After tickets to Burning Man's weeklong fur boots and utility belts gala sold out for the first time this year, organizers have devised a new ticketing-by-lottery scheme they hope will eliminate the first-come, first-served rush to buy tickets that burned out the festival's computer servers. In an email to the Jack Rabbit Says newsletter, reprinted on the ePlaya forums, organizers detailed the proposed lottery system:

The big news: tickets to Burning Man 2012 will be offered via a lottery system. This solution offers a two-fold benefit: it eliminates the annual ticket sales rush by spreading out registration over time (no more sitting in "line" all day, no more getting kicked out of the queue, no sudden unwieldy server demand!) -- and it begins to address the challenges of scarcity. We are also intent upon creating a balance of opportunity across a few months time.
  • You'll first register for the ticket lottery during a 2-week open registration period. At that time, you'll declare which of the pricing tiers you'd be willing to pay, and provide a valid credit card number.
  • After the registration period, we will run separate lotteries for each ticket tier. If your name is selected, at this point your credit card will be billed, and you'll receive a ticket confirmation.
  • There will be several consecutive lottery rounds.
  • You will only be able to purchase tickets from one lottery
  • There will be a limited number of tickets per person
  • Ticket fulfillment will be held until early summer.

"Significantly higher price" pre-sale tickets for the discerning Burner will also be offered via a lottery system around the holiday season.

In that Burning Man spirit of openness, the final details of the lottery system are still up for debate and Burners are encouraged to spout their opinions on the Burning Man forums where there's already backlash and alternative suggestions like making the festival invite-only.

This year's Burner crowd peaked at around 54,000 people on the Playa, a couple thousand more than the 50,000 permitted by the Federal Bureau of Land Management, but organizers told the Reno Gazette-Journal they hope to bump that cap up to 55,000 for 2012 and 70,000 by 2016.

All Burning Man Coverage on SFist
[Reno Gazette-Journal]