Burning Man Switches To Lottery System

After the first sellout in the event’s 26-year history, organizers of the annual Burning Man festival on the northern Nevada desert have decided to sell tickets under a lottery system instead of on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Organizers told the Reno Gazette-Journal that the lottery system will eliminate the rush to buy tickets online, which has meant lengthy delays because of overworked computer servers.

Organizers said it also begins to address the increased demand and limited ticket supply for the weeklong celebration of art and radical self-expression leading up to Labor Day, which is held on the Black Rock Desert, 110 miles north of Reno.

The festival drew a record crowd of about 54,000 this year, more than the 50,000 allowed under a permit with the federal Bureau of Land Management.

Organizers are trying to get a new BLM permit approved that would allow the population cap to increase to 55,000 in 2012 and 70,000 by 2016.

Burning Man spokeswoman Marian Goodell said organizers are urging people to offer feedback on the new ticket process before other details, including prices and deadlines, are released in the next two weeks.

She said organizers realized years ago that a lottery may be inevitable to maintain the event’s communal characteristics and deal with the growing crowds.

“We’re floating a test balloon on this,” she told the Gazette-Journal. “For the most part, people really wanted a system that equalized the opportunity a little bit and took into account the technological demands. And we wanted something that would give us the opportunity to manage the population in light of the other challenges.”

The new plans call for ticket buyers to register for the ticket lottery during a two-week open registration period. At that time, they’ll declare which of the pricing tiers they would be willing to pay, and provide a valid credit card.

After the registration period, organizers will run separate lotteries for each ticket tier. If a buyer’s name is selected their credit card is billed.

Several consecutive lottery rounds are planned through the early summer. Buyers can only purchase tickets from one lottery, and a limited number of tickets will be available per person.