects, you can also volunteer for departments of the event itself. The departments are given tickets to reward their hardest working volunteers. That said, these tickets are usually given the following year. So, this is not a good path to pursue for those looking for tickets with which to attend Burning Man for the first time.
You can sign up to volunteer for departments through filling out a questionnaire available through your Burner Profile.
Tip – Avoid Markups
As mentioned above, the community frowns on buying or selling tickets above face value (including taxes, fees, and shipping). Profit-making on transactions involving Burning Man tickets runs afoul of the Decommodification Principle of the event. Tickets and vehicle passes found to be involved in transactions above face value (including taxes, fees, and shipping) are subject to cancellation by Burning Man.
Despite this, ticket scalpers do enter the ticket sales and then repost tickets at a huge markup on sites like StubHub, eBay, and Craigslist. Don’t pay these premiums. In our experience, people who really want tickets almost always get them without paying a markup if they put in a little networking and elbow grease.
Also, know that sellers on sites like StubHub can list tickets prior to actually acquiring them to sell and can cancel the sale later when fulfillment is demanded, sometimes just a short while before the event and long after the buyer has already purchased gear, made plane reservations, and the like while thinking they have a valid ticket.
Tip – Avoid Will-Call
Will-call (picking your tickets onsite at Burning Man) has its own line at Burning Man separate and in addition to gate, and this will-call line can sometimes grow to be many hours long. If at all possible, we recommend avoiding will-call as a delivery method for ticket purchases. Take physical delivery of the tickets instead.
Tip – Buy All Of What You’re Offered
As you might have gathered above, demand for tickets and vehicle passes FAR exceeds the supply. So, whenever possible, purchase the maximum amount of tickets and vehicle passes you’re offered (usually 2 tickets and 1 vehicle pass). Someone in the community will always be willing to buy these off you at cost should you not need them. Doing so helps keep tickets and vehicle passes in the community and not in the hands of scalpers.
Tip – Calculating the Price for Exchanges
As mentioned elsewhere, you should buy and sell tickets and vehicle passes “at cost.” But how do you calculate this when you take our advice and buy two tickets and vehicle pass? The tickets and vehicle pass are at different face values. Fees, taxes, and shipping apply to some items but not others and often appear on receipts as one lump sum. How do you allocate these to the tickets and vehicle pass?
We’ve looked into the rules on how all the fees, taxes, and costs are calculated and have done this math for you. Here are the results:
- Tickets with fees, taxes, and shipping costs are $486.58, and
- Vehicle passes with fees, taxes, and shipping costs are $108.39 each.
For those who want to dive a bit deeper into how this is calculated, here are the assumptions we used, as well as a spreadsheet of the math below:
- Face value of the tickets assumed to be $425 and the vehicle pass at $100
- Tickets are assessed the 9% Nevada Live Entertainment tax based on face value, but vehicle passes are not subject to this tax
- Each ticket and vehicle pass is assessed a $4 fee
- The $15 shipping option is used, and this shipping cost is divided up using a weighted allocation based on the face value of each item assuming a package of two tickets and one vehicle pass is bought together. So, for a ticket, the portion of the $15 cost is $425/($425+425+$100)*$15 = $6.71. For a vehicle pass,
the portion of the $15 cost is $100/($425+425+$100)*$15 = $1.58.
- The breakout of each piece of a typical two ticket, one vehicle pass package selling for $1,081.54 after fees, taxes, and shipping costs is below:
Key Upcoming Dates
The Burning Man ticket season is over. See below for the 2019 sales and ticket opportunities that have already completed. Burning Man has not announced the key dates for 2020, but we’ll update this page whenever additional information becomes available.
- FOMO Sale–completed March 20th
- Main Sale-completed April 10th
- Low Income Ticket Program–applications due by April 17th
- STEP Program–registration for buyers May 21st
- Burner Express Bus Plus Sale–registration on June 12th
- OMG Sale–registration begins July 24th
Our Recommendation for New Burners
Target the main sale, STEP, and peer-to-peer transactions to get your tickets. Join a number of burner Facebook groups and look to get involved in local projects. If you keep working at it, you’ll get a ticket. As we like to say, “The playa provides.”
Once you have a ticket strategy, it’s time to start thinking about Camping Options. The next article in our guide explores this topic in more detail.
(Background photo courtesy of Dusty Depot)