Still not knowing whether they can even have an event this summer, the Burning Man Project announces a $2,500 “opportunity” to buy tickets (tickets not included) — and most of these reservations have already sold out.

Back in the mid-1990s, the billionaires that run professional sports teams came up with a new way to bleed fans of money, a concept called “Personal Seat Licenses.” Under this new season ticketing system, diehard fans had to buy the right to buy season tickets, and only after buying their Personal Seat License could they buy their season tickets, still at full price. Fans hated it, but their devotion to their teams had them by the short and curlies, and so they bit the bullet and paid the extra thousands, and this system still lives on at stadiums today.

We are pleased to announce an Invitation to the Future! If you saw our CEO Marian Goodell’s livestream this weekend, you...

Posted by Burning Man Project on Monday, April 12, 2021

In fact, the system is now being employed by the Burning Man Project, the non-profit that organizes that thing out in the desert every year. Even though they still don’t know if there will be a Burning Man this year, and some camps are backing out over lingering COVID concerns, the Burning Man Project announced an “Invitation to the Future” program where $2,500 buys you a reservation to buy tickets whenever they do announce the event — but that $2,500 does not get you a ticket.

"This is a reservation that will guarantee someone the ability to purchase a regular priced ticket for the next two editions of Black Rock City," the Burning Man Project communications team says in an email to SFist.

“The idea is simple,” the Burning Man Project further elaborates in their announcement. “Those who have the financial means can buy a reservation that guarantees access to purchase one ticket to each of the next two Black Rock City events at the published Main Sale price. In other words, securing a reservation ensures you have an opportunity to get a ticket the next two times we can gather together in Black Rock City.”


Per the fine print of this arrangement, there will be only 1,000 of these $2,500 reservations that are essentially tickets to buy tickets. You can only buy two, but each is good for the next two Burnings Man that do in fact happen. You can’t redeem the reservation twice in one year, it has to be spread out over two consecutive years. Your $2,500 is of course non-refundable, and these reservations are on sale now once you set up or remember how to operate your Burner Profile.

Do they really expect people to pay $2,500, during a pandemic, and with a still-battered economy and statewide 8.5% unemployment rate, for an aspirational reservation to buy a full-price Burning Man Ticket? They do, and people are indeed scooping up these reservations.

"It's going very well!," Burning Man's communications team tells us. "We're so grateful for our generous community. As of this writing, we have only a few hundred left."

This sop with benefits to the disposable income crowd seems to fly very much in the face of the Burning Man Project’s ballyhooed cultural course correction and diversity and radical inclusion equity efforts of recent years. But then again, when you have 80,000 attendees, of course you are going to have a few thousand who are jacked on their vested Facebook or Google shares, or fiending on current Dogecoin valuations. Burning Man has to get creative, and maybe perks for big spenders is an acceptable one-time trade-off to ensure its ongoing solvency. The project has gone nearly two years since its last infusion of direct ticket revenue, and the permits and attorney fees necessary to pull off this event on federal land have not gotten any cheaper despite the pandemic.  

Of course, many of those pricey permits and Burning Man-specific state and federal regulations are predicated on the notion that the Burning Man Project and its attendant community are absolutely made of money. This move may reinforce that stereotype.

Related: Burning Man Tells Camps To Start Planning for Possible 2021 Event [SFist]

Image: linda wartenweiler via Unsplash