It’s blazingly easy to find extra Burning Man tickets this year, as countless tickets are being offered up for sale, a “radical” change from years past when Burning Man was the hottest ticket of the summer.
Let’s check in on the Burning Man scene, as Burning Man 2023 starts in just 16 days. Do you still even kind of, sort of, maybe want to go? If so, you still totally can! Unlike the severe Burning Man ticket demand we’re used to seeing most years, Burning Man 2023 has a seemingly unprecedented glut of tickets suddenly being made available all over social media, through resale channels, or via the Burning Man Secure Ticket Exchange Program (STEP).
(NOTE: If you decide to go to Burning Man last-minute, please read the Survival Guide and review the 10 Principles and best practices! Weather conditions will be extremely challenging, so be as prepared as possible.)
But yeah, those Burning Man tickets are being offered up for sale at rates we’ve not seen in previous years. This Facebook group called Burning Man Tickets and Vehicle Pass Exchange is currently seeing about a dozen new posts every hour offering up tickets and the required vehicle passes. Meanwhile on Craigslist, there are hundreds of Burning Man tickets readily available. Though it’s Craigslist, so there’s a certain “buyer beware” element there.
We reached out to the Burning Man Project for their thoughts on this, and we’ll update this post with any response. But we also asked longtime veteran Burners… is this a highly unusual volume of Burning Man tickets being sold off this close to the event?
“Absolutely,” says Absinthia Vermut, co-lead artist with the project Museum of No Spectators. “Tickets usually open up a few days, maybe two weeks before the gates open. But we started seeing a flood of tickets for resale in mid-July.”
“Last year, we were scrambling for tickets,” she explains. “Several times a week, we would go over the spreadsheet and review who was working hard enough to earn one, which just doesn’t feel good in a place where we are supposed to be radically inclusive.”
“This year, our art project has extra tickets. We also can’t find volunteers," Absinthia adds. "We have one docent signed up plus me and our volunteer coordinator. Last year, we had three people signed up per shift a month before the burn.”
And of course, the glut of tickets and lower demand has adversely affected camps’ and projects’ crowdfunding campaigns. “Last year we raised over $50,000 for our project, which cost so much more than that,” Absinthia says. “We didn’t hit $10,000 this year, despite our best efforts.”
If you want to score some of these readily available tickets, your most reliable bet is the Burning Man Secure Ticket Exchange Program (STEP). On this platform, you’re still working within the structure of the Burning Man Project ticketing program, so you won’t get scammed or sold counterfeit tickets. You do have to create a Burner Profile to use STEP, and then enter your credit card information. Once a ticket becomes available (probably immediately), your card is charged and the ticket is yours.
The platform does charge “an additional STEP fee for buyers of 10% of the face-value of tickets and vehicle passes, capped at $100 total.” At this late stage in the game, your tickets will not be shipped, they’ll be held at Will Call.
The odd factor here is that these very tickets sold out pretty much immediately at each stage of 2023 Burning Man ticket sales, as they do every year. For whatever reason, lots of people have had second thoughts and decided they don't want tickets they already bought.
“These aren’t tickets that Burning Man is trying to get rid of,” Absinthia explains. “It is tickets from people who have bought them, theme camps counting on a certain number of campers, villages counting on a number of theme camps, and art projects expecting everyone to want to help, especially if it means a free ticket.”
Certainly the weather at last year’s Burning Man was atrocious, COVID outbreaks caused plenty of hardship, and there were traffic jams of up to 12 hours on the way out. But again, people would have known these things before buying the tickets. It’s possible that tech industry layoffs, or some other economic factor, could be driving people to unload their already-bought tickets.
“The economy definitely affects Burning Man, as witnessed in 2008 and 2009,” Absinthia says.
And there are other broader patterns that indicate this is not simply a Burning Man issue. Airbnb hosts in many cities say bookings are way down this summer. OpenTable data shows people are dining out less since a spike in May. The Washington Post reports that airline and hotel bookings are down too.
But didn’t people just spend thousands of dollars on Taylor Swift tickets? Didn’t people just go see the Barbie movie ten times over? They did. Maybe these are unrelated trends or demographics. Or maybe it’s just that Burning Man is coming at the end of a spendy summer, and people are seeing those credit card bills come due, and selling off the Burning Man tickets seems like a good idea.
“What if the tickets don’t sell?,” Absinthia asks. “That’s an expensive ticket. Will those that don’t sell their ticket decide to go? Will there be fewer people on playa?”
“It is an interesting sociology study to witness it in real time. But when wasn’t Burning Man?”
Image: People drum on a percussion junk pile despite a blinding dust storm caused by strong winds September 2, 2000 at the 15th annual Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nevada. Despite the high winds, dust storms, and a bit of rain, some 27,000 people camped out on a remote desert playa, or dry lake, for the week-long counter-cultural celebration of art and "radical self-expression." This year's theme was the body. (Photo by David McNew/Newsmakers)